Aprajita Verma

Aprajita Verma

University of Oxford

My role is to understand how scientists in the UK will use the ELT.

Aprajita works with lots of people, making sure the massive Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will do amazing science.

What do you do in your job?

I investigate some of the most distant galaxies in the universe and think about how they started their lives and how they evolved. I also work on understanding the wide range of astrophysical questions European Southern Observatory’s ELT will answer.

How does your role fit in and support the wider team?

My role is to understand the scientific motivation and capabilities of the ELT. I promote and provide information to the wider UK ELT instrument teams, UK committees and the UK astronomical community.

If you had to summarise the impact your job has on everyday life – what would you say in two sentences?

It’s hard to say that astronomy impacts people’s day-to-day lives, but astronomy research collectively allows us to learn more about the universe and our place in it, answering our human instinct to pursue knowledge.

I am a passionate advocate of women in science, like to talk to the public about my work and co-founded a citizen science project that all bring astronomy and science at least temporarily into people’s lives.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The wonder of it all, always having to and wanting to ask questions, and to think about what physical processes lie behind the results we observe. We’re constantly problem solving in all aspects of our work and I think that’s what keeps it interesting, well as well as the fascinating subject matter of course!

 What did you study at school?

I always had an interest in all sciences and particularly maths, but also loved art, history and languages.

After deciding I wanted to physics (and astrophysics in particular), I chose to do maths, further maths, physics, chemistry and general studies at A-level, but secretly wished I’d continued with art too!

What inspired you into a career in science / engineering?

I was enchanted by astronomy and space at a very young age. Most memorably, when I was 5 years old and visiting my mother’s childhood home in rural India where the sky was truly ‘dark’, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of stars I could see. It frightened me, but also inspired me to ask questions to find out why things are the way they are. That inquisitiveness is really what led to me to study sciences.

What five top tips would you have for people wanting a job like yours?

  • Always be inquisitive and curious, and don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • Don’t underestimate yourself
  • Find summer internships or jobs to try our different fields before deciding what you want to do
  • Science is much broader than academia and the opportunities outside are varied and wide. Keep your mind and options open to scientific careers outside academia
  • Keep yourself aware of opportunities for grant funding in the UK and outside

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