How does a hands-on scientist develop the practical skills he needs?

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How does a hands-on scientist develop the practical skills he needs?

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MATHER: You have to do hands-on stuff. In graduate school, I had to learn something about everything on the instrumentation we did there. The other scientists I worked with on COBE did the same. They built balloon payloads; they built laboratory hardware; they sawed, drilled, and soldered; they made circuit boards. You have to do stuff until you get some instinct about what hardware is like and how it acts. Someone was telling me recently that almost anybody who is anybody in ultraviolet astronomy got his start with Stu Bowyer at Berkeley. He was doing sounding rocket programs. A sounding rocket is like a miniature space program. It’s got all the problems that space observatories have, but it’s over in five minutes. A student has the opportunity to learn every aspect from beginning to end by working on such a small project. Similarly with balloon payloads, which most other people who have developed into hands-on space scientists have done. Those are the two basic categories: start off

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