Every story starts with a storyteller

My name is Ioana Ciucă, with an extra Dr title that I use mainly on flights in preparation for that famous question. When I was six, I witnessed the ‘99 solar eclipse reflected in a water-filled bucket from the plains of Banat, Romania (disclaimer: solar eclipse glasses were not really a thing back then!). Without sounding (too!) corny, it was then when I realised I may want to be a star chaser, to stay true to the language of my child-self. At 14, I moved away from my parents’ home in Transylvania to Bucharest to study maths and astronomy.

At the crossroads of two worlds.

Four years later, driven by a desire to study cosmology and an undying love for Pink Floyd, I moved to England to study Physics and Astronomy at Durham University. At the same time as studying for my degree, I also worked on the REXUS 16 project of the European Space Agency, when together with 5 students from Romania, we put an experimental box into a rocket that was flown into space! Groovy, right? The summers after were spent working an ESAC trainee near Madrid, Spain, where I studied nebulae around Wolf-Rayet stars (2014) and as an AAO undergraduate fellow in Australia (2015) to understand galaxy environments. During my final year of university, I got to work with Prof Carlos Frenk (the F in the NFW profile) to find very faint satellite galaxies of the Milky Way.

Upon completing my studies at Durham, I joined MSSL-UCL as a PhD student working under the supervision of Prof Daisuke Kawata, Prof Mark Cropper and Dr George Seabroke. MSSL is a beautiful place to think about the great beyond, and the work done at the lab is great - both scientific and engineering. We built instruments for Gaia and for Euclid (which is hopefully going to answer questions about dark energy!). My PhD experience has been enhanced by the fact I was awarded a prestigious LSSTC Data Science Fellowship in the United States. As a LSSTC DSFP Fellow, I learnt a great deal about how we can use big data skills in astronomy. Oh, I also got to travel all across the US (Seattle, Baltimore, Chicago, New York, etc.) and made wonderful friends and great collaborators!

Post PhD, the road took me across the world, all the way to Australia. I am now a Research Fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra working as a inter-disciplinary Jubilee Fellow across the Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the School of Computing. My day-to-day job is to come up with innovative ways to explore our large astronomical datasets with state-of-the-art machine learning. I secretly fancy AI a tiny bit more at the moment.

What to expect

By signing up, you'll get access to a unique library of ML notes, discussion on ChatGPT and its impact on research, the latest news in Galactic Archaeology curated by yours truly, and some of my rather creative explorations into books, films, art in many of its forms. Sometimes I write too, poems and long travel posts. Thanks for being here! For more details, check out my CV.

What to not expect

The answer to the last question posed to Multivac.