Training the next generation of support scientists

The second edition of the ASTRON/JIVE “Traineeship in Science Operations with Massive Arrays” will soon be completed on 26 July 2019. The goal of the traineeship, which is sponsored by ASTRON and the JUMPING JIVE project, is to instruct young researchers in the operation of massive arrays as a preparation for next-generation astronomy facilities like the SKA. The course is 12 weeks long, of which the trainees spend one week at JIVE.

This year, the four scientists Benedicta Woode, Ziad Modak, Sumit Kumar Jaiswal, and Noah Chanka, working in Ghana, Germany, China, and South Africa, respectively, were selected for the programme. While most of them decided to apply for this training because they plan to pursue a career in scientific support in the future, acquiring the skills to calibrate and analyze LOFAR data was also an important bonus aspect. 

In the third week of the training, the group visited JIVE to learn about the operations of the European VLBI Network (EVN). At first, the JIVE support staff recapitulated the technical background of radio interferometry with a focus on very long baseline interferometry with the trainees. Then, the group participated in real-time observations of a target-of-opportunity experiment as well as a network monitoring experiment to test the readiness of the EVN stations for regular session observations. Furthermore, they were taught how to schedule observations with the EVN and the basic calibration steps in AIPS and CASA. “High level of user support is fundamental to [operating] large-scale infrastructures like the EVN or LOFAR. Our goal is to secure easy access to these telescopes for a broad community, and thus maximize the scientific output.”, emphasizes Zsolt Paragi from JIVE the importance of this traineeship.

Overall, the feedback of the trainees was positive. “ASTRON/JIVE have great and friendly members of staff, which makes it an ideal working environment for people with different nationalities.”, praised Noah Chanka. The only criticism was that, according to Benedicta Woode “one week at JIVE is woefully inadequate”. Maybe next year the traineeship will have to be slightly extended!
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