Sera Markoff (1971)
Associate professor in Astrophysics at the Anton Pannekoek Institute, Faculty of Science
‘Working at the cutting edge of discovery.’
‘The University of Amsterdam is very well known and respected for astronomy; in fact, the Netherlands has always been at the forefront of astronomy/astrophysics. For such a small country, there are a very large number of researchers working in this field.
I was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and at the University of Arizona where I did my PhD. After postdocs at the MPIfR in Germany and at MIT I was looking for a permanent position, and decided to come to the UvA. Mainly, I was drawn to the research possibilities, but I have always liked working overseas and I liked the atmosphere at the institute. I am quite happy to be working here. Thanks to NWO funding including a Vidi, as well as from the EU-FP7, I was able to start my own group.
I study black holes. Since by definition they are not visible, actually I mostly look at the stuff falling into black holes. I mainly study signals from across the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to infrared and X-ray frequencies, using multiple telescopes. One of the most important ones for what I do is the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which orbits the Earth as a satellite. Using mathematical and computer modeling, I try to make a physical picture of what processes occur around black holes.
I like the challenge of working at the cutting edge of discovery. Also, I really like working with students, teaching and helping them to think critically as a scientist. I also really like the freedom of academic life, and getting to travel a lot because it is a very international field. Science is very stimulating, both intellectually and culturally.
Amsterdam is a great city, but I was a bit shocked at how conservative the Netherlands can be, and that so many women work part-time compared to men. Being an academic is usually more than full time, but if you like what you are doing, it doesn't feel like work! As one of the founders of the network ‘Women in the FNWI' we try to make it a better place for women scientists to work here. We are quite active, and currently discussing with the Dean possibility of starting a prestige tenure track for women, like the University of Groningen now has.'
Sera Markoff has been working at the University of Amsterdam since 2006.