Meet the Glorious Women of Astronomy
Everyone finds a different motivation to drive them towards their career path. Find out what clicked for Anjali Balasaheb Yelikar, graduate student at Rochester Institute of Technology.
Reportage by Kanchan Soni and Deepali Agarwal, illustration by Swarali Patil
What drove you to pursue Astrophysics as a research career?
As a kid, I was always interested in planets, the Solar system, stars and constellations. Kalpana Chawla also played a part in my interest in Space; though she was an astronaut, the idea of reaching for the stars fascinated me. From reading astronomy books to collecting NASA postcards, my love for astronomy grew over the years. I was very much interested in Science and decided to pursue Physics during my undergraduate course at IISER, Thiruvananthapuram. In my 2nd year at IISER, I worked with a few classmates and seniors on assembling an affordable and portable college level radio telescope for amateur radio astronomy, which provided me another push towards the field of astronomy and astrophysics.
What hardships did you go through while being in your field?
I think my whole journey of getting to Rochester Institute of Technology and further into LIGO has been pretty smooth. In my final year of IISER I was applying to graduate schools all over the world but failed to get into one. Hence I looked for internships to do in India which would give me good research experience in astrophysics and also boost my CV. I was able to apply and get into Chennai Mathematical Institute on recommendation from my advisors and that was an excellent experience for me and led me to RIT.
Could you list out the achievements in the course of research?
I was part of the group in IISER which assembled an affordable and portable radio telescope using a commercially available satellite television receiving system for amateur radio astronomy which is also on the way to becoming a journal publication. I was also a part of an event organized by the IISER Thiruvananthapuram chapter of the Optical Society of America on the occasion of National Science Day.
Apart from research, what hobbies do you share?
I enjoy playing trivia, board games, reading books, and listening to pop music. I love dancing but haven't been doing much of that lately.
As a member of the LVK collaboration, how would you like to contribute to the Science community?
Since I got interested in the field of gravitational waves, I have been looking forward to working on multi-messenger astronomy.
What are your thoughts on Women in STEM?
I have been fortunate enough to have been surrounded by many women classmates during my undergraduate degree, most of whom have hence moved on to pursue various fields in Science. But, I do believe we need more women at higher levels of a STEM career.
Swarali Shivraj Patil is a fifth year student majoring in Physics at IISER Thiruvananthapuram.