PhD student Kerem becomes Armagh Observatory’s Education Officer

After moving to Northern Ireland to complete his PhD, Kerem Osman Çubuk later became involved with Armagh Observatory and Planetarium and has now taken up the post of Education Officer.

Kerem has seven years voluntary teaching experience gained during his time at Erciyes University in Turkey, alongside two years as an Education Outreach Assistant.

As someone who has been ‘obsessed’ with Educational Outreach since his high school years, Kerem is delighted to now be back in a similar role, helping to shape the curious minds of the future.

What is your role in the company and what does a typical day entail?

As an Education Officer, I mostly welcome school groups and families to planetarium shows, various workshops, and space talks. Among the tasks that I perform as part of the role, my favourite is probably talking about astronomy in the Exhibition area. Our visitors ask the most amazing questions!

When not with visitors, I’ll be working on our new dome shows or planning events.

What was your route into the company?

I first joined Armagh Observatory and Planetarium as a PhD student and then availed of a job opportunity that arose as I was finishing up my PhD.

How long have you been involved in this type of work?

I began taking part in and organising astronomy outreach events in 2007 and have been working in the field ever since.

Where did you work before this?

Between 2007 and 2014, I volunteered with Erciyes University’s Astronomy Club, a role that saw me teaching astronomy to primary and secondary school pupils.

Following that, I worked in an observatory as an Education Outreach Assistant for two years. Immediately prior to my current role and before moving to the UK, I spent two years working as a Planetarian, which is an industry term for an operator of a planetarium.

What were your favourite subjects in school and why?

My favourite subjects were Physics and Biology. I have always been fascinated by the way in which nature works and am incredibly interested in subjects like gravity, space and the way in which objects are formed in nature.

Did you go on to university or further education and what did you study?

I completed a BSc and an MSc in Astronomy and Space Sciences at Erciyes University, in Türkiye. Following this, I moved to Northern Ireland to complete a PhD in Astrophysics.

My PhD research was on molecular clouds of our Galaxy that can be seen from the Southern Hemisphere.

Did you always have this career in mind?

I have wanted to be an astronomer since my early high school years and after joining the Astronomy Club at university, I also became obsessed with educational outreach.

However, deciding between education and research has always been difficult for me and the role at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium offers an opportunity to experience both at the same time which is fantastic!

What do you enjoy about it?

At Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, we deliver vibrant educational and outreach programmes for all ages and I find that learning new things and sharing them with others is priceless! I especially enjoy inspiring the next generation of STEM leaders – seeing young visitors get excited about natural sciences is super satisfying.

Learning about the universe has enhanced my life and now I want to do the same for young people.

What are the main skills required for it?

Curiosity, patience, empathy, and good communication skills are critical for this role as we all learn in different ways. Educators should be able to tailor their teachings and must be eager to learn new things.

What would your advice be to anyone thinking of it as a career?

For this role, you need to have an enthusiasm for learning and for sharing knowledge.

My advice is to stay curious, keep learning, and volunteer to see if this field is a good fit for you. One of the best things about this career is that you don’t have to have studied a specific subject at university, however, if your degree is related to education or a STEM subject, that’s always a bonus!

How do you relax when you’re not working?

After a long day, I like to relax at home with dimmed lights, candles and jazz music.

Alternatively, I like to get outside and take long walks in nature, observing wildlife and the sky.

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