Joe Swiggum

Departure Date:
Jun. 1 2012
Return Date:
Aug. 15 2012
Local Institution:
West Virginia University
Local Advisor:
Maura McLaughlin
Foreign Institution:
Swinburne University
Foreign Advisor:
Matthew Bailes
Student Status:
  • Q. What country were you staying in?
  • Q. What university were you attending/doing research at? Swinburne University (in Melbourne)
  • Q. How long were you there? weeks
  • Q. What sort of research were you doing? studied scintillation patterns for PTA pulsars by constructing signal to noise histograms using short integration times. I used these histograms, in addition to the real-time transient detector Heimdall, to look for giant pulse behavior in MSPs
  • Q. Did being abroad influence the kind of research you’re doing? Yes!
  • Q. What’s the coolest thing about being abroad? general – the public transportation system was amazing.
  • Q. What’s your favorite new phrase from the language? Cheers!
  • Q. What’s the hardest thing about being abroad? Living out of a suitcase for months gets tiring quickly. I found it a lot easier once I started making friends and feeling more at home in Australia.
  • Q. What did you do in your free time? Went to coffee shops, explored the downtown area, met some penguins, went surfing, went to comedy clubs, tried new restaurants, watched LOTS of footy, played volleyball and hung out with friends.
  • Q. What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or done while abroad? Going surfing all day at a beach right at the start of the Great Ocean Road was probably the best time I had all trip. It was sunny with moderately-sized waves, which made for a very nice first experience. After 6 hours of surfing, we went to a nearby fish and chips restaurant and ordered the ‘Deluxe Family Size’ meal; fried fish has never tasted so good! I also quite enjoyed having the night shift for several days’ observing at Parkes; watching the sun rise, the morning fog lifting and kangaroos stampeding around the grounds is an image I will never forget.
  • Q. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen or done while abroad? The plane I took from Sydney to Parkes was probably the smallest plane I’ve ever flown in. On the day of departure, the flight was delayed due to WIND – apparently some of the strongest they’d ever had. When we got bussed out to the plane, it had been strapped to the tarmac, but was still bucking with every gust, so much that its front wheel would lift several feet off the ground. Boarding has never been such a thrilling activity.
  • Q. What advice would you offer others going abroad? Planning a place to stay for several months is difficult. First of all, apartments typically turn over on a month to month basis, so it’s hard to plan anything in advance and second, landlords don’t usually like to rent for such a short timecol-sm-, unless there are special circumstances. Get in touch with people who live where you’re going (grad students, etc.) and ask for advice on where to live and/or if they know anyone going abroad who might need a sublease. Making arrangements with strangers by phone/email can work, but a certain amount of trust must be established in order for them to actually hold an apartment (I had a landlord back out on very short notice and had to find another apartment in less than a week). Also look into university housing options and talk to administrators for more advice
  • Q. What skills have you learned abroad? Socket programming, networking with PPTA folks, python scripting, observing experience at Parkes.
  • Q. Is there anything you’d do differently or anything you wish you’d have known? wish I had started surfing earlier! My first time was pretty late in the trip, so I didn’t have time to go back out.