International Spotlight: Navin Sridhar

Which program/department are you in?

I am a first year PhD student in Astrophysics.

What is your primary area of study or research? 

I study the physics of black holes and neutron stars!

Which country (or countries) do you come from?

India -- I spent most of my life in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

How long have you been in the U.S.?

Before arriving at New York City during the fall of 2018, I spent 3 ~ 4 months in Pasadena, CA. So, as of Jan 2019, I have cumulatively spent 8 ~ 9 months here in the US.

Is there anything you’d like to share about your research or projects?

I study extremely dense and compact objects in space, which are called black holes and neutron stars. These are formed as a result of an intense explosion that massive stars undergo at the end of their lives, called supernova. These compact objects act as laboratories to study Physics at extreme conditions, which cannot be replicated on Earth. A couple of related concepts that I am currently interested in are:  

  • The physical mechanisms operating behind the high energy electromagnetic waves, that are emitted as a result of matter falling into compact objects under the influence of their extremely strong gravitational fields. 
  • The emission mechanisms of the elusive Fast Radio Bursts. These are transient, extra Galactic, millisecond duration intense radio flashes, whose origin is unknown, yet!

I study these sources by developing, testing, and using established theories to run simulations on supercomputers, and interpreting the results. At other times, I also study these objects through direct observations of their surroundings using satellite based telescopes and other large arrays of land-based telescopes.

What do you like best about living in the U.S.?

The diversity of its people, its natural resources and the opportunities available for every interest alike would be an obvious response. But, the most salient feature that I like about living in the US is the level of awareness of its people to fight for their rights, without denigrating others views. I believe that, this too, is one of the essential forms of freedom. I very much appreciate its prevalence, and like this aspect of life here.

What is the hardest thing about living here?

Apart from constantly juggling between systems of unit, I personally find it quite hard to get a good vegetarian meal here in NYC (that is also affordable). Learning to cook your own meal comes handy.

For some, it can also be hard to find oneself in a place like Columbia! The wonderful thing about Columbia and the city in general is that they offer a plethora of choices. Life just doesn’t happen, for it’s the choice that defines it. One may feel overwhelmed with all the choices in front of them and picking out the right one can be hard!

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