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Previous issues of the newsletter are published below.


Name: Ruth Durrer


Current position: Faculty


Affiliation: Department of Theoretical Physics at Geneva University


Field of research: Cosmology


 

What is your career trajectory to date?

I studied at Zürich University where I also did my PhD in 1988. Then I went as postdoc to Cambridge IoA and later to Princeton University, physics department. In 1993 I became assistant professor at Zürich University and in 1995 I became full professor in Geneva where I am since then.


What are the most exciting open questions in your research area?

Let me mention two:


The first was to study the CMB acoustic peaks, if fluctuations are due to topological defects. In 1995 (published in PRL, see e-Print: astro-ph/9507035 ) we found, combining numerical simulations and analytical arguments, that there are (nearly) no acoustic peaks in the CMB temperature power spectrum if fluctuations are generated by topological defects. This has later ruled out the generation of fluctuations by topological defects. Their contribution is at best at the few percent level.


The second was the fully relativistic description of what observers measure when they observe the distribution of galaxies. Taking into account on the one hand, that observations are made not on a spatial hypersurface but on our past lightcone and on the other hand, that we do not measure distances but just angles and redshifts and therefore we directly can infer an angular-redshift power spectrum, while P(k,z) always contains model assumptions which convert angles and distances into length scales (published in PRD, see e-Print: 1105.5280).


What do you like and dislike about being a scientist?

I love to do research and like to discuss with young scientist, especially PhD students. I like it that science, especially theoretical physics, is an international endeavour of different cultures, and regions. I also like teaching.


I hate bureaucracy and I especially dislike that it seems to grow every year....


What advances or new results are you excited about or looking forward to?

I am very excited about the discovery of gravitational waves and about its prospects for cosmology. I am looking forward to the data from Euclid and from the Vera Rubin Observatory.


What is the biggest obstacle that is slowing down your research field right now?

Growing bureaucratic responsibilities.


What role do you think a community network like EuCAPT can play in developing theoretical astroparticle physics and cosmology in Europe?

It can bring closer together the European cosmology community. Both, theorists and observers.


How do you like to relax after a hard day of work?

I like hiking and skiing.


What do you hope to see accomplished scientifically in the next 50 years?

Find a better, more sinsible cosmological model, beyond ΛCDM.







Name: Martin Obergaulinger


Current position: Postdoc


Affiliation: Universitat de València


Field of research: Computational astrophysics, magnetohydrodynamics, core-collapse supernovae




 

What is your career trajectory to date?

After studying at the Technical University of Munich, I worked on my PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching. I stayed there for a postdoc, went for close to a year to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, seven years in València, two at the TU Darmstadt, before returning to València on my current Ramón y Cajal fellowship.


What are the most exciting open questions in your research area?

My quite subjective list includes the mechanisms behind the various classes of explosions of massive stars, their contributions to the synthesis of heavy elements, their emission of gravitational waves, neutrinos, and photons, and the properties of their (compact) remnants as well as turbulence in (magnetised) astrophysical fluids.


What do you like and dislike about being a scientist?

I enjoy working with many colleagues in the field. Most importantly, I love nature. Learning about its many faces is just fascinating. Aspects such as job uncertainty and the competitive nature are not that much of my liking.


Which of your skills are you most proud of, or find most useful?

I (would have) found it useful to, instead of rushing to judgement, listen to what colleagues, simulations, or data have to tell.


In your career so far, at what point were you the most excited, and what were you excited about?


I had a few tiny, let's say Eurequita moments, e.g., simulations showing something surprising (and sometimes not as a result of a bug, but indeed a feature).


What new skills would you like to learn in the next year?


Some of the more recent developments in programming and software engineering as well as data science. Improving my efficiency when it comes to writing from questionnaires like this to papers would not hurt either.


What advances or new results are you excited about or looking forward to?

The next galactic supernova and its gravitational wave and neutrino signals.


What is the biggest obstacle that is slowing down your research field right now?

Like many fields not just of science, we may have to deal with the law of diminishing returns making new steps more and more difficult and costly, economically as well as in terms of complexity.


What role do you think a community network like EuCAPT can play in developing theoretical astroparticle physics and cosmology in Europe?

Connecting people and ideas beyond the confines of state and sub-discipline borders is extraordinarily important for our work.


What’s your favorite food?

All kinds of Mehlspeisen: Kaiserschmarrn, Strudl, Salzburger Nockerl, Dampfnudeln, Germknedl, Zwetschgnknedl, ...


Have you lived in a different European country than you do now? If so, would you like to tell us something about it, e.g. a fond memory or something you found surprising?


I've lived in Bavaria, Israel, and Hessen. In all places I met many great persons within our field and beyond it. I am still utterly fascinated by Jerusalem. I enjoyed a lot living in Eberstadt and hiking in the Odenwald region. And of course I am full of memories of my native Bavaria, such as trainspotting near Treuchtlingen or Mühldorf, cycling along rivers such as Rott, Inn, and Isar, or the extraordinarily beautiful day my brother and I ascended Mount Watzmann.


How do you like to relax after a hard day of work?

Walking, hiking, running, and cycling, reading, listening to music, crossword puzzles.


Do you have any non-physics interests that you would like to share?


Nature in general, history is also a big interest of mine, music, early and not that early, and railways.


If you were not a scientist, what do you think you would be doing?

I hope I would be working at the railways as a locomotive driver or a signaller.


What do you hope to see accomplished scientifically in the next 50 years?

In my own subfield, I would hope for a better understanding of core-collapse supernova and gamma-ray bursts and of the underlying physics from neutrinos to turbulence. In a wider scope, I'd be curious to see how our descriptions of gravity will evolve and what we might learn about complexity in general.


What question would you have liked us to ask you, and what would you have responded?


Perhaps the Werner Herzog option: are you stardust or are you Bavarian? Answer: can't you be both, a very stardusty Bavarian?









Name: Tessa Baker


Current position: Faculty


Affiliation: Queen Mary University of London


Field of research: Cosmology and tests of gravity with gravitational waves and large-scale structure.


 

What is your career trajectory to date?

I did my PhD at Oxford University in the UK. After that, I was lucky to get a five-year fellowship at one of the Oxford colleges -- this provided me with a lot of time and independence to develop my own research program. I spent one of those years as a visitor at University of Pennsylvania in the USA, before finally moving to start a faculty position at Queen Mary University of London in 2019.


What are the most exciting open questions in your research area?

There are various tensions in the current cosmological data, some more serious than others. I think we're all waiting with bated breath to find out if these are all systematics (perhaps driven by the fact our experiments are now outstripping our modelling of the data), or are all connected signs hinting at some new physics.


What do you like and dislike about being a scientist?

I love that science is such an international endeavour. Looking around my research group, people are from all over the world -- much more so than in some other careers, I think. And though people relocate often, that means I have old friends and contacts in so many cities.


I dislike that being a scientist sometimes feels like seventeen jobs in one. We are not just researchers, we are teachers, paper editors, public speakers, administrators, financial managers, group leads, student supervisors, event coordinators, publicists...I swear in some other environments there would be a team of at least six people hired to do all these things!


Which of your skills are you most proud of, or find most useful?

As a PhD student I was really nervous about giving talks. After years of listening to talks, making myself give them, and really thinking hard about them -- I'd like to think I've pinned down how to make a pretty decent one. I might not get it right every single time, but I've had some good feedback on my seminars, and even learnt how to (mainly) enjoy presenting science. It's all about getting out of your own head, and into the audience's viewpoint instead.


What new skills would you like to learn in the next year?


Machine learning and AI has started to influence physics in many ways, and I'd like to implement some of that in my own work. It's easy to drop those buzzwords, though -- I'd like to find the time to develop a solid understanding and do the thing properly.


What advances or new results are you excited about or looking forward to?

I think the gravitational wave data we've collected to date is just the tip of the iceberg, and there is so much more to be discovered. One thing I've learnt in recent years is just how tangled together the astrophysics, cosmology, fundamental physics and instrument science is in this data -- if you're interested in one piece of that, you need to be interested in all of pieces. So although my background is on the cosmology/fundamental physics side, I'm also really interested for us to learn more about the formation channels and populations of compact objects in the universe. Are some galaxies more likely to host gravitational wave sources than others? No-one really knows right now!


What role do you think a community network like EuCAPT can play in developing theoretical astroparticle physics and cosmology in Europe?


After a few years of limited real-world interactions, I think EuCAPT can play a role in reconnecting people. This could mean organising face-to-face meetings, but perhaps also providing a platform for people to establish new collaborations and visit other institutes (how about some small travel grants?) This is particularly important for ECRs who may have only experienced scientific research during a global pandemic -- how about some events target exclusively at them?


What’s your favorite food?

I love all kinds of fish and seafood. But also you can't beat the classics -- chocolate and red wine.


How do you like to relax after a hard day of work?

I like to put on my headphones and walk all the way home, which takes around an hour. I need that physical and temporal separation between being at work and being at home for the evening. During the covid-19 pandemic that wasn't possible, and it felt like the day just blended into a morass of work.


If you were not a scientist, what do you think you would be doing?

I always get really over-excited about watching rocket launches, so I think I'd be working for SpaceX or some other space engineering company. Or if that failed, I'd be a walking guide in the Lake District (a beautiful part of the UK), and happily spend my every day climbing up and down hills.


What do you hope to see accomplished scientifically in the next 50 years?

I'd like to see the full potential of the current/upcoming galaxy surveys (Euclid, Rubin, DESI etc.) realised. I'm also waiting eagerly for gravitational wave science to transition from individual detections to a more statistical `observatory mode'. Please can we also resolve the H0 tension (one way or another...) and have some fresh new ways to extend gravity beyond GR?


What question would you have liked us to ask you, and what would you have responded?


How has your scientific life changed during the progression from PhD to postdoc to faculty?

I have in mind the transitions we go through regarding very detailed, hands-on work and working with other people. As a student you may spend hours on some very fiddly piece of code or calculation -- which can be frustrating, but all the details of the problem are right there in your brain at once. It's like reading a book cover to cover, word for word.


As a faculty member running a group, you can be involved in a *lot* of different pieces of science at once, not to mention having significant other demands on your time. It's challenging to hold all the information in your head all of the time. It's like standing in front of the whole self of books, being able one select one at random, quickly find the page you left off and continue the story, before you have to put that book away again for the day.


I'm not saying one mode of working is better than the other. Only that the change happens to a lot of us, it can take you by surprise, and it requires some readjustment!








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