College of Science

Mario Cabrera

Mario standing in the entrance of ipac at Caltech.

Mario is a physics major who is pursuing studies in astronomy to be part of the continuing effort to get explore space, and to be part of the research community that has provided us with information about the universe and how it has developed into what we know now. A native of a small town in Mexico, he came to the U.S. at age of ten, where overcoming the language barrier was only one of many obstacles he faced. He hopes eventually to pursue a Ph.D. in astrophysics. Mario spent the summer of 2012 in the CAMPARE program, working at JPL as part of the NEOWISE team. This is his story.

This summer, I had the opportunity to work with the NEOWISE team led by my mentor Dr. Amy Mainzer and co-mentor Dr. Joseph Masiero of JPL. Although we worked occasionally at JPL, we spent most of our time at IPAC (Infrared Processing and Analysis Center) at Caltech. The focus of my project was to work with the NEOWISE team to determine the accuracy of WISE's data set from the Post-Cryogenic part of the mission.Mario looking at an image of himself through an infrared camera.

In order to even get started on my project, I spent the first week or so learning how to program in the language that the team used, and it took a week or two more for me to feel comfortable with programing tools. The team was very supportive and ready to lend a hand whenever I ran into programing issues, to explain the science behind the project, and to develop a much better sense on how to interpret the data. Luckily at the end of the tenth week, my programming skills improved and had a much greater appreciation of how useful programming can be when analyzing data.

Mario standing in front of the Voyager mock-up at JPL.

There was so much more that I took from this summer other than the science and programming involved in my project. I got the chance to meet so many great people who shared their experiences with me, offered advice on how to get to where they are now, and they really gave me an insight of what it's like to be an astronomer outside of a classroom setting.