The Australian National University
Job Title: Research Fellow
She is an Astronomer: How many years since you got your maximum degree?
Raquel Salmeron: 3 years.
SIAA: What is the most senior position you have achieved?
RS: Research Fellow
SIAA: What drove you into an astronomy career?
RS: I have been interested in astronomy since an early age. In fact, I remember well when this interest started: My mother was reading a book to me, and it mentioned the word ‘planets’. I remember asking my mother what a planet was. She said something like “a planet is a big body that goes around the Sun, … and we are on one of those!”. The book was quickly forgotten and I besieged her for explanations on how this could possibly be. I feel becoming an astronomer has given me the opportunity to try and find out the answer to this question (and I am still working on it...!)
SIAA: Do you feel it was more difficult for you to get a job or a promotion in comparison with male astronomers?
RS: I am not too sure of the numbers, but it seems clear that in my institution there a lot fewer women academics, particularly in tenure/permanent positions, than men.
SIAA: Are women under-represented in your institution?
RS: Definitely. It looks like about half of the students are women (which is encouraging), but the number of women in more senior positions is seriously low in relation to the men.
SIAA: What is your family status?
RS: I have a partner and a small child (he is now seven years old, and was born when I was in the middle of my PhD). I have no other family in Australia.
SIAA: Have you had any career breaks?
RS: Not for a long time. When my son Andres was born I switched from full-time study to part time and had a few months off, which I enjoyed a lot! I was very fortunate to have very supportive supervisors and could finish my studies while enrolled part time and juggling all the different responsibilities of a new mother.
SIAA: How difficult did you find the return to work?
RS: It was difficult, but also enjoyable. I was determined to continue my career and I really believe that if we are organized and keep at it, it is possible to have a family and a career at the same time. Having said that, I also think it is important for new mothers to have the opportunity to dedicate time to their children and it is crucial that institutions provide ways for them to go back to work after that. I think the culture around in some places that having children is in some way an “impediment” to a woman’s career, or worse, something that signals “lack of interest in her part” is something to be eradicated.
SIAA: How many hours per day do you normally dedicate to work?
RS: Many hours! but I welcome the opportunity to work flexible time.
SIAA: What would most help you advance your career?
RS: I am at the stage of my career where I would like to develop new projects and broaden my interests and the scope of the work I do. It is important to develop new collaborations and participate in meetings, etc; to promote my research and I am focusing on that.
SIAA: What recommendation would you make to young women starting their career in astronomy?
RS: Go for it! Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it or discourage you by telling you it is too hard. Nobody but you can assess your capabilities and if you are passionate about it, and put the effort, you will reap the rewards!
SIAA: What have been your career highlights so far?
RS: My research focuses on star formation, the theory and models of accretion discs (the flattened discs that surround new stars and through which the star gains its mass) and the magnetic activity of young stellar objects. My results so far have shown light on the process of angular momentum transport on these disks, and how accretion proceeds.