Professor Catherine Heymans holding a copy of Relativity: The Special and the General Theory by Albert Einstein.

Working as a teenage Mary Poppins on a summer ‘dude ranch’ in Texas, I found myself fearing that my brain may turn into mush. I headed to the local bookstore in search of their most challenging book, which happened to be Relativity: The Special and the General Theory by Albert Einstein. Evenings were spent on the ranch re-deriving the equations, trying to work it all out for myself, unknowingly laying the foundations for my future life surveying the universe.

Professor Catherine Heymans

A Masters in Astrophysics from Edinburgh was closely followed by a Doctorate of Philosophy from Oxford and postdoctoral Fellowships in Germany, Canada and France, returning to Edinburgh to join the Faculty as a European Research Council fellow.

I specialise in observing the dark side of our universe, the stuff that we can’t see or touch but that we know is there because of the effects it has on the stars and the galaxies that we can see. This year we’ll be opening the domes of a brand-new telescope called the Large Survey Synoptic Telescope (LSST). Set upon a remote mountain top in Chile, LSST will image the entire Southern sky to unprecedented depths. With this exquisite dataset, we will confront a range of different theories about the mysterious and poorly-understood dark matter and dark energy which make up 95% of our universe. It’s widely believed that the nature of the dark side may only be explained by bringing about a revolution in physics that will forever change our cosmic view.

It could be that we need to go beyond what I learnt all those years ago from Einstein’s book, extending his theory of gravity in order to understand the true nature of the universe.

Catherine is holding her well-thumbed childhood copy of Relativity: The Special and the General Theory by Albert Einstein, which formed the foundations of her future life surveying the universe.

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