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Working at Subaru Telescope - Staff Interviews

December 22, 2016
Last updated: January 19, 2021

What is it like to work at an astronomical observatory? Contrary to common expectations, most of the staff do not watch the stars every night. In fact, astronomers are minorities at the observatories. The majority of our staff are engineers and technicians whose work is crucial for the telescope to perform at its best.

We interviewed five staff members at the Subaru Telescope: two day crew members, one software engineer, one instrumentation technician, and one system engineer. Let's take a peek at their workplace and hear about their jobs, career path, and passion for life. At the end of the video, each of them gives a special message for keiki (children) in Hawai'i.

Working at Subaru Telescope - Staff Interviews Figure

Figure 1: Staff members at the Subaru Telescope. Left: The Day Crew team. Top right: Kiaina Schubert (Senior System Administrator) in front of Subaru Telescope's computers at Hilo base facility. Middle right: Lucio Ramos (Instrumentation and Electronics Technician) working on a test dewar which keeps Subaru's infrared instrument as cold as 100 Kelvin (or -280 F). Bottom right: Russell Kackley (Software Engineer) with his Akamai intern. (Credit: NAOJ)

1. Day Crew (Timothy Castro and Johnathan Thunell)
Message for keiki: “Strive to be the best at whatever you are interested in. Don't let anything to stop you on the way.”

Video: Working at Subaru Telescope - Day Crew. (Credit: NAOJ; Video created by Mark Kimura and Yuko Kakazu)

Timothy Castro and Johnathan Thunell are both summit telescope technicians, so-called Day Crew. The Day Crew team works during the daytime to prepare for night observations. Their work includes instrument mounting and dismounting, maintenance, troubleshooting, down to keeping areas clean and safe. In short, they set the telescope up during daytime for successful nighttime observation. In cold winter days, snow shoveling also becomes a part of their job.

Tim and Johnathan are both from Hilo, graduating from Waiakea and Hilo high school respectively, and then Hawai'i Community College.

“Working at Subaru Telescope is really fun. We have a good atmosphere with our fellow employees and the work is never dull. It's always a different thing that we do. By working at Subaru Telescope, I've learned a lot.”

[Note] Johnathan Thunell now works at SMA, Submillimeter Array that is also located on Maunakea.

2. Computer and Data Management (Kiaina Schubert)
Message for keiki: “Find your passion for your career, something that gives you happiness and long-term fulfillment.”

Video: Working at Subaru Telescope - Computer and Data Management. (Credit: NAOJ; Video created by Mark Kimura and Yuko Kakazu)

The Computer and Data Management Division designs, procures, operates, and maintains the core computer network, various servers and services that support Subaru Telescope’s operation. The division also supports computers and software to manage a scientific data archive system.

Kiaina Schubert is the senior system administrator at Subaru Telescope. Born in Honolulu, moved to Hilo at age 10, he went to St. Joseph high school and University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. In the video, Kiaina talks about his job, family, and his experience as a mentor for high school and college students.

“How is it like to work at Subaru Telescope? I think it's great. I have an opportunity to live in Hilo, to do what I enjoy doing, which is IT work. It also gives me a great opportunity of keeping my family here and raising my family in Hilo and keeping them close to our extended family.”

3. Instrumentation and Electronics (Lucio Ramos)
Message for keiki: “Explore and try new things to find out what you truly like.”

Video: Working at Subaru Telescope - Instrumentation and Electronics. (Credit: NAOJ; Video created by Mark Kimura and Yuko Kakazu)

As an instrumentation and electronics technician, Lucio Ramos takes care of electronics and electronic components that controls and monitors the conditions of scientific instruments such as temperature and pressure. Originally from Laupāhoehoe, Lucio graduated from Laupāhoehoe high school, and then University of Hawaiʻi and Hawaiʻi Community College.

Lucio’s passion for astronomical instrumentation and electronics began as an intern at NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF). He enjoys mentoring college students as his way of giving back to the community, because he himself started off as an intern and he had a mentor to show him the role.

“What I like most about working at Subaru Telescope is building new components for the new instruments. It is always exciting when you’re building something that is unique and one of a kind.”

4. Software Engineering (Russell Kackley)
Message for keiki: “Pursue the interest that get you excited and fulfilling.”

Video: Working at Subaru Telescope - Instrumentation and Electronics. (Credit: NAOJ; Video created by Mark Kimura and Yuko Kakazu)

As a software engineer, Russell Kackley develops and maintains software for Subaru Telescope, primarily for the observation systems. Before the night begins, his team sets up the computers for the observation. Russell enjoys working with top-notch computers at Subaru Telescope. He also enjoys the multi-cultural work environment and asking astronomers about new exoplanets and various phenomena in the Universe.

Russell mentors college students as well as high school robotics teams. In summer of 2016, through Akamai Workforce Initiative, he mentored a college student who was a graduate of Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy in Waimea. Russell says, “she worked on a very useful project. She rewrote software for focusing a new camera and we are very happy with the results. We will definitely use the software (developed by this intern) when the instrument gets ready to go.”

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