Because everything has to come to an end

More the 3 year have passed since I started this adventure.

I can still remember the day when I got the first email saying that I was on the short list, the email to arrange my interview, the morning of the interview (for which I was sooooo nervous) and the final email from Rene saying that I had got the position if I wanted to take it. I cried so much that day, I ran all around my old institute to give the news to my friends, and I called my family saying I was going to do a PhD in the UK.

This adventure began with a day on a beach followed by a cold rainy night where I got to meet for the first time, the person who is guiding me on getting my work done.  I arrived in a house of strangers that today I considered my friends, very good friends. Also, I got such so a warm welcome at the university that made it very easy to adapt. Additionally, the help that I got from the language centre, specifically from Dr Katherine Taylor, which has helped make my time in Leeds, enjoyable.

I spent 18 months of my PhD in Spain, specifically at the European Space Agency (ESAC). Who would have thought that, I would have the opportunity to be in contact with so many incredible people, from different academic backgrounds, from so many different countries. Having the chance to live in a second European country in less than a year of moving here. Of course, everything was not easy, but the experience was excellent.

But because everything has to come to an end, I just want to thanks each person who made STARRY possible, Prof Rene Oudmaijer (supervisor), Dr Ricardo Perez (co-supervisor), Dr Deborah Baines (external expert), Patricia Grant (STARRY Project Manager) and of course, the European Union’s Horizon 2020.

Citizen of the world

What question do I frequently get asked when I meet someone new? It is: Where are you from?  For me, this is a difficult question to answers! That is why my answer is always a question: Do you want to know where I come from or where I work?

You may ask yourself, it is a simple question, but for me it is not. I am a Venezuelan citizen who has lived in the UK, and now I am living in Spain; who knows where I will go next!

I have been studying (or working) in two different European cities, Leeds in the UK and Madrid in Spain, and not being an EU citizen has proved challenging at times. But I will not complain. So far, I have had a nice experience, legal challenges and a roller coaster of emotions, all that keep my days interesting.

STARRY has given me the opportunity to move between continents and countries, meet people from different places, helped me grow up more as a person, and created professional opportunities. Everything has not been perfect, but I have great support which has helped me through these days. I am grateful to be part of this project.

But well, to avoid difficult answers, I will say: I am a Citizen of the world, but I will never lose my essence (💛💙❤️).


When you think of the holidays, what do you imagine? Being on the beach, the mountains, enjoying a relaxing time at home or exploring a new city? For some people however, the holidays are for working. Do you know what the word “Holiday” means? The dictionary defines it as an extended period of leisure and recreation; especially one spent away from home or travelling as well as a day of festivity where no work is done. It is a simple definition that does not always apply to a PhD student.

You may ask yourself; does not a PhD student continually travel? Are not they involved in lots of recreational activities?  As a PhD student, I can say that these questions are true and false at the same time. Which is very contradictory, right? It is true that we travel a lot, most of the time to attend conferences and workshops. Also, we get involved in social activities during these meetings and often have a small getaway to know the places we are visiting. However, it is false to think that we do not work on these trips, we are always doing something related to our research (talking with potential collaborators, showing our results to the community, making new relationships).

This does not mean we do not have holidays. We have them!!! We can take a couple of days off to explore new places, visit family and friends or relax for a while. What is also true is that a few of us do not know how to separate our personal life of our work life because our minds are always thinking about emails, papers, codes, etc.

Work! Work! Work! Always working!

Even if we are on holiday, I will come back to Leeds soon to have my first work visit since I started working in ISDEFE, Madrid WOOHOO! It will be great to be back in the UK for a couple of days to work directly with my supervisor and see my old office mates. Additionally, I will attend a star formation meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland (I know what you are thinking, more travel!).

Hopefully, everybody is enjoying their holidays (or will enjoy them soon).  Usually, they finish too fast!

Conference season!

The time has come, we need to have the posters and talks ready, hotels and flights booked; and suitcases packed, it is conference season!!! From June to September most of the astrophysics conferences and workshops take place. It is during this period when academics, post-docs, and PhD students gather in different parts of the world to celebrate science.

But what does this mean exactly? During this time, generally for four days to a week, astronomers meet in a venue and listen to different people talk about their recent results or fascinating review talks about a specific topic. Also, we have poster presentations which is another alternative way to share the results of our work in a more relaxed form. This style is an option for those who do not present a talk.

The STARRY Team have their presentations ready to be shown at a few conferences during this season. Recently, from the 28 May to 01 June 2018 I attended “The Olympian Symposium 2018” in Paralia Katerini, Mount Olympus, Greece; where I presented a poster with the recent results of my project. Additionally, I attended the “Gaia DR2 Exploration Lab” in ESAC, Madrid from 25 – 29 June 2018. I also plan to attend and show a poster at the “XIII Scientific Meeting of the Spanish Astronomical Society” in Salamanca, Spain from 16 – 20 July 2018 and “The Wonders of Star Formation” in Edinburgh, Scotland from 3-7 September 2018.

These will be very busy and fun days where we will see old colleagues, meet new ones and update our knowledge with recent results. Plus, we have the opportunity to visit a new place.

It’s conference season and we are prepared!



Ask yourself this question: How do you prepare for the new data release of a space mission which is changing the perspective of how we look the sky? A few of the answers could be: Working as fast as you can, finishing your scripts, prepare the data, drafting the papers and probably not sleeping much.

Most of the scientific community was doing this before 25 April 2018 because that was the date for the second release of Gaia (Gaia DR2). As you might know, Gaia has measured the positions, distances, space motions and many physical characteristics of around a billion stars in our Galaxy and beyond. The analysis of this data will have a significant impact on the astronomical community, and now they have it!

For this release, we have the positions on the sky, parallaxes, and proper motions for more than 1.3 billion sources, median radial velocities for more than 7.2 million stars and so much more. Those numbers can be scary, but at the same time, they are exciting because for this more substantial number of sources we can point out and know exactly where they are. Besides the excellent team behind Gaia have performed a cross-matches between Gaia DR2 and catalogues like 2mass, SDSS DR9, Pan-STARRS1, GSC2.3, PPM-XL, AllWISE, like they did with the first release. Is this not amazing? Gaia team, thanks for making easier part of our work. For more information about Gaia DR2 and Gaia in general, visit

If I was surprised at how accurate Gaia DR1 was, and Gaia DR2 have changed everything. The impact on my project with the new data looks very promising. The new values for the five-parameter astrometric solution have given me better – and more precise – answers for my research which encourage me to continue exploring this data and hopefully make important discoveries.

So, what can I say? Gaia DR2 is finally here!

Spain: the second part of the project began

STARRY is a joint EU-funded training programme provided by the University of Leeds, UK and the ISDEFE in ESAC, Madrid, Spain. During my PhD, I have the fantastic opportunity to work in two different environments. I started the first part of the programme at the University of Leeds in January 2017. Currently, I am at the ISDEFE at the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) in Madrid. ISDEFE as a company provides services related to the definition, design, development, management, operation and maintenance of space complexes to ESAC. Besides, has personnel providing archival support and development at ESAC.

ESAC is a place where many of the space missions, like Gaia, have their home. Also, it is a community where astrophysicists, engineers, software developers, technical support and many others work every day to allow us to have updated information about the current missions and future missions, have access to archives to take the data we need to make our science and keep the satellites in operation.

My work in this period has concentrated in preparing myself for the Gaia DR2 that will be released very soon! April 2018. Also, I have been working on continuing to meet the objectives proposed in my project.

I am grateful to live this experience; even with the challenges of moving country; I had to arrive and live in Madrid. I had the warm welcome in the new office, and so far, I am enjoying my time in ESAC.

This is just the beginning of the second part. Hopefully, everything is going to be how it is supposed to be.

One of the challenges of being a PhD student in the UK is the experience of the transfer viva

But, what is a transfer viva? Is an oral exam where the student has to answer questions about the work they have been doing for 10 months since the beginning of the PhD. This represents an important step in this journey because the outcome of this determines whether you can continue or not in the program. I am very happy to say that I passed my transfer viva and officially I am a 2nd  year PhD student at the University of Leeds.

Moreover, before the end of  last year, I attended two interesting workshops that took place in ESAC, Spain.  One was the Third ASTERICS School, the focus for this was The Virtual Observatory (VO). In this, I learned about how to use different astrophysics tools, such as Topcat, Aladin, VOSA, etc.; and apply the knowledge in a scientific case. The ESAC DATA ANALYSIS & STATISTICS workshop was the second one I attended, where I learned about fundamental topics in statistics and data analysis from a group of experts in the field.

Finally, I helped my English advisor to create a short video presentation about the need for writing skills when doing research. This will be used in the near future as material for a course given by the Language centre of the University of Leeds. Also, I had the opportunity to show physics demos to groups of kids and the general public in the IOP outreach event, Stargazing Live 2018.

Every day is a new experience in the life of a PhD student.


A part of being a PhD student is to be able to show your work to the research community. That is why every year we have the opportunity to attend different congresses, conferences, workshops, etc. at home and around the world.

At the beginning of my PhD I had the chance to show my work at an international conference in Florence, Italy called: “Francesco’s Legacy –Star Formation in Space and Time”, from the 5-9 June 2017. This was a week where researchers from all over the word gave talks about many different aspects of astronomy and paid homage to Francesco Palla. I presented a poster about the research I have been developing in the 6 months in Leeds. This obtained very positive comments from the researchers, whose work I have been using. I also had the opportunity to attend a workshop in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain called: “Star Form Mapper Workshop. Star Cluster Formation: Mapping the first few Myrs”, from the 14- 15 June 2017. In these two days, I was able to learn about the new perspectives of the theoretical and observational views of clusters thanks to the talks by the experts. In addition, I attended “North Star Formation meeting” in Liverpool”, from the 7-8 September 2017. This was a two day meeting with a big group of researchers and PhD students in the north of the UK. This gave the opportunity to all the attendants to know the work of our neighbours.

In general, this was a very good experience to show my work to the research community and receive good comments about the STARRY project. I am looking forward to the next trip.

University of Leeds

The last couple of months have been full of work that never ends… but it is supposed to be like this. Be a full-time PhD student demands most of my time.

The first few weeks were spent just doing the paperwork to formalize the registration as a PhD student and start to get an idea of how the University and my school works. This time represent an opportunity to get to know a group of important people in my school who offer me support for any problem or question I could have now and in the future.

The University of Leeds offers me a wide variety of activities, academic and recreational. Some part of the academic activities I have attended different workshops where I can develop my skills as I proceed through my research degree. These workshops, so far, have been very helpful and supply me with a lot of information to carry out my studies efficiently and to get in touch with other PhD students. The recreational activities, have allowed me to go out with my offices mates or with a big group from the university to explore Leeds and the neighbourhood.

At the same time, the university provides me with an excellent environment and facilities to carry on with my project. In the meanwhile, I have been learning about Herbig Ae/Be stars, clusters, and GAIA; which are the three key word of the project I will work on during my PhD.

The Beginning!

After going through the process of applying for a PhD, passing the interview and waiting for the final answer, in March of 2016, I received an email from Dr. Rene Oudmaijer offering me the place to be part of the STARRY project. This was a wonderful surprise and the start of a change of life. I had to rush in finish my Masters degree in June 2016 and begin with all the documentation I needed to live in the UK.  Because nothing is perfect, the documentation process was very slow and with a lot of problems which delayed my arrival at Leeds from September 2016 to January 2017.  Finally, on 6th of January, I arrived in Leeds to start the first part of my PhD at the University of Leeds. My journey to Leeds was quite surprising. First of all, the airline lost one of my suitcases during the connecting flight; and secondly, the change in the weather. However, I had a very unexpected welcome; first, at the airport from my supervisor and second, on my first day in the University from the other PhD student and staff of the School of Physics and Astronomy.

In this short time, I am trying to develop the basic knowledge for my project and this project aim to estimate the nature of clusters around Herbig Ae/Be. This work will be elaborated with data from GAIA (

This PhD has been a big challenge, in a new country and in a different language… but it is just the beginning…