Fiona Prodöhl

Physics doctoral researcher at the University of Hamburg


Believe in yourself and chase everything you think is interesting!

What do you do?

I am doing computer simulations of stellar atmospheres. Stars have atmospheres just like the Earth. When we look at the stars we see their light, but inspite of the light that is created in the very inside of the star we only see the light originating from the atmosphere. So the atmosphere of a star is crucial when trying to understand stellar light. We think that round about one third of the stars in our Milky Way are binary stars! So what happens if we don't look at only one star but at a binary star system? How is the light affected by this? This is what I study and therefore I concentrate on a star called AA Doradus which can only be seen from the southern hemisphere. This binary star system is special because both components are very close but one of the stars is really hot (8x hotter than our sun) and the other one is so cool that it is almost no star anymore (less than half as hot as our sun). By being so close to each other it happens that the hot star heats up the cooler one - but only on the side that is facing him.
I am doing computer simulations of this cool companion on high performance clusters. When comparing different sets of simulations to observations I try to find out what effects play a significant role in shaping the light we observe from binary star systems like these.

Why did you choose this field?

I can't remember any time of my life when I wasn't fascinated by the night sky and the universe! The sky is so deep and beautiful! And the more I read and understand and find out how little we still know about it the more curious I get and the more amazed am I. But to be honest: I never ever thought that I could do something like this as a profession! So I started studying physics out of curiosity for physics and then I found out that there are some astronomy projects to work on. I didn't plan or knew at any point that this would be possible but I am glad it worked out!

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I knew I like physics but I never believed that I could be a physicist. And I never imagined that one day I am being payed for doing astronomy.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love exploring the world! There are so many fascinating things from tiny-atom to gigantic-universe scale! I couldn't even imagine living in a world without science. Science keeps me breathing and my heart pumping. Science is the key for our body to process food to energy. Science is our smartphones and computers. Science is everywhere. And science is brilliant!

Best advice for next generation?

Believe in yourself and chase everything you think is interesting! Look for inspiring role models and don't be afraid to take the leap. If you think something is interesting than you are made for it!

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

"We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained." Marie Curie

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