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Haverford College

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Sarah Burke Spolaor '06

What is your current job?

I am a Radio Astronomer at the NASA/Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.

Why did you choose this profession?

I had always loved astronomy and went to Haverford intending to major in it. Bruce Partridge, an astronomy professor there, gave some very compelling lectures on Cosmology and I was hooked. I ended up doing some research as an undergrad with Bruce, and got into radio astronomy that way.

What more do you wish to accomplish in your professional career?

I hope to be able to get a permanent job doing Astronomy (I am currently a postdoc), and supervise more students in the future.

Tell us about a decision or change you made that turned out to be a positive career move.

After Haverford I was offered a brief position in Australia to work on a project for 6 months. I ended up staying for 6 years, pursuing a PhD and getting a job! It was definitely worth making the move abroad and exploring what jobs the world has to offer in one's field. The time I spent in Australia has given me valuable work connections and trained me in a way that brings a unique perspective to my new institution in the USA.

How has Haverford influenced your professional career?

The physics and astronomy professors at Haverford really kick-started my career by involving me in their research projects and by being contagiously enthusiastic and dedicated teachers. Also, being in a community like Haverford with such a strong code of ethics and honor helps form a basis from which to successfully interface with colleagues and grow a professional network in a field that relies heavily on collaboration and a degree of trust.

The ramp from Magill Library with Ryan Gym and Sharpless Hall in the background.

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