How I got into GSoC-2017, the “smaller” things that made it possible

Ayush Yadav
May 10, 2017 · 3 min read

It was late February, and like any year, semester in college was going just as chill as it could. It was my last semester and with only a few courses at hand, my days were spent surfing on internet for content or on Netflix. It was in these last few days, when I came to know about this year’s GSoC program. I was familiar with it as my roommate last year cleared it as well, so I knew the program but what I was unaware of, is where to start?

Now this question seems mundane but if you really think, it is rather complex, with ~200 organizations and almost 2000 odd projects it was a mind boggler. Anyways the organizations list was out by the time I was still getting a hang of it. It was at this point when, one of my very good friend and junior, Swapnil Sharma, pointed to me about OpenAstronomy. He is a astro-enthu, cs-geek like me [maybe a little more given he is junior than me and has time to do a lot more] and was looking for advise on probable project ideas. He showed me the organization and its projects and I diligently sat down with him and gave whatever advice I could after going through the project details. In the process, I realized that this is something that even I should, at least try to, do.

I was particularly fascinated by a particular astroquery project, “to add additional archives to astroquery modules”. The cause for this fascination was my previous work, which I had earlier done at Space Telescope and Science Institute, USA. There I worked on developing API’s and web interface tools for data access. This meant I had previous knowledge of the domain and a faint idea of what needs to be done. This was all the push I needed.

Over the next few days in March, I read the documentations, guidelines, FAQ’s and acquainted myself with the project mentors. The mentors of this project, Brigitta Sipocz, Adam Ginsburg and P. L. Lim were wonderfully helpful and quick in their response. They guided me to my first PR for the issues in the astroquery repo. The first one was tough, took me a couple of days but in the end, it’s successful completion just gave me whizz of electricity and then within next two weeks I completed a total of four successful PR’s and got them merged in the main astroquery trunk.

Apart from the PR’s I was also active in the IRC channels and on New-Services issue, where I proposed a new astronomy data archive that could benefit a lot from inclusion in astroquery and serve a lot of people from its rich dataset. These discussions made me aware of the internal workings of the dev team before they finalize a new service and the needs of it’s users.

Later I went into making my proposals for the google application and with helpful and critical feedback by the mentors, I was able to submit a proposal in time for consideration.

I was also helped by my senior thesis mentor, Dr. Ivelina Momcheva, Mission Scientist, STScI, in my applications and work.

And it was on 4th of May, when I refreshed the page, there it was, “Selected”. #MayThe4thBeWithYou

I cannot explain my jubilation at that moment and probably memory will be the best explanation and memoir for me. This moment will stay etched in my memory for a long time, and to make it stay a little longer I am putting this down, in a series of blog which will run over for next three and a half months, recording my journey through this amazing summer and this project in particular.

In a next few days, I will also be writing about my journey, from a student who was about to fail a mere data structures course in 2015, to getting two amazing internships, two wonderful jobs, a research grant and more important than all, “A Amazing Journey” within a year and a half.

Comments and ideas on what should I be including in this series are welcome from everyone. Cheers!

Ayush Yadav

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A novice, gathering experience and trying to document it. From the mundane to the complex life.