TMT International Training Program

Project Team Members  

Austin Barnes, Nicholas McConnell, Lisa Hunter

This project is part of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Workforce, Education, Public Outreach, and Communication (WEPOC) effort.

Project Description

ISEE is developing training opportunities and infrastructure to support early-career scientists and engineers involved with the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), a $1.4 billion international facility that will begin operating in the mid-2020s.  The TMT International Observatory (TIO) is a partnership between Canada, China, India, Japan, the University of California, and Caltech.  International teams of scientists and engineers are already defining key science goals and designing astronomical instruments for TMT.  Today’s graduate students and postdocs will lead future campaigns to make breakthrough discoveries with TMT, and develop future generations of instruments.  Professional development led by ISEE will serve to maximize the productivity and impact of these scientific campaigns, fully utilize the expertise and diversity of TMT’s international partnership, and equip young professionals with project design and leadership skills they will employ in a multitude of career paths.

The centerpiece of ISEE’s initial TMT international training program is a weeklong workshop bringing together graduate students and postdocs from all of the partner countries and institutions, and TMT project leaders.  The workshop includes overview talks by TMT leaders on topics such as project management and systems engineering, hands-on activities to engage in authentic engineering practices and instrument design strategies, and tours of local astronomy facilities.  Participants consider how instrument features can be tailored to different science goals, and throughout the workshop gain experience with international teamwork and collaboration by pursuing activities with different sets of peers.  

Pilot Workshop

In December 2016 we held a four-day pilot workshop in Hilo, Hawaii: Preparing TMT Future Science and Technology Leaders.  Thirty-five (35) graduate students and postdocs attended, representing each of the TMT partners plus the University of Hawaii.  In various sessions, participants outlined instrument concepts to address several scientific goals, defined sampling requirements (spatial, temporal, and grayscale) to resolve crucial features in a variety of multi-image datasets, and considered how to compose and coordinate instrument teams with required expertise in astronomy, physics, optics, mechanical, electrical, and software engineering.  Participants embraced the opportunity to work with peers from other nations (as evidenced by groups formed on the last day of the workshop, without specific directions from instructors), and were particularly excited to interact with high-ranking leaders in TIO.  Toward the end of the workshop, participants shared ideas for future iterations of the training program, including near-term opportunities to work on projects supporting TMT, coordinating the workshop and other TMT meetings, and tactics for navigating cultural and technical differences (such as standard software tools used by different partners) on international teams.

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Expanded Workshop Curriculum

In 2017 we extended the TMT Future Science and Technology Leaders workshop to an eight-day agenda, including expanded versions of sessions developed for the pilot workshop in 2016, and new sessions supporting participants to engage in deeper collaborative work.  We hosted 42 graduate students and postdocs for the updated workshop at UCSC, on August 22-29, 2017.   We structured part of the workshop around "mini-projects" that directly address TMT project goals, aiming for some of the ideas generated by participants at the workshop to persist as ongoing collaborations.  We also connected participants’ efforts at the workshop with the themes of the 2017 TMT Science Forum (November, Mysuru, India).  Several workshop participants attended the Forum and built further connections within the TMT collaboration.  Science Forum presentations featured a conceptual design for a fast-cadence spectrograph to perform transient follow-up observations (Fast SHOOTER), devised by one of the participant teams in our workshop's instrument design activity. 

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Mini-Projects supporting TMT facility and instrument development

In 2018 we rebranded the Future Leaders international program as the TMT Early-Career Initiative (TECI) and held our second iteration of the weeklong workshop (and third workshop overall) December 2-9 in Pasadena, California, for 49 grad students and postdocs.  We also substantially developed our support for TECI mini-projects.  As in 2017, we collected ideas from the TMT Project Office and TMT instrument teams for small projects that would advance those teams' overall efforts.  Participants at the 2018 TECI Workshop were assigned according to their interests to small international teams who worked together during the workshop to define the mini-project scope and final products, and collect necessary information from a project consultant (a Project Office or instrument team member).  For the first time, we developed infrastructure to support mini-project teams in continuing their work remotely after the workshop.  Five teams from the workshop (20 participants in total) successfully proposed to continue working with their project consultant, and we supported two teams' proposals to work together in person for a week at a TMT partner site.

 

Long-term metrics for developing an international TIO workforce 

In addition to refining the workshop each year, ISEE is devising metrics for assessing the long-term efficacy of international collaboration under the TIO umbrella, and the development and advancement of junior engineers and astronomers within the collaboration.  With first light nearly a decade away, TIO benefits from a long baseline to assess and improve policies so as to operate in a manner that fully and equitably supports career advancement.  ISEE is continuing to develop milestones for the Future Leaders training program and is working to integrate early-career professional development with TIO’s existing structures for collaboration, such as International Science Development Teams.  

 

Funding

This project has been funded by TIO since 2015, with additional funding from University of California Observatories (UCO).  TIO partners have contributed additionally to some participants’ travel.  The project is part of TIO’s Workforce, Education, Public Outreach, and Communication (WEPOC) efforts.