Q+A: Dr Eleonora Di Valentino on cosmology
Can you tell us a bit about your career so far?
I obtained my PhD in Physics at the University of Rome La Sapienza in January 2015, with a thesis entitled 'Constraining Fundamental Physics with Current Cosmological Data'. In November 2014, I joined the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris as a Lagrange post-doctoral fellow to work on the Planck satellite data release. In August 2017 I moved to the University of Manchester with a postdoctoral position, to join the Dark Energy Survey collaboration. In December 2017 I won the first edition Premio Minerva alla Ricerca (Minerva 2017 Research Award) of the Fondazione Roma Sapienza, for the achievements reached at the first stages of the career. In December 2020 I started a 3 years Addison-Wheeler fellowship at Durham University. In 2021 I was awarded the Alfredo Di Braccio Prize for a researcher in Physics by the Accademia dei Lincei. I won the Portuguese competition for a six years position as Assistant Researcher at CENTRA (Lisbon) that I declined to join the University of Sheffield as a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow.
What sort of topics have you been working on as a researcher? Can you describe one of your main research topics?
My research is focused firstly on constraining neutrino physics and other light fundamental particles, such as axions, with cosmological probes. Additionally, I’m part of many collaborations: as HFI CORE team member of Planck I was involved in testing the high-l Plik likelihood, as a member of CORE-M5 I forecasted the capability of this future satellite mission to constrain cosmological parameters, I am also a member of EUCLID since 2011, and joined the DES working group on extensions of the standard cosmological model in 2017 and CMB-S4 and LSST in 2018. Finally, I’m further testing the validity of the standard LCDM model, combining the Planck data with other cosmological probes, such as BAO or Weak Lensing. In fact, when the base LCDM model is extended and other cosmological parameters are free to vary, a few anomalies are present in the parameter values. These anomalies might be due to systematics or more excitingly could indicate physics beyond the standard model. Currently I am working on extensions of the standard model that can explain the Hubble constant disagreement, the S8 tension, the excess of lensing in Planck and the indication for a curvature of the Universe.
What made you want to join the School of Mathematics and Statistics?
I expect the stimulating and interdisciplinary environment of the University of Sheffield will give me the tools I need to advance my research work. Actually, the University of Sheffield has a well established group in cosmology, therefore I plan to collaborate with the leading scientists present here, to work for example on Dark Energy physically motivated models I could investigate with the cosmological data. Moreover, with my expertise on combining cosmology with fundamental particle physics, or to go beyond the standard cosmological model and test the physics beyond the standard model, I think I can concretely complement the present group, bringing the link between observations and theory.
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