Student profile
Sophia Lilleengen

Sophia Lilleengen

"The astrophysics staff are approachable, helpful and very supportive. The facilities I need are computer clusters, and we have several big ones in astrophysics and in the wider University."

Course
Astrophysics PhD
Entry year
2019
Research project

The Effect of Deforming Dark Matter Halos on Stellar Streams

Choosing Surrey

I did my Physics BSc, MSc and masters thesis in Germany. At a winter school, I met Professor Justin Read from Surrey’s Department of Physics and he told me about a PhD project at the University. Reading the description, it was exactly what I wanted to do.

After applying, a colleague in Munich told me my potential supervisor was his co-supervisor during his PhD. He only had good things to say about him. That made me want to come here and do the project even more.

My research

I’m doing a PhD in astrophysics. I was always in awe of the night sky and I loved seeing pictures taken by telescopes. My favourite part of physics was learning how the planets in our solar system move.

My research is very fundamental, and it has no direct technical application. I look at how stars move in the outer part of the Milky Way and if we can trace predictions about dark matter with these. Dark matter is still a mystery. It’s not been detected almost a century after it was first predicted. Working on the puzzle to find out what it is makes me very excited.

Staff & facilities

The astrophysics staff are approachable, helpful and very supportive. The facilities I need are computer clusters, and we have several big ones in astrophysics and in the wider University.

I work in a brilliant group where everyone is nice and encouraging. Having people around you who are looking forward to seeing you every day – even virtually – makes the PhD experience so much better. Since Covid-19, I haven’t seen them in person, but I’m looking forward to when life goes back to normal again.

Life at Surrey

Moving to another country is a great experience and all my friends here make it an enjoyable time.

Guildford is a cute little town with many nice pubs. The nature in Surrey is amazing and there’s so much to be discovered. London is super close as well!

I wanted to get involved with the PGR life at the University. I became part of the organising committee for the Doctoral College conference, which had to be held online. It was still a great success and an interesting, busy and enjoyable time.

The future

I still have two years until I finish my PhD. I’ll keep my options open and I’ll improve my skills for both continuing in academia, as well as leaving for industry. The latter could involve doing another data research job where I can apply the methods I’m currently learning and using. There’s great career support from both GRADnet, for physics PGRs, and Surrey’s Doctoral College.

Find out more about PhD research in our Department of Physics.

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