Get to Know Gemini! Christy Cunningham

Get to Know Gemini is a new series of blog posts aimed to highlight the different careers, backgrounds, and types of people contributing to Gemini Observatory and its science.

Name:  Christy Cunningham

What is your current position and at which telescope?

I am a Science Operations Specialist (SOS) at Gemini North.

In four lines or less, explain what you do as part of the Gemini Observatory team?

1. Operating the telescope at night which entails slewing the telescope, setting up on guide stars, and fixing any problems that occur with the telescope.
2. Observing at night which includes determining what programs in the Queue are suitable to run in the current conditions, checking real-time data, and logging events.
3. Daytime data checks of the previous nights data and daytime calibrations to prepare the telescope for the night.
4. Project time, for me this includes helping with the installation of the new Toptica laser system.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

I have been at Gemini for over a year.

What drew you to this job?

Originally I left the operator position at SMA to go to get my masters at UO. I missed the night owl hours, the amazing hiking Hawaii has to offer, and my friends in the astronomy community so I decided to join Gemini.

What is the best part of your job?

My favorite part is the variety of work I get to perform week to week ranging from night to day, from base to summit, and operations to engineering.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska.

What skill do you think is most important to know for your job?

Communication. We have 10 different SOS members on the the team and it’s vital to know what is happening with the telescope and instruments between shifts and during the night between operations, science, and engineering staff.

Why is astronomy important?

Astronomy provides answers for the age old questions of who we are, why we are here, and what else is out there. It also enhances the development of new technology within other fields of science.

What is your favorite movie?

My favorite movie is 500 days of summer.

What is the latest book you have read?

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

I’m a rocker so the best of Albums for Blink-182, Slipknot, and Avenged Sevenfold.

What is one hobby of yours?

I’ve been fishing since I was a little girl and there’s nothing better than being on the boat or fly fishing for salmon!

Favorite beverage?

Sugar free redbull for the long nights running the telescope!

Check back next month to learn more about the staff that help Gemini to explore the Universe and share its wonders!

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