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Celebrating Women and Girls in Astronomy

During these days of isolation and uncertainty, it’s important to be intentional about finding things to celebrate. This month, we are celebrating Women & Girls in Astronomy by rebranding and reintroducing our very own in-house Women in Astrophysics blog!

In this post, you’ll get to know the women who work at the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics here at the University of Oslo. Even though we’re all working astronomers, we come from different backgrounds and we each hold defining traits that make us who we are.

Take a browse and find out what scientists can look like, and who scientists can be!

Becca Robinson

photo of Rebecca Robinson hiking on a mountain top

I’m Becca, and I am aged 30 Earth-trips (or a little over one Saturn-trip) around the Sun! I originally come from the US, but I got my MSc in Geophysics at the University of Iceland and now I’m in Norway working on a PhD in Solar physics. Simply put, I get paid to stare at the Sun and write about credit cards -- that means I daylight as a scientist aiming to understand the Sun’s complicated magnetic field, and I moonlight as a travel and finance ghostwriter.

My guilty pleasures include binge-watching old episodes of Gilmore Girls, being barefoot, and dancing (really badly) to 90s bops. Plus, I like to go traveling, bouldering, and hiking any chance I get!

Learn more about my journey and if you have any questions about space, hit me up on YouTube

Ida Risnes Hansen

My name is Ida, and I'm currently writing a master thesis in solar physics. These days, this means that I spend most of my time stress eating clementines and banging my head against my keyboard.

I like to complain (get a taste in my blog post):

- A master's students incoherent thoughts about shoulders

but it's honestly a very good time and I've learnt so much over the past year.

In my spare time, I like to recruit friends and family to pointless projects. Some of my recent success stories include trying to make a better snowman than my 6-year-old neighbour (we crushed her), growing large quantities of turnips (even though we are all very, very indifferent to turnips), as well as making 8 mm home videos that cost more than my rent to develop.

Feel free to contact me if you are in need of turnips, or if you just want to know more about what it's like to be an astronomy student.

Renate Mauland-Hus

photo of Renate Mauland-Hus sitting on the couch with a Milky Way decal cover laptop

Hello, I’m Renate. I'm from a small place in the South-Western part of Norway called Figgjo, where you can find the only remaining porcelain manufacturer in the Nordics. This might not tell you much about me, but it does explain the fact that I sometimes go around lifting mugs and plates at restaurants to check if the tableware and I grew up in the same place.

I am currently pursuing a PhD in cosmology here at the University of Oslo, where I also did my bachelors and masters degree. This basically means that I spend my days in front of a computer, running simulations that aim to show us how structure could have evolved and formed in the universe.

Outside of work I find that my interests vary, as I tend to get quite invested in whatever it is that my brain decided that we’re doing this month. It could be reading, rewatching Doctor Who for the umpteenth time or scouting for new interesting hobbies. If you want to read some of my previous posts, check them out.

- Masteroppgave: Superflytende mørk materie

- Fem ting jeg har lært av å studere astrofysikk som ikke er astrofysikk

- Kosmisk julestemning?

Helle Bakke

photo of Helle next to her poster on the solar atmosphere
Helle Bakke next to her winning poster at the PhD Day 2019. Photo: Private

My name is Helle, and I am a PhD student in solar physics at the University of Oslo. I did both my bachelors and masters degree in Oslo, and it is safe to say that I enjoy the comforts of home.

I have many different interests, ranging from my newly developed love for knitting to playing World of Warcraft with friends during the weekends.

I am passionate about teaching, and am currently on a mission to show my students how interesting and exciting solar physics can be. I get stressed and nervous relatively fast (especially if a presentation is in the picture), but I always try to extend my boundaries by putting myself in challenging situations.

If this hit close to home, take a look at my blog post (and learn a little bit about the Sun at the same time).

If you have any questions about solar physics or being a student/employee at the University of Oslo, feel free to contact me.

Ragnhild Aurlien

Ragnhild Aurlien staring at the PC screen with code lines and graphs.

I’m Ragnhild, and I’m trying to solve the universe’s mysteries and find proof of what happened right after the Big Bang, quite an awesome job description, right?

To do this I drink a lot of coffee and scratch my head over code that isn’t working.

I also like talking about our wonderful universe to unprepared strangers and answer awesome questions, for instance on black holes.

I actually had seven years as a high school teacher after my master degree in quantum physics, before starting this PhD position in cosmology. It’s never too late to follow dreams and go head first into new challenges!

Outside of work hours I love to go rock climbing. Or hike, bike, walk or run on new adventures. And I love a good metal concert whenever there’s a good band playing.

I have written a couple of posts earlier, you’re welcome to take a look at them:

- Hei, jeg tar en doktorgrad i astrofysikk

- Vera Rubin og mørk materie

Guadalupe (Lupe) Barrios Sazo

Lupe standing in front of a supercomputer
Lupe with Titan super computer at OLCF, the precursor of Summit. Photo: Private

I am Lupe and work as a research software engineer with the solar physics group at the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics. What that means is that I get to develop and maintain software used by the scientists to run simulations efficiently in super computers.

I am originally from Guatemala but obtained my PhD in astrophysics in New York.

In my free time I enjoy swimming, dancing, and going for walks with my husband. One of my guilty pleasures is taking naps. 

An advice I would like to give to aspiring scientists is to be kind to others and to yourself.   

Petra Kohutova

Photo portrait of Petra Kohutova

I’m Petra, I’m 29 and originally from Slovakia. I spent nine years of my life in the UK, where I got my undergrad degree and a PhD. Then I decided to ditch moorlands for fjords and move to Norway.

I work as a postdoc at the Rosseland Centre for Solar Physics at the University of Oslo, where I study how the energy is transported in the hot atmosphere of the Sun.

My favourite ways to waste time are scrolling through r/Eyebleach, roaming the woods and going to see bands with illegible logos (back when gigs were still a thing). I like tea, dystopian novels and well-documented code.

I don’t like Brussels sprouts, Star Wars and IDL. And if you like blockbuster movies, you better check out my blog post on:

10 Biggest lies Hollywood has told you about Space

Sneha Pandit

Photo of Sneha Pandit sitting on a bench dressed with a typical, colourful Indian dress.

Hello, I am Sneha. I am 24 and I am from India. For my master’s thesis, I studied shock waves in Neutron stars. Now, I study the sun and stars and try to understand their different layers.

I am trained in Indian Classical dance. In my free time I like to dance, read novels, go for a walk, watch movies and series, or cook.

Also, I like to travel to newer places and cultures, which has been difficult lately. You can read about my struggles during home office here:

Work (?) from home?

If you want to have a chat about stars or about Bollywood dramas or life in the other part of the earth or about spicy Indian curry, you can contact me!

Slađana Radinović

I’m Slađa, a PhD student who spends her working days looking at science and her weekends looking at science fiction.

I come from Bosnia, a small country in the Balkans, where I spent my days annoying my friends with space facts and raising stray cats.

I’ve since lived in many different countries around Europe but, wherever I go, the first thing I look for is some authentic Balkan food.

Currently I study cosmology at the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics, but most of my day actually consists of looking at code, figuring out why it doesn’t work and solving little mysteries. Wondering how I ended up being an Astrophysicist? The answer is in my blog post:

- What do you wanna be when you grow up?

Ana Belén Griñón Marín

Photo of Ana Belen standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA.

I am Ana and I am originally from Spain. Since I was very young I have always wanted to become an astrophysicist. I would say there were two main reasons that drove me through this path: the meteor shower that takes place every year in August and the viewing “Explorers on the Moon” film of Tintin.

Then, when I was 21 years old, I decided to move from the Spanish mainland to Tenerife (Canary islands) to fulfil my dream. There I spent 12 years doing my bachelor, master and PhD degrees at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. From there I moved to California to do my first postdoctoral research at Stanford University funded by NASA. I had the opportunity to work closely with the team that developed the instrument HMI on board the SDO satellite, launched in 2010.

Very recently (December 2020) I have moved to Norway with a postdoctoral position to work at the Rosseland Centre for Solar physics (RoCS) at the University of Oslo.

My research mostly focuses on the long-term evolution of active regions, places where the Sun's magnetic field is disturbed causing various types of solar activity, including explosive solar storms, such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Currently I am studying a phenomenon known as "light bridges”, bright structures that cross sunspots, through the whole solar atmosphere, from the photosphere to the corona.

Jowita Borowska

My name is Jowita and I am a Master's student working on the line-intensity mapping experiment called COMAP. This means that I represent the 'CO' part of the CMB&CO group at the University of Oslo and I have the pleasure of working with some fantastic scientists.

I've been a fitness instructor a few years now, which brings me joy and helps with maintaining good posture, despite the long hours spent in front of the computer every day.

I love Astronomy (obviously), my dogs (this I can't stress enough), good food, and home decor.

Careful! I said Astronomy, not astrology... Read my blog post for clarifications:

- Astronomer, Astronaut, Astrologer – what is the difference?

Jessie Warraich

I'm Jessie, one of the master students here at the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics. I'm currently trying to help these amazing scientists with solving the mysteries of why the galaxies look the way they do.

I moved from the icy north of Norway to Oslo to pursue a bachelor in physics, with the main goal of learning more about the northern lights I grew up to love.

During my bachelor, I did however find that the farther into space you go, the more interesting things get. And suddenly I was studying astrophysics!

I love traveling and new experiences, and last year I took the opportunity to take an exchange semester at the University of California, Berkeley! I got to live in an area with frat-houses, go to college basketball games, accidentally walk onto the set of the new Matrix-movie and spend a lot of money on Ubers.

Isabel Montoya Arroyave

photo of Isabel standing in from of a lake and mountains

I’m Isabel, I’m 24 and originally from Colombia, where I did my bachelor’s degree in Engineering Physics.

After finishing, I moved to Sweden to study my Master’s degree in Physics and Astronomy, where I fell in love with research which is why I continued my academic path and moved to Oslo where I have been living for the past year and a half doing my PhD in Astrophysics.

At a first glance you could say I play with data and plots, but it is so much more than that! A bit more in depth, I am studying the molecular gas in galaxies which is where stars form (such as our Sun), how it behaves and evolves in galactic processes, such as galaxy mergers.

Other than my love for astronomy, I have another love which is music, and I spend my free time playing guitar and ukulele, singing, and overall just ‘music-ing’ all around.

Recently, and thanks to pandemic, I have been discovering other interests, including yoga, cooking, baking, and other hobbies; I guess you could say that my main hobby is to start new hobbies.

Anyway, as a scientist I, of course, hit snags along the way, sometimes (more often than not) they come from my own insecurities, hence my blog post:

- The first rule about impostor experience is: you talk about impostor experience

But have managed to get through them and life has proven to be quite good; I mean, look at where I am! Please, feel free to contact if you have any questions or if you think I can be of any help!

Maryam Saberi

I am Maryam, a postdoctoral researcher at Rosseland Centre for Solar Physics (RoCS), University of Oslo. I studied Physics during my Bachelor and Master studies at Alzahra University in Tehran.

Then I moved to Sweden to do a PhD in radio astronomy at Chalmers University of Technology. During my PhD, I analysed the observational data taken by different giant radio telescopes to study the chemical composition and evolution of evolved stars (stars at the final stages of their life). I also perform numerical simulation to interpret observational data.

After obtaining my PhD, I moved to Oslo to expand my scientific horizon from stellar physics to solar physics and learn more about the Sun.

My enthusiasm in Physics and Astronomy started since I was in high school and became more and more as I studied and learnt more. Taking the first astronomy course during my bachelor studies and then participating in a summer school at Tenerife in Canary Islands where I got to learn more about observational astronomy made me sure to pursue my career in observational astronomy.

Accomplishing each project sounds like adding a new piece of puzzle to make a bigger picture, to better understand the universe that we live in, which is fascinating! Attending international conferences and meeting around the globe to share and discuss new scientific results is another exciting part of being a scientist to me.

In my free time, I like to walk/hike in nature, watch series, read novels and sci-fi books, dance Zumba, and spend time with family and friends.

Nancy Narang

portrait photo of Nancy Narang

I am Nancy, a postdoctoral researcher at Rosseland Centre for Solar Physics. I am from India, where I lived for 30 years until I moved to Norway last year.

I received my Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, one of the premier institutes for Astronomy & Astrophysics studies in India.

As a young girl, I would get amused by the varsity of the universe. When I was used to look up at the stars, twinkling, some dim, others bright, my thoughts would be filled with great amazement, bewildered by such a beauty of nature.

I believe this fascination with the stars at a young age built curiosity in my mind, which grew further and destined me to pursue Astrophysics in my higher studies. My research primarily focuses on the study of small-scale phenomena observed in the solar atmosphere.

I also enjoy teaching and assisting students in their studies. My other interests include doing yoga, and listening and dancing to Indian songs.