Our next curator is astrophysicist Dr JJ Eldridge (@astro_jje), a Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland, Middle Earth – sorry, New Zealand. Dr Eldridge is also a science communicator and activist, and looks at the formation and physics of stars. So, get excited for a week of SPACE PHYSICS! Here’s JJ’s story in her own words.
I watched and read way to much science fiction growing up. This included lots of Star Wars, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Dr Who! Then in books it was Douglas Adams, Arthur C. Clarke, Issac Asimov, Larry Niven and A.E. Van Vogt. This all meant at school I loved science and maths and always worked hardest at those subjects so always did well in them. I just ended up working all the way up to being a professional scientist. Again the science fiction, being an astrophysicist is as close as I can get to exploring the Universe and working out how everything works. With significantly less danger. Although my lecturing style means I always do a lot of running.
I’m a theoretical astrophysicist who makes computer models of stars and then use these to predict what they should “look like” to compare to observations. However I try to compare to as many observations as possible to really test the physics I put into the models of stars. I look at single stars, star clusters, galaxies (both our own and at the edge of the observable Universe), supernovae, gamma-ray bursts and gravitational wave events.
All the material around us that isn’t hydrogen and helium was created by stars. Trying to understand how stars work and how they created all this material and helped the Universe evolve is really us understanding how after 13.7 billion years the Universe was able to give rise to us. Trying to get an idea of how we came about and where we came from. For example: the iron in your blood most came from exploding white dwarf stars, the gold in jewelry came from exploding neutrons while the oxygen we breath comes from exploding massive stars. It’s interesting to link dramatic events in the Universe to elements vital to life and those important in our different cultures.
I was at one time I was a consultant on a science fiction comic book aimed at children (Astarons). I am also active within the University of Auckland LGBTI networks. This has led to me being nominated for the NZ LGBTI Hero of the year award this year. I am also a member of the Astronomical Society of Australia’s “Inclusive Diverse Equitable Astronomy” steering committee. Working to make astronomy and academic for everyone.
I still read/watch a lot of science fiction but now I tend to think more about what is realistic or how something would actually work. I play a lot of computer games, especially those set in space. I love building LEGO. I used to do Tae Kwon Do and really need to get back into it.
I would say there are three types of days off I like: 1) not really doing anything, watching some Dr Who, playing computer games and not checking email. 2) family time, going to a museum/event together. 3) going for a really long walk along a scenic route (fortunately in New Zealand these are easy to find).