Galileo

Episode Six – Questions About Dwayne, Ashna And The Show

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Ashna
Great, that brings us to the end of questions for Dwayne. Now, time for me to have a go at some questions as well.

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Dwayne
Yes, so let’s start with your background. What did you study and why?

Ashna
I studied mathematics and physics at the undergraduate level in college. I went on to complete a Master’s degree in applied mathematics in Fiji.

Then, after spending about three and a half years doing a Ph.D. program in astrophysics in New Zealand, I decided it was time to move on from the academic life about which I had been growing less and less keen, over the years

. So I submitted whatever research I had done up until then to be examined for a potential Master of Philosophy in physics. And alarmingly, this thesis, which was submitted in November last year and is still pending examination! Hah, no comments!

As to why, well, the two great passions of my life are science and fiction writing. Since at an early age, I couldn’t imagine making a living as a writer, I turned to science as my chosen career path.

If you had asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up I would have said, a scientist or researcher. Of course, if you ask me now, what I want to be when I grow up, I will say, a novelist but that’s a story for another time!

I was attracted to physics because I saw it as the more fundamental of the sciences that I was interested in. It was the subject to study if you wanted to know how everything works in the universe.

Later on, astrophysics was what I was specifically interested in. Why? Well, who doesn’t feel a sense of wonder at the achievement of man when they look up at the stars and contemplate the heights that have been reached in understanding our universe. I certainly do.

As for mathematics, it was a package deal, kind of, it just went together with physics. You had to be good at mathematics if you wanted to be good at physics.

Dwayne
What has your journey like in academia? Why did you decide to do a Ph.D.? And why did you decide to quit?

Ashna
I did my Bachelors study at the University of the South Pacific. This was the largest university in Fiji and yet the physics department was small and the astrophysics department non-existent.

And I was interested in astrophysics which made things difficult. A great many projects being funded were in environmental physics and climate change. No comments on that! It was frustrating, to say the least.

I was able to find a project remotely related to particle physics and I spent the next few months being sent back and forth between the co-supervisors.

So then I marched up to the Dean of Science to say that I wanted out of my scholarship and program. Skip the details and I was persuaded to choose another project if I wanted, instead of unenrolling.

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