First contact

Things are happening! We are excited that Dr. Camilla Eldridge has accepted to join our team as a postdoc. Camilla comes from England, and did her PhD in Kingston University, London in the subject of Genetics and Evolutionary Biology. To welcome her, we decided to organise a 2-day brainstorm and put the concepts and questions on the table, inviting also Juan C. Opazo, from Universidad Austral in Valdivia, as an expert in evolutionary biology and as keynote speaker. In such an interdisciplinary project, everybody benefits from a brainstorm of this kind.

The mornings had talks, the afternoons were devoted to brainstorms. First, Alvaro Rojas-Arriagada, one of our ERIS PIs, explained how chemical elements are measured from stellar atmospheres, and why the atmospheres of low-mass stars are the fossil record of chemical evolution in the Milky Way. Rob Yates, one of our partners from Surrey University, UK, gave a theoretical overview of how chemical elements are made inside stars, and how the process of inheritance of such chemical elements occurs between different stellar populations in galaxies. Juan C. Opazo, our keynote speaker, gave an overview of phylogenetic trees, including their different formats, the nomenclature and biology vocabulary, and what is needed in order to interpret them. Danielle de Brito, one of our PhD students at Universidad Diego Portales, finally showed preliminary results of tests on trees generated from numerical simulations of galaxy formation.

The main takeaway for me is that astronomers and evolutionary biologists have a similar passion and are excited by similar questions.” – Camilla Eldridge

I think the most exciting thing is the subject itself, understanding the evolution of galaxies. I believe it is a great idea to combine the expertise of evolutionary biology, which has been reconstructing evolutionary histories for a long time, with this more young field of interstellar evolution. I have the best feelings for what’s to come in this collaboration.” – Juan C. Opazo.

The brainstorms, using the blackboard, felt like opening several cans of worms. The answer to many questions are still “we don’t know but we should find a way to find out”. Together we could decide on which questions to address first, and by putting aside our expectations of how biology or astronomy problems are solved we trust we will be able to open new paths in this uncharted territory and so understand better how biology and astronomy can be studied.

Figuring out how to apply methods used in evolutionary biology to astronomy could lead to an entirely new way of thinking about phylogenetics, at the same time we have the opportunity to explore fascinating questions about stellar evolution and the nature of galaxies.” – Camilla Eldridge

This topic is a huge mental challenge, but there is nothing more attractive to a scientist than being mentally stimulated. We thank each of those participating in the vibrant and relaxed discussions, contributing with your points of view. We look forward to more of these magic moments and ERIS is meant to provide them.

Fine-tuning the methodologies used in evolutionary biology to be used in astronomy is very exciting, and I do not doubt that the results will represent a significant advance for science. “ – Juan C. Opazo

Scientists interested in getting involved in this project, contact us, we have postdoc opportunities. Furthermore, our partner Dr. Payel Das has an independent opportunity for an ERIS-related project: