Yay! Broke the 300 question mark! Thanks for all the cool questions guys! :D
I went to school in Galway, Ireland. My secondary school is known as “the Bish” and I went there from 1997-2002.
I did my undergraduate degree in Physics & Astronomy at Galway (2002-2006), then did a Masters in Maths at Cambridge (2006-2007) and then did my PhD in Astrophysics at Manchester (at Jodrell Bank, 2007-2010).
Of course! I worked in a music store called Zhivago in Galway. I then did 2 summer jobs doing astronomy at the University in Galway. I went to the Kennedy Space Centre and did an internship with NASA one summer. A PhD of course is a full time job (and yes they pay you!), and when I finished that I worked in Manchester Uni. until this March when I moved to Germany and now I work here!
I am a “postdoctoral researcher” which in normal language means I am a scientist who can do my own research all day!
Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (Max Planck was a famous German physicist and there are many places named after him, like where I work!)
I’m an astronomer and I study neutron stars. They are “zombie stars” which are born of the remains of a normal star after it explodes in a supernova.
My Typical Day
Hmmm – no 2 days are ever the same! Get up, go to office/airport/telescope, observe with telescopes, search for new stars in my observations, write computer programs to get big computers to do things for me, give talks on my work to my work colleagues (or at conferences sometimes), discuss ideas with colleagues (sometimes on other side of world!), go home happy to be a scientist! Oh and somewhere in between I usually go on twitter! ;)
What I'd do with the prize money
Firstly I will buy some podcasting and vodcasting equipment to enable me to do some outreach using the likes of Youtube etc. Also, I would like to use the money to visit schools taking part in I’m a Scientist to answer your questions in person! Another idea I think is cool would be to create a schools astronomy essay competition – the money could help with prizes! If I win I think I can convince my boss to donate some supplementary cash as well so I could buy a couple of wee telescopes for public demonstrations in city centres etc.(which rock by the way!). If there is anything left over I would make a donation to the Jodcast and/or the 365 Days of Astronomy Project.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
I asked people on twitter for help with this. Suggestions were “Pulsar RRAT King”, “Brings the Haribo”, “Flying Spaghetti Cleric”, “Tall Irish guy”, “Tall Irish Doctor” and “Popular Successful Rebellious”! I don’t know accurate or helpful any of those are but there you go!
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
That would be my PhD thesis. This is basically a massive book you have to write describing work you did for 3 years and then this is judged by experts and they decide if you are good enough to be called “Doctor”. It was tough but I was so happy when they told me I had passed! That is definitely the best thing I’ve done. Although I am proud of all my research papers, the talks I’ve given where I knew the audience was really entertained and that I’m in this month’s issue of Astronomy Now magazine and on this month’s Naked Scientists Astronomy Podcast!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
My teachers said I was a bit of a chatterbox but I don’t think I ever got into too much trouble …
Who is your favourite singer or band?
This changes a lot for me! But I think that if I had to narrow it down to 3 right now it would be System of a Down, Snoop Dogg and Kila. Wow, I’m strange!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Tough question!! Luckily for me I’ve done many fun things (climbed huge telescopes, bungee jumped, been on space shuttle runway, played basketball with some great friends, interviewed Dara Ó Briain, …) but I think the most fun I’ve had was when I went to Disney Land with my girlfriend! :) I must go back!!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Besides live forever and be a millionaire with magic powers? I’d like to be remembered after I’m gone, for something I’ve done in science. Other than that I’d simply like to have a happy life and I’d secretly (although not secretly any more!) love to be an actor on Coronation Street!
Tell us a joke.
Well I doubt it is as good as this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gpjk_MaCGM but how about a geeky one (I am an astro geek after all): Two atoms bump into each other. One says “I think I lost an electron!” The other asks, “Are you sure?”, to which the first replies, “I’m positive.” … I know it’s lame!