Astronomer who never gets tired of looking at the Universe
Education:Burford High School, Hawick High School, University of St Andrews, Western University (Ontario), University of Innsbruck, University of Padova, University of Belgrade, Liverpool John Moores University
Qualifications:Bachelor of Science, Master of Science
Work History:European Southern Observatory (Munich, Germany) - Intern in Science Communication and Journalism
Astronomy PhD student
The Astrophysics Research Institute (ARI) at Liverpool John Moores University. The ARI is also home to the Liverpool Telescope, and the National Schools Observatory.
My connections to STFC science and technology:
I am working towards my PhD in the Astrophysics Research Institute, which is receives a lot of support from STFC.
Favourite thing to do in my job: Travelling and meeting people from all over the world.
Apart from studying astronomy, I love new experiences: especially learning about new cultures, exploring new countries and making new friends.
I live in a lovely cottage in the outskirts of Liverpool with my boyfriend. We try to grow our own vegetables and have a lot of fun listening to the cows mooing next door. When I’m not travelling or working I like having a go at pottery, climbing and hiking. I also enjoy writing, singing and swing dancing.
Physics was never my strongest subject at school, but my love of astronomy kept me going. I am so curious about the Universe – where do we come from? Why did the Big Bang happen? What is dark matter and dark energy? How is our existence even possible?
Even though it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to answer any of these questions, I really enjoy thinking about them and finding out what other people think.
I also love helping other people. I do this by helping to organise events, like big astronomy conferences. I’m also working with Scientists for Palestine, helping to a organise a physics school for Palestinian students.
I look at how stars move!
Throughout the Universe, astronomers have found tightly packed groups of stars held together by gravity, known as star clusters. The largest clusters can contain hundreds of thousands of stars and the oldest ones are thought to have formed around 12 billion years ago, close to the age of the Universe!
We can learn a lot from studying star clusters. They give us clues about how the galaxy formed and how stars evolve over billions of years. We can also figure out how much these clusters weigh and if there are hiding black holes inside!
My Typical Day
Most of my days are spent on a computer, writing code to help me understand very large amounts of data.
I am currently looking at data taken by a telescope in Australia. So far, I have looked at around 50 different star clusters in the Milky Way, and studied more than 2000 stars in total!
My job involves writing code and using special software to figure out if the stars in the clusters are moving towards or away from us. I can then use this information to calculate how much the cluster weighs. Sometimes the clusters are a lot lighter or heavier than we expect. This is exciting for astronomers as this means that we still don’t really understand how the Universe works.
What I'd do with the prize money
Donate it to Ada’s Adventures in Science comic.
Ada’s Adventures in Science is a comic featuring Ada, a girl who isn’t afraid to ask questions about the world around her. Ada dreams of doing exciting science and making discoveries like her science heroes.
The comics show that anyone can do science; it doesn’t matter where you’re from, who you are, what your gender, ethnicity, or background is; if you can ask questions, you can do science.
So far comic books in English, German, Spanish and Welsh have been sent to schools in the USA, UK, Colombia, Austria, Netherlands, South Africa, Zambia and Nigeria.
With the £500 prize money they will be able to send out comics to 70 more schools (they already have 1600 copies ready to go). With the money left over they will be able to print even more copies in either German, Welsh or Spanish, and send the comics out to even more schools.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Enthusiastic, friendly, and caring.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Science fiction movies (Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, ...).
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes - I accidentally broke my friend's arm!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
Chocolate peanut butter brownies
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Eating sausages and marshmallows cooked on lava!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To be better at saying 'no', to be better at coding, to be more confident in myself and my abilities
Tell us a joke.
What did the tie say to the hat? I'll just hang around and you go on ahead!