"Looking out from my office window on top of Mt Stromlo I feel incredibly lucky. The local kangaroos probably think I’m laughing at them but really I am just happy to be here. Despite being on the mountain from 9 to 5 most weekdays my time here is anything but ordinary," says Melanie Kaasinen.
"Choosing to apply for the Masters of Astronomy and Astrophysics at ANU was very easy. Although I often suffer from indecisiveness there were two things I was sure of at the end of my undergraduate degree:
- The Universe is a fascinating place and;
- I want to help unlock its secrets.
"Cue the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) at ANU.
"The RSAA is a world-renowned hub for astronomical research. Situated on top of Mt Stromlo, the research school is home to astronomers and astrophysicists studying everything from planet formation to cosmology. With connections to research institutions from all over the world, access to the world’s largest telescopes and experts in a range of fields it was clearly the ideal place to prepare me for a career in astronomy.
"From my first day on the mountain I was made to feel like I belong. The astronomers (both students and academics) are wonderfully friendly, supportive and knowledgeable. I feel like a valued member of the galaxy research group, helping to unravel how galaxies have evolved. Over the last year I have collaborated with researchers from Germany, the USA, France and Japan and met many more from institutions all over the world. I was also able to travel to Hawaii to observe with the Keck II telescope, one of the world’s largest telescopes. The opportunities I have had as part of such a productive and supportive group of astronomers have enabled me to rapidly develop as a researcher.
"But life is about much more than career and work interests!! Sometimes the Universe is just far too big, complex and daunting. That’s when I leave the office and hit the trails on Stromlo. I have always loved being outdoors and challenging myself physically, especially through running, cycling and swimming. Luckily for me Mt Stromlo is home to beautiful running trails and a cycling track. Fulfilling my active side has helped keep me sane even if I am known as the crazy girl who rides to work. My advice to all prospective students is to keep doing ALL the things you enjoy. Most of us need some balance in life and university is the perfect place to figure out what makes you tick.
"Thanks to the strong support network, great friends, unique research opportunities and fresh air on Mt Stromlo I now have the confidence to pursue a career in astronomy. My dreams are no longer beyond the horizon but have come into view."