Episode 56 – Dr. Sinenhlanhla Sikhosana

Sinenhlanhla Sikhosana recently received her PhD in Applied Mathematics with a research focus in Astrophysics. She also holds Bachelor’s and Masters degrees in Applied Mathematics and Pure Physics. As a young girl in a small village in South Africa, Sinenhlanhla had big dreams, but few role models. She did, however, have a grandmother and a mother that encouraged her to think outside their traditions and encouraged her to pursue her dreams.

Episode Notes

Have you ever wondered what an astrophysicist is or what you do for a job as an astronomer? What kind of education do you need for this job? Where do you work? What do you study? Sinenhlanhla shares her experiences as an astrophysicist and astronomer is South Africa. She grew up in a small village where women traditionally stay at home to take care of the family, but she had a grandmother and mother who encouraged her to follow her passion and dreams and make her own way.

As a recent PhD recipient, not only does Sinenhlanhla work as an astrophysicist and astronomer, but she also focuses on outreach so that other girls, especially girls in small villages, can see themselves represented through her.

In addition to talking about astrophysics and astronomy, we also discuss the challenges of being female and wanting to have a family and still pursue a career in academia. We discussion challenges of schooling in South Africa and so many other topics on this podcast.

Music used in the podcast: Higher Up, Silverman Sound Studio

Acronyms, Definitions, and Fact Check

Cosmology – a branch of astronomy concerned with the study of the origin and chronology of the universe. Physical cosmology is the study of the universe’s origin, its large-scale structures and dynamics, and the ultimate fate of the universe, including the laws of science that govern these areas. (Wikipedia)

Astrophysics – the branch of astronomy concerned with the physical nature of stars and other celestial bodies, and the application of the laws and theories of physics to the interpretation of astronomical observations. (Oxford Languages)

Astronomy – a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. It uses mathematics, physics, and chemistry in order to explain their origin and evolution. Objects of interest include planets, moons, stars, nebulae, galaxies, and comets. (Wikipedia)

Big Bang Theory – the prevailing cosmological model explaining the existence of the observable universe from the earliest known periods through its subsequent large-scale evolution. (Wikipedia)

Supernova – the biggest explosion that humans have ever seen. Each blast is the extremely bright, super-powerful explosion of a star. (https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/supernova/en/)

Galaxy clusters – structure that consists of anywhere from hundreds to thousands of galaxies that are bound together by gravity with typical masses ranging from 1014–1015solar masses. (Wikipedia)

Meerkat Telescope – a radio telescope consisting of 64 antennas in the Northern Cape of South Africa. (Wikipedia)

SKA telescope – an intergovernmental radio telescope project being planned to be built in Australia and South Africa. (Wikipedia)

Very Large Telescope (VLT), observatory located on the mountain Cerro Paranal (2,635 metres [8,645 feet]) in Chile and consisting of four telescopes with mirrors 8.2 metres (27 feet) in diameter and four others with mirrors 1.8 metres (5.9 feet) in diameter. (www.britannica.com)

Radio telescope – a specialized antenna and radio receiver used to detect radio waves from astronomical radio sources in the sky. (Wikipedia)

Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) – cated near Pune, Junnar, near Narayangaon at khodad in India, is an array of thirty fully steerable parabolic radio telescopes of 45 metre diameter, observing at metre wavelengths. (Wikipedia)

Interferometer – an instrument in which the interference of two beams of light is employed to make precise measurements. (Oxford Languages)

The different types of telescope orbiting around the earth are optical telescope (Hubble), X ray telescope ( Chandra) etc. These telescope are placed is space because: 
(a) Some of the light coming form heavenly bodies is absored by earth’ atmosphere.  
(b) The position of image in disturbed due to changes in pressure and turbulence in atmosphere. 
(c) Optical telescope cannot be used during the day due to sunlight. 
(d) During night city lights and cloudy weather cause difficulty in obervations.

Trevor Noah – a South African comedian, television host, writer, producer, political commentator, and actor. He is the host of The Daily Show, an American satirical news program on Comedy Central. Born in Johannesburg, Noah began his career as a comedian, television host, and actor in South Africa in 2002. (Wikipedia)

At the doctoral level, regalia consists of a more elaborate gown with a five-inch velvet panel down the front and three velvet bars on each sleeve. The velvet trim on a doctoral gown indicates the degree and academic discipline of the graduate. Some schools choose a color other than black for their doctoral regalia. (www.online.edu)

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