Every other month, Staff Notes Monthly spotlights a
stochastically chosen staff member. This month we profile Lesley Will, a
student assistant with the High Altitude Observatory (HAO).
Lesley Will. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)
A fair deal:
Lesley joined NCAR in the spring of 1999. Then a first-year major in
environmental engineering, she went to a CU internship fair and
discovered that HAO was looking for an undergraduate to process data.
She'd never worked with UNIX or with Sun machines before, but her solid
math skills and some FORTRAN experience gave her the edge. "NCAR was one
of the places I'd been looking at. I definitely got lucky."
What she does:
Lesley holds the fort at the northwest end of FL2, where she monitors
data arriving from HAO's two Precision Solar Photometric Telescopes, one
based at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, and the other at Sunspot, New Mexico. (A
third PSPT, stationed just outside Rome, Italy, is overseen by the Rome
Astronomical Observatory.) PSPT is part of NSF's Radiative Inputs from
Sun to Earth (RISE) program, whose aim is to measure and understand
variability in the sun's radiative output.
Lesley comes in often, making sure the PSPT data from Mauna Loa and
Sunspot are flowing as they should and fixing problems as they occur.
"It's more important for me to come in frequently and keep things
running than to come in once a week for an eight-hour day." After Lesley
processes the full-solar-disk PSPT images, which are each typically
about four million pixels, they're archived in HAO and made available
on the Web.
What are the symptoms of ailing data?
"Flat fields with circles all over them. Sunspots that look like water
spots." Even a single pixel can cause trouble. "If there's just one
pixel that's really bright, it throws the whole thing off and makes the
sun look really dark." Lesley enjoys working with those images based on
emissions in the calcium spectrum, because "you can see all the
featuresthe supergranules [large cellular features that cover the
solar disk] and the plage [bright patches that surround sunspots]."
Leader of the pack:
Lesley is the first president of CU's new student chapter of the Society
of Environmental Engineers. "We're just trying to get it started. It's
been a little bit of a struggle." The environmental engineering degree
has only been offered at CU since Lesley's freshman year, so she will be
among the first graduates to have passed through all four years of the
program. With her diploma due in little more than a year, Lesley sees
graduate school as "a possibility, but I need a bit of a break. I don't
think I could handle another two to four years of school right away." As
an environmental engineering major, "solar physics isn't exactly where I
thought I'd end up," she laughs, but she adds that if a permanent
position opened up in HAO, "that would be just fine with me. I like the
atmosphere hereeveryone's really nice."
What got her started?
Denver's brown cloud may not be good for respiration, but it served as
inspiration for Lesley. Growing up in Littleton, "I was always
interested in the environment and air pollution. Just looking at the
brown cloud really bugged me." For Lesley, science looked to be a more
appealing career route than activism: "I'm not a tree hugger . .
. I'm more into practical solutions."
From keyboard to keyboard:
Lesley has been a pianist since elementary school and still enjoys it.
"I like classical pieces a lot. Chopin is one of my favorites." Don't
ask her to play any Ellington, though: "I've never gotten into jazz."
In this issue...
Other issues of Staff Notes Monthly
Edited by Bob Henson,
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Mon Feb 5 13:36:05 MST 2001