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Michael NIEMACK: Working as a Team in Extreme Environments Is Exhilarating
Date: 2021-12-21
Source: WLA
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Q & A with WLA

Q: What is your early inspiration of doing science?
A: Observing the night sky in places far from city lights made me want to understand how the Universe works. Reading popular science books that described the curvature of space-time inspired me to learn more about cosmology. My interest in both earth and space exploration led me to pursue research that includes building new instruments at remote sites to understand our Universe.

Q: Do you have any scientific hero(es)? If so, how did he/she inspire you? 
A: Many scientists, explorers, and engineers have inspired me, from explorers navigating the earth to astronauts exploring space as well as scientists developing new theories and testing them with novel instruments and observations. Edwin Hubble is one of my heroes for his measurements of distant galaxies and the expansion of the Universe using the Mount Wilson Observatory in California.

Q: What is the best advice that you have received?
A: Major advances require hard work and teamwork.

Q: What is your greatest achievement so far?
A: My greatest achievements involve developing new instrumentation to measure the oldest light in the Universe - the cosmic microwave background. Some of this instrumentation has enabled new measurements, such as our recent constraints on the Hubble constant using the Atacama Cosmology Telescope. My greatest contribution is probably developing new telescope designs that have evolved into the designs for the CCAT-prime and Simons Observatory projects, which will be completed in the next two years.
Q: What is your research goal?
A: My goal is to use the instruments we develop to contribute to understanding fundamental aspects of our Universe. I aim to help answer questions such as: what is the Universe made of? And how is the Universe evolving?

Q: What is the best part of your job?
A: While I enjoy many aspects of my job, my favorite part is doing hands on work on our telescopes with collaborators. Working as a team in extreme environments to understand and improve our measurements is exhilarating.

Q: Would you like to share with us some of your unforgettable experience?
A: After years of designing, constructing, and testing the telescope and receiver, staying up all night to make our first light observations of Jupiter with the Atacama Cosmology Telescope in 2007 was unforgettable.