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Community Profile: Alejandra Aguirre-Santaella

Name: Alejandra Aguirre-Santaella

Current position: PhD

Affiliation: Instituto de Física Teórica (IFT UAM-CSIC)

Field of research: Astroparticle physics, cosmological simulations and indirect dark matter searches.


What is your career trajectory to date?

Since I finished the Double Degree in Physics and Mathematics at Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain), I studied the Master in Theoretical Physics at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain). Then, I started my PhD at Instituto de Física Teórica, a mixed institute which belongs both to the UAM and the CSIC.

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

Actually, I am currently working on subhalo survival, i.e., trying to give an answer to the hot debate about whether the small dark matter substructure in galaxies like ours disrupts after several orbits around the host due to tidal forces or a remnant still survives (which would be very promising for dark matter searches!)

What do you like and dislike about being a scientist?

One of the thinks I like most is schedule flexibility. I also think that having a nice work environment is a real plus, which I have (although everything has changed a bit since the pandemic in this sense...). I don't like that science is not so open and honest as I initially thought. It is usually driven by political interests. And sometimes it is way more competitive than collaborative. Furthermore, I think it should be better paid, specially in some countries.

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

I would say I am good at solving problems computationally, which is quite useful for the kind of work I have to do. I like programming, thus I am always interested in creating new pieces of code as long as they serve a purpose.

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

I would love to know more about generating cosmological simulations, as well as machine learning techniques via Python.

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

It would be really nice to really shed light on the nature of dark matter!

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

Computational limitations are always a problem when dealing with numerical simulations. We cannot generate "naturally" the less massive subhalos, so we have to come up with alternatives.

What’s your favorite food?

I am not a food specialist, but (vegetarian) pizza? I guess it will become vegetarian sushi as soon as it exists and tastes like fish sushi :P

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?

Not for more than three months (in Canada). I saw how bad public transport works there, specially between different cities...

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

Playing board games or videogames, listening to music (although I usually do this at all times), sometimes reading, or just chatting.

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

I love mostly every kind of music, and good fantasy stories! I am also involved in gender and LGBTIAQ+ activism. Actually, I am a member of the EDI committee. Besides, I have some basic knowledge of graphic design and I take advantage of it from time to time.

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

Ideally, maybe singing or proofreading fantasy books ;)

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

Maybe something about what my research topic is in a deeper way? I answered before but using a different question :)


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