Ragnhild Aurlien searches for patterns of gravitational waves

"From early age I've always loved the stars, and Astrophysics has always been my favourite part of physics."

PhD student Ragnhild Aurlien. Photo: UiO

Ragnhild Aurlien, PhD student at the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics. Photo: UiO.

Ragnhild Aurlien is Norwegian and got a master in physics from NTNU in Trondheim. In September 2018 she started working at the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics as 4-years PhD program in cosmology.

"Polarisation patterns" in the CMB 

– The main goal is to look for gravitational waves from the Big Bang by studying the background radiation from approximately 380.000 years after the Big Bang. The Big Bang theory predicts a period of inflation where the Universe expanded faster than the speed of light in the first tiny fractions of a second after the Big Bang.

– If this is the case, we should be able to see patterns in the polarisation of the light in the microwave background radiation, and these patterns is what I hope to find!

To this aim, Ragnhild analyses data from the Planck satellite to look for the patterns left by the gravitational waves, but also does forecasting.

– Forecasting is done before sending up a satellite to predict what kind of data a satellite will be able to produce and whether this satellite will be able to measure what it is sent up to measure.

From school teacher to university student

After her master in quantum physics in 2011, Ragnhild has been the physics, mathematics and technology teacher in three different high schools in Norway.

– This was a fun and challenging job with mostly motivated students and a lot of responsibility. Doing a PhD at ITA is this far less stressing than working as a teacher, I no longer have several deadlines a day and a work day is more predictable.

Going from being in the classroom and interacting with people all day to mostly working on a computer was a big change for her.

– I really enjoyed teaching, but after working as a teacher for seven years, I wanted new challenges and to try something different.

Love for astrophysics since early age 

– From early age I've always loved the stars, and Astrophysics has always been my favourite part of physics, so when I read the description for this PhD I immediately knew I wanted it and I am very happy I got it!

Ragnhild moved to Oslo four years ago because of friends in Oslo and also being closer to her family, and she finds both the social and cultural life "great"!

– What's your experience at ITA so far?

– I enjoy working at ITA. I've already learned heaps, relearned a lot that I used to know while doing my master, and the tasks I've been given are interesting. I also like the people in the cosmology group (and in the Institute in general) and the work culture, and I find that very important. 

– Any expectations?

– Obviously I expect to learn a lot both in the field of cosmology and programming. I want to be challenged in my approach to problems and to science in general. I also hope to develop my non research skills for instance by broadening the interest of cosmology in Oslo and contributing to the institute.

Tags: Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), Cosmology, Programming, PhD By Martina D'Angelo
Published Mar. 5, 2020 12:32 PM - Last modified Mar. 6, 2020 11:32 AM