Melissa Hoffman '09

- Scientific Data Analyst, National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO)
- MSDA Capstone Mentor 2018-19
- Stony Brook University - M.A. in Physics and Astronomy 2016
- Drew University - B.A. in Physics and Mathematics 2013
- MSDA Class of 2009

Where am I?
I work at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), headquartered in Charlottesville, VA, where I work with data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a radio telescope in Chile. I process the data, deliver observatory products to scientists, test code that the observatory maintains, and help visiting scientists at the North American ALMA Science Center.

The Mount Factor
My original plan was not to go into physics or astronomy. While astronomy had always been a hobby and interest of mine, I never seriously considered it as a possible career. Then I took Mrs. Rogacki's physics class and loved seeing the applications of math and science through some of the best labs ever. I still talk about throwing Barbie dolls off the roof on rubber-band bungees to measure the spring constant when I tell people what a unique and exciting physics class I had in high school!

My Advice…
Never be afraid to ask questions. Working in a STEM field can be intimidating, and sometimes it's hard to admit something is a challenge for fear of seeming stupid, but often talking things out with professors and experts not only resolves your issues, but helps develop connections with the people in your field that you may go on to work with or for. Professors will respect you much more for coming to them with questions rather than struggling silently.

…Never be afraid to ask questions…