El-iza El Henson
El-iza El Henson is a Physics major at California State University, Sacramento with minors in Mathematics, Philosophy, and Astronomy. He spent the summer of 2013 in the CAMPARE program working at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, CA. During his time there he had the opportunity to learn about Jupiter’s moon Europa. El-iza spent a considerable fraction of his time using stereo photogrammetry to produce DEM’s(Digital Elevation Maps) from which he was able to extract topographic profile maps of Europa’s surface. The DEM’s that he produced also allowed him to render a 3-Dimensional representation of Europa’s surface.
This summer has been nothing short of amazing, I’ve learned so much. I learned the answer to the question do dreams come true. I became a Physics major wondering if I had what it takes to work at NASA or the SETI Institute, so this entire experience has been almost surreal. The first day there I met Dr. Seth Shostak, whom I recognized from several SETI documentaries. After he took our employee pictures I took several pictures with him as souvenirs. I also met the CEO of the SETI Edna DeVore whom I also took pictures with. I remember meeting Dr. Frank Drake for the first time. I learned he worked there through a talk that was given by Dr. Shostak. I didn’t believe him until I saw the name “Frank Drake” attached to one of the corner offices. Once I confirmed that Frank Drake did have a picture on the employee wall I knew that I’d eventually meet him. To make things even more unlikely, when Dr. Drake finally came into the office I had Dr. Shostak introduce me to him. I’ll never forget the conversation that Dr. Drake and I had.
We even had the opportunity to be a part of the PayPal Galactic press conference where I met Buzz Aldrin and even asked him a question on live television. Aldrin refused to take a picture with Dr. Drake and I, so while he spoke briefly with Dr. Drake I took a picture of them anyway. Aldrin noticed that I took his picture anyway so he’s smiling in the 2nd picture, undoubtedly humored by my disregard for his previous instructions. I also met the President of PayPal, David Marcus. He was more than happy to take a picture with me and did so with a smile on his face. The entire event was filmed and they even showed me working at my station on the 6 o'clock news on channel 5.
During our trip to the Hat Creek Observatory we had an unforgettable experience using the giant telescopes. Jill Tarter and Gerry Harp did a wonderful job elaborating on the intricacies that underly the functionality of those massive instruments. They also did a thorough job in leading us through our radio-telescopic analysis. The country sky is a memory that I will hold on to for the rest of my life. Dr. Forrester’s rock collection was also a very interesting aspect of our trip, and the fact that he gave us samples of his fluorescent rocks just added to the wonder of his entire presentation. Our hike up Cindercone was a challenge in itself but most of us made it to the top and enjoyed the marvelous view that it had to offer.
This research experience has reignited my interest in science, many years of institutionalized problem solving had tarnished my outlook on science as a profession. However after this summer I feel like I have seen an entirely different side of science. Every work day seemed to go faster than the previous day. I was interested in the completion of my project because Europa is possibly a life bearing moon, and to be one of the first humans to thoroughly analyze its surface topography was truly an honor and a privilege. I will never forget the day that Dr. Drake signed my poster of him articulating that I was I was his no. 1 apprentice and potential successor, history was made that day.