Pamela Klaassen: Instrument Scientist

Read our Q&A with Pamela Klaassen. Pamela is an instrument scientist currently working at UK Astronomy Technology Centre supporting the MIRI instrument focusing on the Spectrometer and the Integral Field Unit.

Pamela Klaassen: Instrument Scientist

Hi Pamela Klaassen! What is your job and what is the most exciting part about the work that you do?

I’m an Instrument Scientist, which means get to do both astronomy research, and I get to be involved with building new telescopes and astronomy cameras for the general astronomical community.

What motivated and inspired you to pursue a career in the STEM industry?

Certainly my primary school teachers encouraged me, but even as a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a scientist.

What is the biggest misconception about your job?

That I say up late at night looking through a telescope. Instead, I usually work normal business hours in an office looking at data that I asked for from telescopes across the globe (and of course, in space).


What were you like as a child and what interests and hobbies did you have?

I was really excited to go on big bike rides with my dad. Still am.

What advice would you give your eight-year-old self about building a career in space?

That you don’t need a telescope and clear skies to enjoy astronomy. There are so many resources available online, and at your library, that can help you figure out what part of space you like best!

Why do you think JWST is an important part of our space exploration?

There’s a lot about how planets are built that we haven’t been able to figure out yet, and a lot of that is because we can’t see those processes happening from the ground. Going above the atmosphere will let us know so much more about where our planet came from.

Where do you think we’ll be in 50 years in terms of space exploration?

My hope is that we’ll have telescopes working from Mars, which has a much thinner atmosphere to see through, and less contamination from the sun.


Pamela Klaassen appears in Activity 4.3 Calibrate for Discovery in Chapter Four of the Deep Space Diary. Download the activity and teaching notes here.

Deep Space Diary, Discovery Diaries, Calibrate for Discovery



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