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Pavel Machalek
SO Support Scientist

NASA Ames Research Center

Pavel was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, a place where expectations run high starting at a very early age. A high value is placed on education, parents and children alike struggle to get accepted into the right academic High School; their future success and the probability of going to University, which are few and hightly competitive, depend on it. Luckily, for Pavel, who comes from an intellectual family, the cards were stacked in his favor. His grandfather is a University professor of Tropical Forestry, his grandmother is a Czech language teacher, his mother obtained a Ph.D. in Linguistics, and his father is an Economist. He describes academia as a “family disease.” Pavel spent his early education at a British school and recalls knowing as early as age six that science would be his path in life. “The study of natural sciences begins in grade four, in grade five students are studying biology, by the sixth grade they move onto physics and grade seven is Chemistry, so, by the time students reach the age of twelve and thirteen years old they’re working on chemistry molar equations.” Calculators were not allowed while studying math. Pavel remembers his math teacher was quite a strict disciplinarian, “All experiments had to be followed exactly to script.”

Pavel earned his undergraduate degree in astronomy at University of College, London. After receiving his degree he traveled to India, where he taught physics to Tibetan refugees at a High School in the Himalayan Mountains. In 2004, Pavel made his move to the United States seeking a joint Master’s and Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics at Johns Hopkins University. Pavel’s thesis work focused on analyzing light curves at a very high precision of Infrared Photometry.

Outside of work, Pavel spends much of his time training for triathlons, an activity that “melts the stresses of life away.” The season is approximately 6 months per year, an all-consuming endeavor that leaves time for little else. When not entrenched in a grueling training regimen, Pavel enjoys soaking up the cultural offerings of the city, attending the San Francisco Opera, Symphony and the San Francisco Ballet Company, which he describes as exceptional. Pavel loves living near the water in San Francisco and swimming in the Bay with his girlfriend.