Monthly interview with the vice-chairman of Sirus A: Casper Farret Jentink
with Jesse de Glint and Caroline Wemes
- First we would like to know something more about the association. What does the name stand for and what was the reason for the establishment? Also, could you tell something about the process you faced in developing your association?
Sirius A is the second brightest star in the sky after our own sun. Last year, the name was made up. It stands for Social Interaction & Research Interannual Universitary Society for Astronomy. Our goal is to help astronomy students during their study and also to strengthen and maintain their already strong bond. We organize social activities and also things like training sessions for exams so our students are well prepared.
Last year we noticed that our students who could become members at FMF and T.F.V. Francken didn’t become active members. Reasons for this are that astronomy is given at a separate building, and astronomy students simply just have other needs. We wanted to establish an association especially for astronomy students because they form a special group. Two years ago the association was established and since March we are officially an association. All the formal things like the statutes, internal regulations have been taken care of now. One of our main goals also for the association was to include as many people as possible. PhD’s can become members as well, and professors are very involved in the association. Every month we have a dinner with our members and professors. Besides that we hold weekly contact with the director of the Kapteynborg, where astronomy is facilitated.
- We are also very interested in the study Astronomy itself. Could you tell something about the study and its career prospective?
The first year you share a lot of classes with Physics and Math. From the second year onwards you focus more on Astronomy itself. In the third year you choose a minor related to astronomy. After your bachelor you can do several masters which all take two years. A lot of students choose to go into research and do a PhD. Other students choose to work at Escon or ESA.
Astronomy is a very broad study. 50% of graduates later work in a field which doesn’t have anything to do with astronomy. A lot of students choose to work at banks or other commercial institutions and companies, they need people who are good at making mathematical models. Most of the students choose to do a theoretical minor. These people like to analyze data. You can also choose a more practical road like developing telescopes and other devices to look at the stars with.
- What kind of committees do you have?
Currently we have 6 committees. First of is the KFC, it stands for Kapteynborg Food Committee. Every month we have a dinner where students, PhD’s, professors and staff are invited. Before the dinner you get a card with an astronomical object or number, with this you are assigned to a table. So you meet new people every time. Most of the PhD’s are international, so English is the spoken language at the dinners. We also have the S.T.A.R. (Student Talks Astronomy Research) Talks Committee. They organize all kinds of lectures comprised by bachelor and master students. Information sessions for minor and master programs also fall under their responsibility. Third of is the Event Horizon Committee. It is named after the ‘event horizon’ of a black hole. They work with the slogan: ‘you can enter, but never leave’. This committee organizes all kind of social activities, like movie nights etcetera.
Next of is the Telescope Committee. In collaboration with Camras they organize trips to the Telescope in Dwingeloo. The S.G.C. (Star Gazing Committee) arranges field trips to dark places in the Netherlands where members can observe the stars. Last but not least is the KLC (Kapteyn Learning Community). This ‘committee’ organizes training sessions for exams and extracurricular workshops like basic programming
- Can you give us an inside of Sirius A? What is typical Sirius A, and how would you describe the members?
Astronomy students are very open minded towards other ideas but also in interaction with everybody. It doesn’t matter what you wear, everyone does their own thing. There is a high tolerance level. Creativity also defines our members. A lot of input for activities is given to us by our members. We are also very international orientated. 30% of astronomy students are international, which is among the highest percentages of the studies at the Science and Engineering faculty. In all our committees there is at least one international represented, so we are very happy with that fact. To answer the question what is typical Sirius, I must tell you a story. I remember a KFC dinner last year, where our previous chairman Jesper was dressed as Sinterklaas. He was so perfectly dressed that you could hardly recognize him anymore. During this event the director of the Kapteyn Institute decided to sit on the lap of Sinterklaas. This really defines Sirius A for me: this tolerant and open minded attitude of our members results in fun spontaneous ideas.
- Could you describe your week as the Vice Chairman of Sirius A
We are a part-time board so we all also do classes beside our board year. We have a meeting every week and every board member is also responsible for a committee. So normally I have two meetings a week, one with the board and one with a committee. As Vice Chairman I am responsible for the contact with the Kapteyn Institute and the secretariat. Furthermore I also do all the promotion, like making posters and stuff. Besides my board responsibilities I also have two jobs. I work at the observatory where I provide tours and I’m part of a Planetarium Team. We go around schools with an inflatable universe and we tell kids about the stars and the universe.