Working for Subaru Telescope in My Backyard

Rebecca Patterson '18

Hannah Twigg-Smith just completed her first year at Olin and has landed an AWESOME internship in Hawaii this summer!   She is hard at work at an observatory where she is updating code and enjoying life.  We recently asked her about her work and about how she found this great opportunity:


Hannah at her workspace

1.) Tell us a bit about where you are working and what your role is there.

This summer I am an intern in Hilo, Hawaii at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, also known as Subaru Telescope. I was assigned to work on the observation control system (OCS), which is the massive amount of software that controls the telescope. My specific project involves rewriting old and outdated focusing programs for Subaru's MOIRCS instrument (originally written in CShell and Gawk) in Python, and integrating the programs into the user interface used by the astronomers.

Subaru Headquarters

2.) What is your typical day like at work?

In general, my work has me coding for most of the day. I show up at 8:30 and leave at 4:30-5:00. For lunch I walk over to Gemini Observatory (all of the telescopes are in the same research park) to eat with the other interns. There are frequent events such as "tea time" or the weekly director's report meeting, where the telescope director gives interesting talks about Japanese culture and food. Subaru, for the most part, is a relaxed, academic environment, but it is also multicultural. Many employees are from Japan, and they bring their traditions with them.

A BUNCH of computers in Hannah’s workspace

3.) Do you have time for fun? What do you like to do?

I live with four other interns who also work at observatories in Hilo. On the weekends we spend a lot of time together, whether it be exploring lava tubes, eating Subway while watching Mean Girls, or getting severely sunburned while walking four miles to get strawberry mochi. (I recommend the mochi and not the sunburn.) We also obtained a TV for our apartment, and there have been quite a few Smash tournaments.

One of the BEST mochi from Two Ladies' Kitchen in Hilo

4.) How have the skills you've learned at Olin helped you in your job?

One of the things I am required to do is give frequent presentations on how my work is coming along, which I think Olin has done a very good job of preparing me for. Within the department I work, my presentations take the form of the code reviews we did in Software Design. I also need to present to the coordinators of my internship program, and these are more expo-style presentations. On the technical skill side, the amount of Python I learned in SoftDes was just right for this internship.

5.) How did you find this opportunity?  Was it through a career fair, a speaker in a class, or another channel?

There is a program for STEM college students from Hawaii called the Akamai Workforce Initiative. My mom saw the ad in the local paper and I applied. Accepted students get placed at research institutions around the islands for a two month internship, which range from observatories to marine bio labs. Additionally, all interns get free housing, a stipend, and three credits from the University of Hawaii for the scientific communication course we take.

The apartment building Hannah lives in at UH Hilo

6.) Do you have advice for future Oliners looking for a summer internship?

The career and startup fairs are a great way to find internships, but there are many programs available that will not be represented at them. This program is specific to students from Hawaii. A little research can help you find opportunities that may not show up on the typical "match me to an internship" websites.



Posted in: Awesome Internships