I was lucky enough to be chosen to attend the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) Conference over the Queen’s Birthday weekend as part of the Students with a Passion for Astronomy (SWAPA) program.
The SWAPA program covered all fees for 14 high school students and I to attend the conference in Whangarei.
Over 3 days, I attended nearly 12 hours of lectures on optics, astronomy, physics, engineering, and space science, and got to meet NZ’s top experts on all things space.
A highlight was meeting fellow space nerds and geeking out over the lectures. My favorite lectures were on dark matter and the LISA project, a satellite being built to detect gravitational waves. Getting to meet Dr Emily Kendall, a NZ scientist working on the LISA project was very inspirational. We even got a ZOOM call with Dr John Mather, a Nobel Prize winner who runs the James Webb Space Telescope that launched last year. Through the program, I got to meet incredible people, learn about some spicy science, and understand what a career in astrophysics could look like.
I highly encourage anyone who is interested in any space science or engineering to apply for the SWAPA program in the future, it was truly out of this world.