Read a brief interview with Dianne Feuillet '07, conducted by Associate Director of Alumni Relations Tobi Goss '10:
What do you love most about what you do?
I like getting new data and manipulating it to discover what it's telling us about the Milky Way Galaxy. It is a very exciting moment when you get some new data, or think of a new way to examine your data. Then you have to figure out how it fits with what you already know, or what other people have found. It's a big puzzle to understand what happened to our galaxy in the past based on the stars we see today.
What is a challenge in your field?
Since astronomers only have the light that arrives at Earth to work with, science can be challenging sometimes. But besides that, academia can be a challenging working environment. There are a lot of smart people and not many permanent jobs in science, so you have to constantly reevaluate your career goals. Academic success is usually measured by publication records, but there is a lot of unrecognized supporting effort required for the science to be successful.
What would you say to someone who was interested in becoming an astronomer?
Pursue an education in astronomy and physics, then look into graduate programs if you are enjoying it. Try to get involved in a research project as an undergraduate, which will give you access to real job experience. Find mentors who support you and ask about their careers. A good mentor will make your path enjoyable, no matter what job you end up with, but a bad one can ruin your whole experience. Don't put up with bad advisors.