Stephanie Brown

PhD Student in the Observational Relativity and Cosmology department

What is your current position at our institute?

I'm a PhD Student in the Observational Relativity and Cosmology department.

What is your academic education?

  • Bachelors of Science with Honors in Astronomy and Astrophysics from The Eberly College of Science at Pennsylvania State University (USA)

What were your previous academic positions?

  • Undergraduate Research Assistant with the AEgIS collaboration at CERN
  • Undergraduate Research Assistant with Dr. Eracleous in the Astronomy and Astrophysics department of Pennsylvania State University
  • Undergraduate Research Assistant at the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos at Pennsylvania State University
  • Summer Student in the Observational Relativity and Cosmology group at AEI Hannover

How and when did you choose to do physics?

I've wanted to be a physicist since I was 13 or 14 thanks to scientific outreach programs at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory

Can you please describe your research in general terms?

I study gravitational waves from binary neutron stars and how they can be used to understand the physics of neutron stars and the nuclear equation of state.

Do you have a favourite figure from a paper you (co-)authored?

from Capano, C.D., Tews, I., Brown, S.M. et al. “Stringent constraints on neutron-star radii from multimessenger observations and nuclear theory”. Nat Astron 4, 625–632 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-020-1014-6 and https://arxiv.org/pdf/1908.10352.pdf.

This figure shows a set of neutron star mass radius curves defined by chiral effective field theory.  Each gray-black line represents a single equation of state. We performed bayesian parameter estimation on the gravitational wave event GW170817 and were able to constrain the mass and radius of a neutron star. The shading of the lines is proportional to the posterior probability of the equation of state (the darker the line, the more probable it is) with the very light grey lines being ruled out entirely.  Th orange and blue solid curves show the one dimensional posteriors on the mass and radius of the two neutron stars in GW170817 and the dotted lines are the priors.  Quoted values are the median and the 90th percentile limits (5th and 95th percentile).

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

My advice is simply 'go for it': apply for that program, email that professor, take that class, ask questions.  You might be rejected or you might fail, but if you don't try, you absolutely won't succeed.

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