Happily Inquisitive Alice

Alice Lecinski, Scientist - HAO Instrument Group

What influenced you to pursue a career in science?Alice on her motorcycle

Plain old curiosity.  I like to know how things work. Why are stars different colors?   How is lightening created? How do thunderstorms form?  What can the carbon 14 content of tree rings tell us about historic solar activity? Why is concrete harder than asphalt?  How do skis slide on snow? How can I take this bicycle hub apart and fix it? What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Who are you at work and what does a typical workday look like? (Please introduce what you do as well.)

At work, I am mostly a software engineer.   I develop software that can drive all types of instrumentation: sometimes just a camera, sometimes a stratospheric balloon gondola.  I love to write software for instruments that need to be autonomous and intelligent, able to wake on power up, do what they are supposed to do, handle any hardware failures or changing environmental conditions, then put themselves to bed when done. I also enjoy writing user interfaces for all the devices: making the GUIs simple and easy to use, yet powerful at the same time.

Most mornings have me reading quick email updates from all my programs that are happily running autonomously.  Then I just start writing code for the latest instrument.  Motors must run, cameras must take in photons, raw data must be pseudo calibrated for display.  It's so much fun giving life to inanimate objects.

Who are you outside of work?

Scientist/Engineer/Astronomer/Skier/Biker/Birder/Botanist... I spend summers cycling and winters skiing -- all kinds of cycling and all kinds of skiing. Give me any kind of motorcycle, mountain bike, road bike, commuter bike, and I am happy. Same for skiing: skate, tour, alpine, telemark… I love it all.  But, I’m happiest just being outside and sharing time with friends. I also truly enjoy any kind of educational outreach activity, whether it be completely spur of the moment on a ski lift, or a formal tour or class.  I love sharing the excitement and wonder of physics in the world around us.Alice on Skiis (kind of)

What has been your favorite work-related experience?

Working with wonderful engineers as a team during the eclipse expeditions and all the other fantastic instrument deploys around the world. These instruments have produced groundbreaking discoveries. And working with a team of fun, hardworking engineers is so incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.  We all do our part, little or big, and create incredible, state of the art devices that allow us to unravel mysteries of the universe.

The Power of One: If you could thank only one person for academic or career support, who would it be?

I can't thank just one person – it has to be two – my mother and father. They provided an encouraging environment that allowed me to pursue being happily inquisitive.

One-minute mentor

What advice would you offer to someone interested in a career like your own?

Pursue the activity you would enjoy doing every day in a field you are interested in.  Then steer your choice to the personality types that you most enjoy working with.

Alice Lecinski, Scientist - HAO Instrument Group

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