Bonnie Zhang

What is your thesis topic or research interest?

My research is in supernova cosmology, which involves observing exploding stars to measure how the Universe has evolved over time. The goal is to find out more about dark energy, the mysterious force causing the Universe's expansion to accelerate. I'll be working with low-redshift Type Ia supernovae discovered by SkyMapper and the Dark Energy Survey; in particular I'll be examining how to compare the photometry of the two samples in order to study them together. I'm also in the OzDES collaboration, which will perform follow-up spectroscopy of supernovae, active galactic nuclei and galaxies discovered in the Dark Energy Survey.

Where have you come from to join this program?

I'm from Sydney, but moved to Canberra to start my undergraduate degree at the ANU Bachelor of Philosophy (Science) with Honours in pure maths]. Apart from a year of travelling I've been in Canberra since.

How did you become interested in Astronomy?

Like most other kids I was fascinated by space growing up, and in high school I grew to love physics. I spent a lot of time reading about astrophysics and cosmology, and it amazed me that it was possible to use the scientific process to study the whole Universe.

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

Visiting telescopes and learning to observe. I've so far had the opportunity to observe on the Anglo-Australian Telescope (the largest optical telescope in Australia) and Keck II in Hawaii. There's something magical about sitting at the telescope controls under a dark and (hopefully) clear night, waiting for photons to come in from the depths of the Universe.

Why would you recommend Mt Stromlo to others?

RSAA attracts leading astronomers in many fields from all over the world, so there are so many people with great expertise to learn from, including visiting astronomers. There is a great sense of community, especially if you're a student. The view from Mt Stromlo is also very pretty!

What are the benefits of life in Canberra?

The quiet, the fresh air, the art and culture, the bike paths. Being able to drive 20 minutes and end up in the middle of the bush. And for me, a huge plus is the multitude and variety of places to rockclimb within a two hour drive.