4 February 2010

The School of Mathematics and Physics at UQ will soon be home to award-winning Danish astrophysicist, Dr Signe Riemer-Sorensen.

Dr Signe Riemer-Sorensen was recently awarded the Danish Council for Independent Researcher’s Young Research Prize, given to the most talented young researchers, by Science Minister Helge Sander and Crown Princess Mary.

Currently based at the Dark Cosmology Centre at the Niels Bohr Institute, Dr Riemer-Sorensen received the Young Researcher Prize as well as 200,000 Danish Kroner (about AUD$42,000).

Her research combines astro- and particle physics, in particular, the biggest thing in the Universe, the galaxies – and the Universe’s lightest tiny particles, known as neutrinos.

Neutrinos are so small they rarely interact with other matter. They race through the Universe without colliding with the Earth or with single atoms.

In the Standard Model for particle physics, neutrinos are described as being without mass, but experiments and astronomic observations show that they do have a mass.

It even turns out that the mass of neutrinos affected the formation of stars and galaxies in the early Universe.

"I am fascinated that there is so much in the Universe that we don’t understand," Dr Riemer-Sorensen said.

"We can neither explain neutrinos nor dark matter, and yet we know that they affect the largest structures in the Universe such as galaxies and galaxy clusters, so by exploring the largest, we investigate the smallest," she said.

Dr Riemer-Sorensen recently completed her PhD and will soon continue her research in a postdoctoral position at UQ.

The UQ astrophysics group has a strong focus on extra-galactic astrophysics and cosmology.

Students interested in studying astrophysics at undergraduate level can do so choosing a major in physics as part of the Bachelor of Science program.

Courses on offer include space science and astrophysics and extragalactic astrophysics and cosmology.
Courses at honours and postgraduate level are also available.

The prize was awarded in late January this year at the Glyptotech Museum, where Science Minister Helge Sander and Crown Princess Mary honored 45 talented researchers from across Denmark.

Media: Lynelle Ross (3346 9935 or l.ross@smp.uq.edu.au). For more information on studying astrophysics at UQ contact Dr Tim McIntyre (3365 3423 or mcintyre@physics.uq.edu.au)