Valentina Abril Melgarejo

PhD Candidate in Astrophysics / Laboratoire de Astrophysique de Marseille - Aix-Marseille Université

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You are all equipped with a lot of skills.

What do you do?

Galaxies are the building blocks of the Universe, they are organized in what is known as the cosmic web. I study the evolution of galaxies in cosmic time by means of characterizing the rotation of their different components: gas, stars, dust, metals and dark matter. Galaxies are true cosmic laboratories where a lot of interesting phenomena happen to give origin to stars, planetary systems and eventually life. I analyse data from big telescopes that allow me to search in the past when the Universe had the half of its current age, that is 7 Gyrs ago. The comparison of the physical properties of these galaxies with nearby galaxies gives us insights on their evolution.

Why did you choose this field?

Since I was a little girl I always was interested in nature, in astronomy and in arts. It was the beauty of a dark sky when I could see the Milky way, our galaxy, that I wondered how to study those beautiful objects up there. When I was 13 I found a club of children interested in Astronomy. Since then my love for Universe just grows every day. It was in a camping where we were observing a meteor shower that I decided to become Astrophysicist.

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

I didn't know Science was so global that would open me a lot of opportunities to explore the world and to meet very interesting people. Now I speak three languages and I'm considering to learn two more, all this encouraged by my scientific career. I would've liked to know that it is not impossible to achieve these goals and that there are a lot of opportunities out there, which require a lot of effort but it would've been easier to have this information at hand when all this process started.

Why do you love working in STEM?

Science always pushes your limits to gather enough information about a topic and to robustly look for answers by using the scientific method. I always have been very curious about everything around me and I tried to search for information about all what is interesting to me, not just keep what is tendency or what most of the sources say. The critic thought is the most important skill to develop, it applies to all the aspects of life and it is born from curiosity. Science is both interesting and challenging that is why I feel comfortable and motivated each day to explore new aspects of the Universe.

Best advice for next generation?

You are all equipped with a lot of skills. Science is a good of all the society and if we are curious enough we all are potential scientist. Most of the greatest advances we enjoy today like planes, smartphones, GPS, spaceships, Telescopes etc, were born from the curiosity of previous generations of engineers and scientists. Imagine all the exciting things we can develop in the future, so do not have fear to take the big adventure of science, you will never be bored.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.” Hypatia of Alexandria

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