The University of Southampton

Joyce Lee

"Looking back at the year I had at Harvard, I have to say that many of the clichés are true! I'm really grateful for the opportunities. I was definitely challenged, both academically and personally. Sometimes it was really hard and I felt homesick but, when people ask me how my experience in America was I can honestly say that it was an incredible year!

One of my highlights was the AAS conference, and hearing a lecture from the head of NASA’s project on the Pluto fly-by!

“Of course, being at Harvard is not quite like being at Southampton. It was nothing like undergraduate university life, and I think anyone considering going or getting ready to go should prepare for that. You’re not a student anymore, you’re a researcher and a colleague. That might sound a bit scary, but for me, the research experience was exactly what I wanted to have and I really enjoyed being treated as an equal. It helped me decide not to do a PhD straight away and go into teaching instead. 

Problem solving
“I enjoyed my project hugely, loved the physics and solving problems, and I wasn’t put off research by that at all. I did, however, find out a lot about myself. At the core of my character and personality I’m a communicator and love working with people. I dislike sitting in an office, so I want to do a bit of something else first. If I hadn’t had the chance to work with my supervisors in Harvard solely on research, I may not have been as sure about what I wanted to do next. I will miss the problem-solving part of research, and learning from the best but, thankfully, I’m also in a great position if I ever want to return. Currently, I’m in the process of writing a paper and publishing it. 

“I think the other thing that has left an impression is the people I met. While I may never again be surrounded by some of the best and most passionate astronomers in the world and get involved with what they are doing, I hope that I might. Although it is an ‘exchange’ programme, really you are there as a researcher. There are no lectures and no lessons, just your project. My supervisors treated me extremely well and I’m really grateful for their work ethic and passion for their work. They taught me a lot about working life, what it is like to do research and how to do it. They were really inspiring and, on top of that, they introduced me to a lot of amazing people in astronomy. 

Main highlights
“One of the highlights of the year was the AAS conference, and hearing a lecture from the head of NASA’s project on the Pluto fly-by! He showed never-before released data and I felt so privileged to be there. During the conference we also had opportunities to present our work and I really enjoyed speaking to people interested in what I was doing at the poster presentation. Another highlight was being able to go to the opening of Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative and see Professor Stephen Hawking in person speak on Quantum Black Holes. Finally, towards the end of my time, I also went to Hawaii to observe with the SMA on Mauna Kea.”

Paper published by Joyce: Synthetic Observations of Magnetic Fields in Protostellar Cores