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People of ASTRON: Emanuela Orrù

In People of ASTRON we share stories about the people at ASTRON. Who are the people behind the discoveries and innovations and also, who are the people that make sure that everything runs smoothly? In this second part of the series, we’ll be sharing the story of Emanuela Orrù, support scientist at ASTRON since 2012.

Published by the editorial team, 15 July 2020

What was the happiest moment in your working life at ASTRON?

There wasn’t one single moment; there were two, which are related to one another. This is when LOFAR and the APERTIF started operating for the first time. In the case of LOFAR, at that moment  I had just joined ASTRON as a telescope scientist so I had a lot to learn about operations, but that came naturally, even though I was already involved in the scientific commissioning of the instrument at that time. I knew it would be a though period, but I was eager to learn and make things happen, no matter what. In the case of APERTIF I was just offered the position of Head of APERTIF Telescope Operations when we started operations, but I had never worked with the project before. For a few months it was a steep learning curve, but in the end it gave me a lot of satisfaction, I must admit.

Which person was the most important in your career?

There are many important people; from my supervisors Luigina Feretti and Matteo Murgia to my current manager and friend Roberto Pizzo. Plus many colleagues and friends that would be difficult to mention in one interview. I like to remember the influence that Ger de Bruin had in my view of approaching problems with data processing and calibration. Sadly, he is not with us anymore and we miss him terribly.

What was your inspiration to choose this field of work?

It’s a long story, which started when I was looking around to find a nice project for my master thesis. I ended up at Luigina Feretti’s office and she proposed to me something very standard and something that was at the time pioneering in the field: ‘observations at low frequency with the Very Large Array’. I was not even sure if I wanted to continue with my career so I went for the hard one and Luigina became my thesis supervisor. That is where I started to get enthusiastic about challenges in radio interferometry. I ended up at ASTRON, where we invest in new technology, which we then operate, like with LOFAR and APERTIF.

Emanuela Orrù
Emanuela Orrù

Why did you choose for ASTRON?

Do you know that I actually planned it completely differently? I wanted to live in Sardinia (where I come from) where they were building a single dish SRT. I came to Netherlands for business unrelated to work, where I met a Dutch (non-astronomer) guy who in the end became my husband.

Since I was so much into low frequencies already, LOFAR became the second best reason to move to the Netherlands. So I had to revise my initial plans and now I go to Sardinia on holiday 😉

What does your day look like?

On the days that I go to ASTRON, I wake up at 6.30, get myself ready and help preparing our kids – they are one and six years old – for day-care and school. I leave from home at 7.30 – I live in Utrecht – and arrive at ASTRON by car around 9.15, depending on the traffic. I start my day with the ‘stand up’ where all the activities are coordinated. I follow meetings and try do some work. Then I have lunch with Roberto. I spend the afternoon trying to solve problems and again following meetings. At 17.30 I leave ASTRON and drive back home. In the car listen to music and I try to sing along to stay awake. Once I am back home I help with dinner, I play a little bit with the kids and then I help put them to bed. At around 21.00, after planning for the next day (school bags, dinner, etcetera) I am exhausted and I go to bed, where I read a little bit in my book before going to sleep. On days that I do not go to ASTRON things are a little easier and on those days I try to go for a run before I start working. Running is my new passion.



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