Meet the Glorious Women of Astronomy
This week on our Glorious Women feature, meet Sayantani Datta, (graduate student at Chennai Mathematical Institute) and find out what kept her motivated for Gravitational Wave Science, her achievements and how her passion for art helper her cope with challenges
What drove you to pursue Astrophysics as a research career?
During my school years, I devoured popular books on celestial bodies and constellations, the origin of our universe, and of course, black holes! I knew I wanted to study physics, but I never realized that I wanted to pursue astrophysics, especially with gravitational waves, as a research career until my undergraduate studies, when I was introduced to these concepts in general relativity.
What hardships did you go through while being in your field?
I always enjoyed learning and exploring, which was one of the main reasons I chose to pursue research. However, the competitiveness, especially in the dynamic field of astrophysics, would get to me, which took me time to cope. I've faced some personal losses that made keeping up my research productivity challenging. I am lucky and grateful that my parents have always supported my career decisions and provided me with the mental and emotional support to reach my goals.
Could you list out the achievements in the course of research?
I believe that my most significant achievement during my years of research is learning and understanding the importance of perseverance and consistency. My papers are my research contributions and a token of the personal and professional challenges I have pushed through. I have learned to think on my feet faster, formulate research problems, and convey my research work better to the broader scientific and non-scientific community. I will join the University of Virginia as a Rising Scholar Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer coming August, which I am very excited about!
Apart from research, what hobbies do you share?
I love to listen to and sing Bengali folk songs, cook, and experiment with Bengali cuisine. Lately, I have been hooked on digital painting. I learned to paint at a very young age, mostly water colours and oil on canvas. Now I do all of them, but with digital brushes! My therapy is to express the turmoil in my head and the challenges I face through my art in a surreal context.
As a member of the LVK collaboration, how would you like to contribute to the Science community?
As an LVK member, I have contributed to the field of gravitational wave physics through my research, learned to build code infrastructure for various analyses, and worked as a team. I want to make on the experience and knowledge I gained, help mentor and guide younger students, and, of course, keep contributing through my research!
What are your thoughts on Women in STEM?
Being a woman in STEM, I have experienced at a nascent stage of my career how an unwelcoming environment can affect one's confidence. As I started pursuing my doctoral degree, I realized the importance of curbing gender bias with greater conviction. We need more effort to encourage women to be in STEM to close such a huge gender ratio gap at the higher levels by starting at the high school level. This is also essential for overall scientific growth, which demands a free-flowing exchange of ideas and debate.