Spirals, waves and gliding along

September 06, 2023

While concerned with massive objects such as neutron stars and black holes in her work, Martyna Chruslinska loves the lightweight feeling of figure skating in her spare time.

What is your research interest at MPA?

My science lies in between the MPA's research areas: I combine the chemical evolution of galaxies with the evolution of stars, in particular in the context of gravitational wave astrophysics. The number of events observed will increase rapidly in the coming years as detectors improve, and even more so when the next generation detectors (Einstein Telescope, Cosmic Explorer) become operational in the late 2030s.

Currently, we are routinely observing gravitational waves from merging black holes and neutron stars. These compact objects are left over after the lives of massive stars that formed all across the Universe. Such mergers carry information about the way stars and galaxies form and tell us about stellar evolution in galaxies that are very different from our own.

My work shows that the observed mergers can even shed light on the properties of galaxies that are normally missed by electromagnetic surveys. Those observations are difficult to interpret because the uncertainties in astrophysical models are large and not sufficiently well quantified. I specifically look at the chemical evolution of the Universe,  aiming to constrain the metallicity (i.e. the abundance of elements heavier than helium) with which the progenitors of mergers form.

Why did you come to MPA in particular?

When we witnessed the historical first direct detection of gravitational waves from merging black holes in 2015, I was studying the formation of merging neutron stars. Soon after, the first signal from the merger of neutron stars followed. It was a very exciting time to work on this topic. The field of gravitational wave astrophysics was growing rapidly, new questions arose, and my career evolved with them. It became clear to me that these questions required expertise from different sub-fields of astronomy, and I turned to galaxy evolution. MPA was a great place for me because it gathers experts in all the topics that are important for my work.

What made you choose astronomy at all?

Science has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. At school, I was fortunate to meet passionate and supportive physics teachers who encouraged questions that went beyond the regular curriculum. I quickly realized that I enjoyed the challenging but highly creative scientific process of trying to solve problems for which there was no ready-made solution.

As a student, I hesitated between geophysics, climate research and astrophysics. In the end, astrophysics won because of its particular breadth and interdisciplinarity.

What do you enjoy about working at MPA?

Now that the pandemic restrictions are over, one can finally see how vibrant the campus really is – there is always something going on. At MPA, I enjoy the scientific interactions, and the proximity to other astronomy institutes. Working in a very international environment is great – at MPA, I can meet people from all over the world.

The best thing about Munich is the nature surrounding the city and, of course, the proximity of the Alps. It is no wonder that climbing is very popular here and I will miss Munich's bouldering gyms after I move out.

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

My greatest passion – which I only discovered as an adult – is figure skating, on both ice and inline skates. I particularly enjoy the artistic and aesthetic aspects of this sport. Nothing beats the feeling of gliding over smooth ice on a frosty morning, in tune with the music.


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