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Leyzorek develops monitoring system for GBO telescope

Last summer, Marlinton native Laura Leyzorek was part of the painting crew for the Green Bank Telescope at the Green Bank Observatory. This year, she turned in her hardhat and kept her feet on the ground to work on a monitoring system for the telescope. Photo courtesy of Laura Leyzorek

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

When Marlinton native Laura Leyzorek was thinking of a research project to do this summer, she looked close to home and found herself at the Green Bank Observatory.

In May, Leyzorek began work on a project for the data collected by the Green Bank Telescope.

“My project was to develop a general monitoring system for the GBT,” she said. “So basically, moving data about the GBT to a more convenient location, trying to make it into graphs that are easy to access and to understand.”

GBO public relations specialist Jill Malusky shared a video of Leyzorek on the GBO Facebook page, in which she explained the purpose of the system.

“The GBT has a lot of devices and equipment related to it, obviously, like all the receivers and motors,” she said. “It’s important to monitor them so you can catch problems before they become big problems. The current monitoring system is just difficult to use, so what I’m working on is developing a more easily accessible system working with two different programs called Prometheus and Grafana to make nicer, better displays for it.”

Leyzorek spent the summer working with mentor Ray Creager, a software engineer. 

Although the 11-week summer program is over, the program is not yet complete. Leyzorek said she will stay on with the GBO as an intern this fall to finish her work.

This is Leyzorek’s second summer at the GBO. Last summer, she worked with the GBT, but in a much more hands-on capacity.
“I was a painter last summer,” she said. “That was a lot of fun. I really liked that job.”

Leyzorek was one of several structure painters suspended from the telescope in buckets. They are tasked with painting the panels and other parts of the structure. Painting is part of the annual maintenance done to keep the world’s largest fully steerable telescope in tip top shape.

“It was definitely nice to get to spend all of last summer hanging out, climbing around on the telescope,” she said. “I got to see where the receivers are, and I have a lot of experience working around the motors that, now, I’m trying to monitor.”

A student at West Virginia University, Leyzorek is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, with a minor in physics. 

While her summer project was software related and not mechanical, Leyzorek said working at the observatory has been fun.

“I was looking for something interesting and fun to do, and the observatory is close to home, and a cool place to work, so I just figured that would be a good thing to do” she said. “It’s related a little bit to my field, but it’s also not quite the same. It’s more of a software thing and I’m, of course, studying mechanical engineering.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed every day life for many people and is partially why Leyzorek chose this particular research project.

“The main reason that I’m doing the software project now is because of the pandemic,” she said. “Software is easy to do remotely.”

Leyzorek will return to WVU this fall, with a slight change in where she will attend classes. Due to the pandemic, the campus will not be fully opened to returning students. Fortunately, Leyzorek is able to attend all her classes online.

Leyzorek is a 2018 graduate of Pocahontas County High School and is the daughter of Brook Leyzorek, of Hillsboro, and John Leyzorek and Julie Hare, of Marlinton.

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