Community Profile: Cora Uhlemann


Name: Cora Uhlemann


Current position: Faculty


Affiliation: Newcastle University


Field of research: Cosmic large-scale structure




 

What is your career trajectory to date?

I studied Physics and Mathematics in Munich, finishing my diploma and master programs in 2012. I pursued a PhD in Theoretical Cosmology in the group of Stefan Hofmann at LMU Munich and finished in summer 2015. I started a PostDoc in the group of Enrico Pajer as part of the Delta Institute for Theoretical Physics and Utrecht University in 2015. In 2017 I moved to Cambridge to become a Research Associate in the group of Paul Shellard at The Stephen Hawking Centre for Theoretical Cosmology and a Research Fellow at Fitzwilliam College. Since 2020, I am a Lecturer in Applied Mathematics at Newcastle University and part of our research groups on Theoretical Cosmology & Observational Astronomy.


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

What precisely is the dark universe made of? Will the dark energy continue to drive an accelerated cosmic expansion and prevent new structures from forming? Is dark matter better described as a collection of particles or a field showing wave phenomena on astrophysical scales? Will we be able to pin down the neutrino mass hierarchy with the comic large scale structure?


What do you like and dislike about being a scientist?

I love being a scientist because it allows me to pursue exciting questions at the research frontier, continuously learn new things and collaborate with people from all over the world to solve exciting mysteries. I like that my job has a wide variety of activities including doing research myself, supervising junior researchers, leading collaborative projects, teaching and educating the next generation, shaping the scientific community and reaching out to the world beyond academia. I dislike the considerable pressures that arise from the push to pursue all those science dimensions at the same time, especially in an academic environment driven by the economisation of science.


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

I'm most proud of my grit, which was instrumental in my science career so far. I think it's one of the most important skills for dealing with the strong competition in academia, common setbacks in research and various sources of rejection from applications for jobs, talks and funding. I wish the scientific environment would require less resilience than it currently does, as I think it's one important factor hampering diversity.


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

I feel it's natural for scientists to be most excited about now and the future. Currently, I am most excited about the prospect of building up my research group and seeing three(!) large-scale galaxy surveys happen over the next few years. They will for sure keep us busy with theoretical modelling and excited about confronting theory with galaxy survey data to extract fundamental physics. And maybe the late-time universe has a surprise in store for us.


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

I think right now the shift to large-scale remote working and the absence of in-person meetings is making it much more difficult to build the sort of community that is essential for scientific progress.


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

I think EuCAPT is in a unique position to form a community at the interface between different fields essential for astroparticle physics and cosmology. I hope it will further grow and cultivate an identity driven by an interaction between theory, simulations and observations, and by building bridges between particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology.


What’s your favorite food?

Although I'm a theoretical cosmologist, I am often found munching on Starmix gummy sweets.


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?

Having moved from Germany to the Netherlands for my postdoc, the range and size of things that I saw being transported on a bike was truly mind-boggling.


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

I am a big fan of castles and often try to combine travel to a conference with viewings of local remnants of the non-cosmological dark ages.


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

I initially toyed with the idea of studying psychology instead of physics, so who knows. But I guess it's more likely that I would have studied physics and then gone into project management or consulting. At least that was my half-baked plan B in case climbing the ivory tower of academia didn't work out.