Case study: Dr Amelie Saintonge

University College London, 2013-2021
Cold gas as a probe of galaxy evolution

Galaxies in the local Universe are incredibly diverse in terms of their shapes, sizes and colours, but can be broadly classified into two categories: one which is gas-rich, blue, spiral-like and actively star-forming; and the other which is gas-poor, red and featureless. In order to understand how galaxies form and diversify into these two distinct groups, it is important to first attempt to understand when, where and how stars are formed in any galaxy. Star formation is achieved via the cooling and condensation of gas in specific regions of a galaxy, and this cosmic gas can be observed via the use of powerful telescopes.

Dr Amelie Saintonge, a University Research Fellow at University College London, studies the formation and evolution of galaxies through the use of radio telescopes in order to detect the gas in distant galaxies which allow her to understand what physical processes regulate the growth of galaxies. Dr Saintonge’s initial findings indicate that galaxies are dynamic systems that mostly live in a state of equilibrium: they are fed by flows of gas that stream along the cosmic web, they turn some of that gas into stars, and these newly born stars launch powerful winds that eject some of the gas back out in intergalactic space.

‘I had too many science ideas and telescope data for just one person to manage!’ Dr Saintonge was attracted to the University Research Fellowship as it allowed her to build her own research group after working and studying in Canada, USA, Switzerland and Germany. Dr Saintonge was encouraged to apply for the University Research Fellowship after discussing with a colleague at an international conference. The award has allowed her to reconcile her research ambitions with finding a perfect place to move to with her two young children.

‘It has given me the means to significantly broaden my research portfolio, start building a group at UCL, develop international collaborations and establish myself within the UK astrophysics community. In other words, it has set me on a very positive trajectory to keep doing what I love doing for a very long time.’