Elise Sänger

PhD student in the “Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity” department

What is your current position at our institute?

PhD student in the Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity department

How and when did you choose to do physics?

As a child I always liked science and mathematics and I was fascinated by the Universe and how it works. When I was in High School, I participated in the European Girls' Mathematical Olympiad. Because of that, I decided to study both mathematics and physics. During my bachelors, I realised astrophysics is more my passion than mathematics, so I continued down that road.

What is your academic education?

  • Double bachelors degree in Mathematics and Physics and Astronomy, Universiteit Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • Erasmus+ exchange to Uppsala Universitet, Sweden
  • Masters degree in Astronomy and Cosmology, Universiteit Leiden, the Netherlands

Could you please describe your research?

For over a century now, Einsteins theory of gravity called General Relativity (GR) has been our best understanding of how gravity works. There are some reasons from which physicists suspect that it is not the whole story. Therefore we try to test GR in the most extreme gravity situations we know: the merger of two black holes. During the merger of two black holes, so called gravitational waves are emitted. The shape of these waves is predicted by GR, so we try to search for differences between the shape of detected gravitational waves and the predictions. My research focuses on finding deviations in the waveform during the inspiral phase, when the two black holes are orbiting each other before they merge.

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

I chose the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics because it is one of the best institutes in the world for gravitational wave research. I also liked that the research group here is big and works on all different aspects of gravitational wave physics, from theory to numerical relativity and data analysis. This means that there is ample options to learn about all the different aspects and to collaborate with people.

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

Always do the things you love, no matter what other people tell you. In the end, it only matters what makes you happy and everything else will work itself out. This won´t always be easy, but it is worth the fight.

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