Melissa Ness

What is your thesis topic or research interests?

I'm working with Professor Ken Freeman, trying to understand the formation of the galactic bulge of the Milky Way. We're using an instrument called AAOmega, which obtains spectra of many stars at at the same time, and have measured stellar velocities and chemical abundances of about 28 000 stars. This will provide a quantitative test of what kind of bulge we have in our galaxy. I'm interested in the processes of galaxy formation, the stucture and composition of the Milky Way bulge and disk.

Where have you come from to do this program?

After my undergraduate studies in electrical engineering I worked as a microwave engineer in Brisbane and Quebec. I decided to take on a PhD in astronomy because I was looking for a new challenge.

How did you become interested in astronomy?

My interest was inspired by the undergraduate physics and astronomy courses that I took at uni, and I decided that I needed to know more.

What experience have you gained while studying at Mt Stromlo?

I have had the opportunity to observe with the largest optical telescope (AAT) and at other facilities in Australia. I've learnt about working with stellar spectra, have gained programming skills, and have been collaborating with overseas-based experts in the field thoughout my project.

What do you see yourself doing when you finish your study?

I hope to continue in astronomy research after my PhD.

What has been the highlight of the program for you?

A real highlight for me was attending a workshop at the Aspen Centre for Physics in Colorado on 'The Galactic Bulge and Bar'. 

What advice would you give to someone considering starting study in astronomy?

Try to choose a well-defined project that has clear goals and aims, and to be proactive and take initiative in your project. 

What are the benefits of life in Canberra?

Living in Canberra is quiet and one of the big benefits is that there's no traffic. It's great for outdoor activities like running and biking in summer, and it's only 3 hours drive time from Sydney.