Everything flows

April 05, 2022

Both in her research and her hobbies, Deepika Bollimpalli, is always in motion.

What is your research interest at MPA?

My main research interests lie in studying compact objects, particularly the dynamics of accretion disc and time variability in black hole binary systems. Currently, I am working on simulations combining general relativity and magneto-hydrodynamics (GRMHD) to study accretion discs around black holes. With these simulations, I want to discover which conditions trigger changes in the geometry of accretion discs during the state transitions observed in black hole binary systems. My other projects are focused on understanding the rapid variability, termed as quasi-periodic oscillations, observed in these systems through the GRMHD simulations.


How did you get interested in this topic?

My interest in accretion discs started with a semester project during my undergraduate studies at IUCAA (Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics), Pune, India, where I derived the solutions for standard Shakura-Sunyaev accretion discs. A couple of years later, when I started my PhD at the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center in Warsaw, Poland, I was studying thermal-viscous instabilities in the accretion discs around white dwarfs in special, so-called symbiotic star systems under the supervision of Jean-Pierre Lasota. During my PhD, he made it possible for me to visit KITP Santa Barbara for a two-month program. It was during this program that I first learned about the state-transition phenomena and other variability features observed in black hole X-ray binaries. I got quite fascinated by this topic and decided to pursue projects along those lines.


What made you choose astronomy?

Ever since I was a kid, I have been drawn towards science. I used to enjoy my time after school at home by trying out experiments given in the textbook with my grandfather. Irrespective of the particular topic, solving problems gives me immense pleasure and joy.

Back in my hometown, it is unusual for people to go into research; most people aim for engineering in one of the prestigious Indian institutes. I was almost about to end up along those same lines, but luckily my father mentioned IISER, the then recently established research institute, offering science degrees for bachelors and masters. Getting into IISER was one of the turning points in my life; there I got another chance to pursue my interest in science. At IISER, I had the opportunity to explore various fields, and if I had not pursued astronomy I would have tried neurobiology. In fact, my first research project was to perform DNA isolation and study the morphology of a particular fish species found in the rivers of Western India.


How do you like to spend your time outside the institute?

During the weekdays, I only get time for a yoga class in the evenings. I love dancing, and I took training for classical Indian dance, Kathak, for a few years when I was in Poland. Other than that, I seldom paint and stitch. On beautiful sunny days, I love going out for hikes, cycling or trying out other outdoor activities with friends.


What do you enjoy about working at MPA and living in Munich?

MPA has definitely given me an opportunity to broaden my knowledge to other fields. Things were a little hard during Covid, but I think the MPA fellowship provides a perfect blend of independence, guidance and new opportunities to explore one’s research interests. I enjoy living in Munich, particularly because it is quite international and the Alps are so close by.

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