Dr. Anjana Ashok

Postdoc in the independent research group “Continuous Gravitational Waves” and in the “Pulsar Timing Array” group

What is your current position at our institute?

I am a postdoc in the permanent independent research group “Continuous Gravitational Waves”. Starting in February, I will be a postdoc in the Pulsar Timing Array (PTA) group, working partially also with the continuous gravitational waves group

What is your academic education?

  • PhD - Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Hannover
  • Masters in Physics - National Institute of Technology Karnataka, India
  • Bachelors in Physics - University of Calicut, India

How and when did you choose to do physics?

At age 8, my imagination was sparked by a space-themed picture book that my aunt gifted me. The pictures hinted at a mystery, and I wanted to explore it. I decided that I’d go there. A couple of years later, I realized that being an astronaut demanded physical endurance, a pursuit I wasn't particularly drawn to. Being an ‘astronomer’ seemed more satisfying. This plan lived on in the back of my mind, when senior school physics interested me. From there, it was all a clear path: physics in college, physics in university and now a PhD where I specialized in gravitational wave astronomy.

What would you recommend to a young woman wanting to start a career in physics?

If there is a particular theme that interests you, find a group that works on the topic and do short projects with them during which you'll learn about  (i) the topic itself and (ii) the process of research. 

What is your vision for women and girls in science in 20 years?

I would like to see academia (and society in general) re-orienting itself and fully acknowledging that family and parenthood are shared responsibilities. A system where everyone has equal opportunities to pursue the work that provides them intellectual fulfilment.

Can you please describe your research?

Gravitational wave astronomy is a reality today. So far we have had several detections of short-lived gravitational wave signals emitted from the merger of binary systems. Continuous gravitational waves are persistent signals that we are trying to detect. We expect emission from rotating, deformed neutron stars. Specifically, my focus lies in developing methods and conducting searches for continuous gravitational waves from known pulsars – neutron stars that emit periodic pulses of light.

Do you have a favourite figure to illustrate your current research?

The parameters that decide the amplitude of a continuous gravitational wave signal in the detector are the intrinsic amplitude of the emitted wave (h0), cosine of the inclination angle between the spin axis of the source and our line of sight to the source (cos(ι)) and the polarization angle (ψ) of the wave. We developed a new approach to estimate these parameters of a CW signal in a Bayesian way.

Why did you choose the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics for your research?

The environment at AEI Hannover is one where I experienced a lot of growth. Some of the factors that contributed to this are – the accessibility to leading experts in the field, a culture that does not belittle/discourage anyone's questions/ideas and the resources to perform your research in peace. Hence, it was straightforward to choose to continue doing my research here.

Learn more about Dr. Ashok’s research at https://inspirehep.net/authors/1889521.

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