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Harvard-Smithsonian's cosmic bond to Unity

Harvard engineer, Keara Carter, has deep connection to grandparents, who are longtime residents of Unity.

UNITY – Keara Carter grew up in Saskatoon, however, her connection to Unity is strong. Spending summers with her grandparents Laraine and the late Gary Wood, she grew to have a special relationship with them. They spent their time together at the swimming pool, picking saskatoon berries with grandma and arrowhead hunting with grandpa.  

Carter graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 2019 with a degree in engineering physics. It did not take long for her name to be selected for a year-long internship at Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics, primarily to focus on developing a wideband submillimeter array. Grandpa Wood was able to watch her graduate and he was excited to see her going to Harvard and the Smithsonian.

A SMA is a collection of eight individual telescopes, six metres in diameter, which work together. These telescopes observe astronomical phenomena at the same time, collecting data and combining the information to create one image. It is a vital resource to astronomers as they can study star-forming regions and detect supermassive black holes along with other astronomical phenomena. With the upgrades Carter was working on, the SMA would enable researchers to get better measurements to further understand the chemical processes of stars and further validate current mathematical models of black hole physics.

The SMA that Carter was working with is located near the Maunakea summit in Hawaii and is undergoing improvements to increase sensitivity and frequency range. It is a critical component of the Event Horizon Telescope.

When Carter was done her internship, she worked as a field physicist in the geological exploration industry, travelling to remote locations throughout Canada and the United States. This past spring, Carter was working on Somerset Island, an uninhabited island of the Arctic Archipelago. Members of the survey team lived in a remote tent camp and had to be flown by helicopter daily to their research sites.

“We worked individually and would be separated by kilometres at a time. I had to always carry a loaded shotgun with me as the possibility of being attacked by polar bears was imminent,” said Carter.

Grandma Laraine is extremely proud of her granddaughter. Carter’s mother, Maureen, always knew her daughter would achieve great things.

“She always excelled in everything she did. School, sports and music just came easily for her,” said Maureen.

Carter also had the opportunity to study astrophysics at Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland in 2018. While studying, she met an extra working on season eight of Game of Thrones. She was cast as an extra for that season, playing a zombie character and a flee bottom peasant.

She was also awarded an internship at the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University, doing computer simulations to model cataclysmic variable stars.

“For six months I studied astrophysics, worked at the Astrophysics Research Centre and acted on the Game of Thrones,” said Carter.

Carter returned to the Centre for Astrophysics in Cambridge this October for a two-year engineering position. She has continued working on the wideband Submillimeter Array development and on expanding next generation Event Horizon Telescope.

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