Dr. Laura Sberna

Postdoc in the Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity department

What is your current position at our institute?

I am a postdoc in the Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity group.

How and when did you choose to do physics?

I was always a very curious child, and in school I liked math and writing the most. Over the years, I realised that physics was a good compromise between my passions: in physics, we understand the systems we study both through math and through words. 

What is your academic education?

  • Bachelor in Physics at Sapienza University of Rome
  • Master in Physics at Sapienza University of Rome
  • Master Diploma at Sapienza School for Advanced Studies
  • PhD in Physics at the University of Waterloo, Canada

What are your main research interests?

I use gravitational-wave observations to understand how the Universe works, from astrophysical processes to the laws of gravity. In the past, I have also worked on the cosmology of the early Universe and on dark matter. 

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

I like this figure from my recent paper “Nonlinear effects in the black hole ringdown: absorption-induced mode excitation”. The figure shows the potential effect of nonlinear processes in the very final phase of a black hole merger. This phase is called the “ringdown”, because gravitational waves are emitted by a deformed black hole that rings away like a struck bell. We called the nonlinear process that we identified in this paper “absorption-induced mode excitation” or AIME (as in “love”, or "friend", in French).

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

I chose this institute because it is one of the best research centres in the world for gravitational-wave science. The group I am part of includes experts of any aspect of gravitational-wave astronomy, from theory, to observations, to numerical simulations. Being here, I feel like I am part of a group effort to advance the field. 

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

What I learnt so far in my career is that you need to work on something that excites you, that you feel is important. You should also be ready to fight to make academia a better place: academia (as the world at large!) has its problems, but it is up to us to make a change. 

Learn more about Dr. Sberna's research on her personal research website.

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