Paul Wiegart - Astronomer and Associate Professor

CurioCity Careers
17 October 2012

Paul Wiegart

Astronomer and Associate Professor at Western University in London, Ontario

I like both the teaching and research aspects of my job, and some days it's one, and some days it's the other that's my favorite.

What is a typical day like for you?

I would be at the university. I would spend some time teaching classes and some on my research. Research would include looking at images from telescopes to search them for new asteroids, or working with computer simulations of our Solar System to learn how planets can influence asteroids.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

I like both the teaching and research aspects of my job, and some days it's one, and some days it's the other that's my favorite.

What is the least enjoyable part of your job?

Marking students homework.

Explain the path you took to get to this job (education, internships, etc.).

I always knew I would be a scientist but wanted to go into chemistry. But in first year university I found I didn't really have the knack for the lab work (if the lab assignment was to produce a red liquid, I would someone managed to create a green powder!). An astronomy course subsequently turned me to physics & astronomy.

After graduation, went on to do a Masters and PhD in Astronomy in Toronto. Then I worked as a postdoctoral fellow (a researcher who helps professors) at three different universities before becoming a professor myself in 2004.

Who or what was the greatest influence that set you on this path?

My professors along the way have given me some great advice and I've really benefited from their experience.

What advice would you give others seeking a similar job?

Being a professor or a scientist is a lot of fun, but it does require you to spend a lot of time in school. And then when you're done, you're still in school! So I would recommend it for people who really enjoy science and learning.

How does your job make a difference?

My research helps us learn about the Universe we live in, but I'm sure that the teaching I do is more important. I especially like the courses I teach to students who are not majoring in science. It gives me a chance to show how important an understanding of science is in today's world.

How do you use science, math and technology in your job?

Analysing telescope images and making computer simulations of our Solar System requires a lot of math and science, not to mention computers. I pretty much use them all the time.

Is there one course you wish you had taken in high school but didn’t? Why?

Not really, but there is one course I took I'm very glad I did. It was a typing course. I do so much work with computers that being able to type properly helps a lot.

What makes this job right for you?

I enjoy it and I'm good at it. If you can find a job like that, what more can you ask for?

What's the most bizarre or silliest thing you’ve ever done in this job?

I once walked out of an observatory in the middle of the night to go get some hot chocolate. The observatory is in the Andes Mountains of South America, and the sky was amazing. As I walked through the dark to the nearby cabin for my snack, my head cranked back as I looked at the stars, I almost ran smack into a wild donkey! A herd of them had wandered in unseen during the night. They didn't seem to mind me but I got quite a surprise.

What activities do you like to do outside of work?

I like to play hockey and basketball.

You just won $10 million. What's the first thing you'd do?

Travel probably, something involving warm weather and sailboats.

CurioCity Careers

We hope you enjoyed learning about this great STEM career! The information in this career profile was provided by this individual especially for CurioCity. We hope it helped give you a sense of what this type of job is really like.

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