#SoCaltech: Donal O'Sullivan


"I've always thought that if you wanted to ask the broadest questions, there are two main approaches you can take: One is looking outward at the universe and trying to explain it. The other one is trying to look inward at how you perceive the universe. That would be neuroscience, neurobiology. They're both trying to ask profound philosophical questions from a scientific perspective. That's also why I like instrumentation. Instrumentation is really interesting to me because it's about using technology to perceive the universe in different ways, which allows you to explain it in different ways. It's almost like instrumentation is the neuroscience of astronomy. You're building new modes of perception. I think that's one of the fundamental drives in astronomy—to try to understand or observe something that people haven't observed before. I guess that's science in general, right? But in astronomy in particular, especially when it comes to instrumentation, you are seeing something nobody's ever seen before, taking a picture nobody's ever taken before."

Donal O'Sullivan, of Celbridge, in County Kildare, Ireland, is a fifth-year graduate student in astronomy.

#SoCaltech is an occasional series celebrating the diverse individuals who give Caltech its spirit of excellence, ambition, and ingenuity. Know someone we should profile? Send nominations to magazine@caltech.edu.