Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics

Astrophysics (University of Edinburgh)

Catherine uses NASA’s famous Hubble Telescope, as well as several large telescopes in Hawaii, to try and understand some of the mysteries of the universe.

“At the moment we’re trying to get funding to build telescopes up in space that are bigger and better than Hubble,” says Catherine, who was attracted to astrophysics as a teenager.

“I was always fascinated by the universe when I was at school. I also had a great physics teacher who spent a week at NASA at a teacher’s conference, and came back so enthused about space science that she inspired me to think about that aspect of physics.”

Catherine studied an MPhys degree in Astrophysics at Edinburgh University. “My degree involved lots of lectures and experiments in the labs, but during my masters, I got the chance to use a telescope in Scotland to measure the distance to a cluster of stars. This wasn’t easy as it was often cloudy!”. She then went on to do a PhD at Oxford.

“What I loved most about it was the opportunity to travel to La Palma in the Canary Islands to the European Northern Observatory and use the large telescopes there. My research used the data collected from these visits to find out how much dark matter there is in the universe.”

“Dark matter makes up more of the universe than normal matter (which is what we’re made from) but beyond that we don’t really know what it is. We do know that it’s useful though, as it surrounds our galaxy and holds it together.”

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