Ayan Acharyya

What is your thesis topic or research interest?

I observe very distant galaxies - over 10 billion years ago, with telescopes as big as a house! I analyse the ultra-violet light coming from these galaxies to estimate the amount of building blocks of life (carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur) present in the universe such a long time ago and how the distribution of these elements have changed over the course of billions of years, to what it is now today. I also work with simulated galaxies. I process the simulated galaxies to make them mimic observed galaxies and apply the above analysis technique to the mock observations as well, to see if our simulations are at par with the real universe out there!  Find out more about me and my research.

Where have you come from to join this program?

I am from India. I did my integrated bachelors-masters program there and moved here for my PhD immediately after.

How did you become interested in Astronomy?

Ah night sky, you beauty! That pretty much sums it up. My interest in physics, especially how light works, and the realisation that we can understand more about the Universe by studying light from the celestial objects led me to this field.

What experience have you gained while studying at Mt Stromlo?

Numerous. Ranging from traveling around to some exquisite places, to more technical experiences like learning relevant softwares and skills (like using a BIG telescope!). The exposure to research being carried out elsewhere and to scientists from other institutes, and the opportunity to interact with astronomers from all over the world is the most valuable experience I have gained here.

What has been the highlight of the program for you so far?

The interaction with the amazing, helpful and friendly around here - be it my supervisors or colleagues. Everyone is so understanding and supportive, it makes working here so much fun!

What do you see yourself doing upon completion of your PhD?

I plan to apply for post-doctoral fellowships and hope to be able to continue in academia.

Why would you recommend Mt Stromlo to others?

Absolutely! Apart from the awesome people and international exposure that you get here, I find the place itself very beautiful. Perched on top of the mountain, this place has to offer some of the most serene views - ranging from a brilliant sunset or the fog covered Canberra city on a winter morning. Mt Stromlo has also got running and biking tracks, for those interested!

What are the benefits of life in Canberra?

It's a lovely, calm and quiet city. Especially for someone like me who hails from a thickly populated country, Canberra is refreshing and scenic. You can drive from anywhere to anywhere in Canberra in around 25 minutes at most, which is super convenient for commute. With plenty of natural reserves, lakes, hills and caves around the city, Canberra offers a wide range of attractions for hiking, bush walking, kayaking, climbing, camping and more outdoor activities!

What advice would you give to someone considering studying Astronomy?

Definitely keep at it! Astronomy, in addition to letting you look at the night sky from a different perspective, teaches you some very important skills and tools in terms of programming or data analysis. These skills will still be highly sought after even if you later decide to switch from Astronomy to another field.