ASTRON’s new director, Jessica Dempsey, has already visited from Hawaii this week. A famous woman in science with a proven track record. But what did the native Australian bring to Drenthe?
“I shouldn’t be leading the way, I don’t know the way yet,” laughs Dempsey. It takes us to the large telescope at the back of the ASTRON site, adjacent to the River Dwingelderveld. This is not the first time I have visited ASTRON in Dwingeloo. It’s your first time living there.
“I am really looking forward to it. It is a really exciting challenge and I am very proud to be able to join the institute,” she began.
The company has been on their radar for a long time. “Astron and I are back a long time ago,” she says. “ASTRON designed and built the telescope about 35 years ago which I worked with for several years in Hawaii.”
very adventurous profession
Growing up in the Australian desert, Dempsey was the first Australian Antarctic scientist, then spent 15 years in Hawaii at the East Asian Observatory where she later became director.
“I had never seen snow before I went to Antarctica,” she says. “I’m from the desert, so that seemed fine to me. But after the 12-month Antarctic winter, I can’t see any snow anymore.”
“Hawaii must have been hot, it was a lie”
I loved the idea of a tropical island, but nothing could be further from the truth. She laughs. “They told me it wouldn’t snow in Hawaii. But the mountain where the telescopes are is what they call the ‘white mountain’ in Hawaii. They do it because it snows there.” “My first week in Hawaii I started shoveling snow. Hawaii should have been warm, which was a lie, but the view was beautiful, and I had nothing to complain about.”
But isn’t Drenthe bored after that? Dempsey laughs. “That’s as exciting to me as Antarctica or Hawaii. It might sound different to you, but trust me you live in a beautiful place.”
According to Dempsey, it is remarkable that astronomical institutes are often located in the most unique places in the world. “You have to go somewhere quiet for radio science, so it’s often quite far away. Especially now that radio technology is so popular because of, say, telephony, it makes it hard to hear the whispers of the universe otherwise. Compared to Australia, you still have many of the cities in the region.
Zombie specialist. Friendly twitter guru. Internet buff. Organizer. Coffee trailblazer. Lifelong problem solver. Certified travel enthusiast. Alcohol geek.