Galactic archaeologist: Dr Nick Bate joins RealScientists

Our curator for the coming week on RealScientists is @ickbat, better known within the Physics department at the University of Sydney as Dr Nicholas Bate. Nick is a postdoctoral fellow in the Sydney Institute for Astronomy (SIfA), which conducts research in areas including stellar astrophysics, plasma astrophysics, cataclysmic variables, black-hole binaries, masers, pulsars, supernovae and their remnants, the interstellar medium and the Galactic Centre, normal galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds, clusters of galaxies, active galaxies & quasars, gravitational lensing and cosmology. Nick’s views on where he is and how he came to be there:
I was probably always going to end up working in astronomy — books on space as a kid, trips to the museum to see asteroids, visits to Parkes and Siding Spring Observatories on family holidays, undergraduate physics, PhD in astrophysics (both at Melbourne Uni), and now here. I’ve meandered a bit, though. I also studied history at Uni (took a year off to decide if I was going to be an historian or an astrophysicist), I worked as a consultant for the Environment Protection Authority for a little while, and I had a 6-month period between astrophysics jobs working in geothermal energy research.
These days, I study diffuse stellar substructures in the halo of Andromeda, the nearest large spiral galaxy to our Milky Way. These objects are the remnants of dwarf galaxies that have fallen in to Andromeda and been torn apart, and they offer important insight into how galaxies grow over cosmic time. Andromeda is perfect for this work: it is far enough away that we can study it without having to take images of the entire sky, but close enough that we can hope to see very faint objects.
(Incidentally, my official job title is ‘Pandas Postdoctoral Researcher’. PAndAS as in Pan-Andromeda Archaeological Survey. No actual pandas, just lots of opportunity for cute paper titles: “PAndAS Cubs”, “PAndAS in the mist”…)

A panda, yesterday

A panda, yesterday

This was a change of field for me. Prior to this job, my research was in quasar microlensing. There, we used statistical simulations of light bending around massive objects (‘Einstein’s telescope’) to study what’s going on around distant supermassive black holes, on scales much smaller than we can reach with even our best telescopes. I try to keep my toe in that field, but there’s never enough time!
When I’m not sciencing, there’s about a million other things I like to do. I’ll read just about anything that passes in front of me (although my first love is sci-fi), I love the opera, films both arty and actioney (I’ve got a particular soft-spot for the flagrant disregard of the laws of physics), drawing stick figures, basically anything that involves nerding it up.
Nick wearing a hat, like all good archaeologists (well, Indiana Jones at least)

Nick wearing a hat, like all good archaeologists (well, Indiana Jones at least)

Please welcome @ickbat to RealScientists and be sure to enjoy his tweets!


James is a recovering scientist and escaped postdoc who works in research management at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He's now retired from active @RealScientists duty, after serving from the project's beginnings in 2013 through to mid 2015. When not managing research, surviving #PlanetParenthood or pretending not to be an expat Australian in the Deep South of NZ, he tweets @theotherdrsmith.

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