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Astronomer

Dr Michael Burton is an Astronomer in the Department of Astrophysics at The University of New South Wales.

In which area or areas of science do you work? When did you first become interested in this career? What education and training do you have to have for your job?
How has your career progressed? What are the tasks that you do in a typical day? What skills do you use in your job?
What do you enjoy most about your job? What do you like least about your job? What are some alternative jobs that you would be qualified for?
What are some of the advantages of working in this field? What are some of the disadvantages of working in this field? How has your work contributed to science?
How has your work benefited society? Where do you see yourself in five years time? Find out more about Astronomy from Michael

In which area or areas of science do you work?

Astronomy, specialising in infrared astronomy and the formation of stars. Also in the development of astronomy on the Antarctic plateau.


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When did you first become interested in this career?

At about the age of 10 when read my first book on astronomy.


What education and training do you have to have for your job?

School specialising in Mathematics and Physics. Undergraduate degree at Cambridge in Mathematics, PhD at Edinburgh in Astrophysics. That took about 7 years from leaving school until I obtained a PhD.

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How has your career progressed?

After completing my PhD, I moved to the States for 4 years, doing post doctorate research in Hawaii and California, at NASA Ames Research Center and the University of California at Berkeley.

Then to Australia where worked as a staff astronomer at the Anglo Australian Observatory for 3 years, before coming to UNSW as a lecturer in physics, where I have now been for 6 years.

The 60-cm SPIREX telescope at the South Pole

What are the tasks that you do in a typical day?

Inumerable! Lecturing, tutoring, advising, dealing with students and callers, filling in forms, marking assignments, answering email, writing proposals, talking about research, writing lecture notes, dealing with the media, promotion and advocacy of science, answering phone calls, sitting on various committees, sorting out crises, drinking coffee, etc etc.

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What skills do you use in your job?

Training as a physicist and scientist, mathematics, computing, management, communication, multi-tasking.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The opportunity to develop new projects to do and see things that no-one has seen before. The opportunity to pose questions about how the Universe works and then to be able to attempt to answer them.

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What do you enjoy least about your job?

Bureaucracy, internal politics, marking exams, writing proposals, filling in forms.

What are some alternative jobs that you would be qualified for?

A vast number which allow me to think and solve problems!

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What are some of the advantages to working in this field?

Ability to contemplate (admittedly less often than I would like) some of the wonders of the Universe.

What are some of the disadvantages to working in this field?

Long hours, declining resources, increasing demands.

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How has your work contributed to science?

Better understanding of the excitation of molecular gas in star forming regions, unveiling the working of our nearest massive star forming region in Orion, understanding of the nature of the Antarctic plateau for observational astronomy.

How has your work benefited society?

Furthering of basic science, contribution to the development of new scientific facilities, teaching of science to next generation, communication and advocacy of science to the public, helping make people wonder about the nature of the Universe.

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Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Having built an observatory in Antarctica, having developed mm-astronomy in Australia, having developed continuing education programs in astronomy, having supervised graduate theses in astronomy, having contributed to the heathly development of astrophysics at UNSW. But who knows where I will be in 5 years?!

Find out more about Astronomy

If you wish to ask Michael for additional information, you can email UniServe Science and we will contact Michael for you. Make sure you include Michael's name and occupation in the Subject line.

You can find out more about Astronomy from Michael's Homepage.

Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2004/05 - a weblog maintained by Michael

Jess's South Pole Diaries - a weblog from Jessica Dempsey, who spent nearly a year at the Admundsen-Scott Base in Antartica.

Find out more about Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Science Futures. A profile of Bärbel Koribalski - an Astrophysicist in Science Futures (WISENET).

Department of Astrophysics and Optics, The University of New South Wales.

Astronomy in the deep freeze - a NOVA online from the Australian Academy of Science

Astrophysics in Antarctica PowerPoint slideshow from National Science Foundation

Astrophysics and Antarctica go together from USAToday

Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica


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Last Update: Monday, 30-Apr-2012 16:27:16 AEST
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