Anna Lisa Varri, University of Edinburgh

Anna Lisa Varri, University of Edinburgh

Rethinking the dynamical paradigm of low-mass stellar systems.

Anna Lisa Varricareer trajectory has been at the interface between Physics, Applied Mathematics, and Astronomy. Anna received their education in Theoretical Physics at the Università degli Studi di Milano in Italy and, as a Fulbright Scholar, at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Anna’s PhD thesis has been recognised by the International Astronomical Union with a Gruber Foundation Young Scientist Award, which they took up at Indiana University Bloomington, United States. Anna spent their postdoctoral years in Edinburgh, Scotland, first as a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Fellow in the School of Mathematics, then as a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow at the Institute for Astronomy. Currently, Anna is a JSPS International Fellow at the University of Tokyo, where they are studying the nexus between kinematic complexity and black holes in collisional systems. The Future Leaders Fellowship has truly rewarded Anna’s multidimensional research vision, which they will pursue in unique environment offered by the University of Edinburgh. 

‘All large galaxies, including our own Milky Way, contain hundreds of 'globular clusters'. Each is a dense collection of about a million stars which are among the oldest in the universe. Through a mathematician's eye, they correspond to the problem of understanding the motion of N bodies interacting by long-range forces. Through an astronomer's telescope, they appear as the first baryonic structures emerged at the dawn of the formation of galaxies. Both souls have always lived in me, and I believe this why I find this subject so appealing,” says Anna.

These ancient groups of stars have been used by astronomers for countless purposes, over many decades. More recently, they have been recognised as cradles for small, 'stellar-mass', black holes and they have been long speculated to be the birth site of larger, 'intermediate-mass', ones - currently undetected. But LIGO and new gravitational waves detectors may soon help us solve this puzzle. Furthermore, the new European space observatory Gaia can now observe globular clusters in the Milky Way with unprecedented detail, which current theory cannot match.

A revolution in our understanding of these building blocks of our universe has therefore started. With a combination of applied mathematics techniques and numerical simulations, my research aims at studying how such new-generation data can shed light on three big questions in modern astrophysics: the origin of the first stellar aggregates, the existence of intermediate-mass black holes, and the limits of the presence of invisible 'dark' matter in small stellar systems’.



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