Dr Laura Driessen
Laura is a postdoctoral researcher at the Sydney Institute for Astrophysics (SIfA) at the University of Sydney. She is also a member of the 2023-2023 Superstars of STEM cohort, a Science and Technology Australia initiative to train and promote women and non-binary STEM experts to elevate their media presence.
Laura’s research focuses on searching for and investigating radio emission from stellar sources using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) and MeerKAT telescopes. She combines information from ASKAP, Gaia, and X-ray surveys (and more!) to determine which radio point sources have stellar origins and which do not. Laura is also the joint Project Scientist for the Variables and Slow Transients (VAST) with ASKAP team along with Dr. Dougal Dobie from Swinburne University. Additionally, she is part of the POSSUM collaboration and RACS.
Apart from her work with ASKAP, Laura also works on variable and transient sources with MeerKAT as part of the MeerTRAP team. She has contributed to the development of a rapid imaging pipeline for fast radio burst localization. Laura continues to work with ThunderKAT, searching for commensal variables and transients in the GX 339-4 field.
Laura completed her PhD, “Radio Transients with MeerKAT,” in 2021 at The University of Manchester. During her PhD, she worked on the first transient discovered with MeerKAT, the binary stellar system MKT J170456.2-482100. She investigated systematics in the light curves of sources detected by MeerKAT and extracted using the LOFAR Transients Pipeline (TraP). She began working on the MeerTRAP rapid imaging pipeline and found 21 new radio variable sources in the GX339-4 field. Laura also found radio emission from a known X-ray flaring M-dwarf star, EXO 040830-7134.7.
Before completing her PhD, Laura obtained a master’s degree from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) where she imaged the Galactic Plane using LOFAR High-Band Antenna (HBA) observations to investigate Pulsar Wind Nebula (PWN) G54.1+0.3 and improve a PWN evolution model by Dr. Joseph Gelfand. Laura also attended the Annual LOFAR Data School in September 2016 where she learnt about LOFAR imaging tools and processes. During her work on the LOFAR observations, she discovered a new supernova remnant (SNR G53.41+0.03) in the Galactic Plane. Laura was awarded the De Zeeuw-van Dischoek prize for the best astronomy master’s thesis in the Netherlands. She also won first prize for best astronomy master’s thesis and runner-up for best astronomy master’s thesis presentation at the University of Amsterdam.
Laura is committed to science outreach and education, inspiring and encouraging the next generation of scientists, particularly young women and girls, to pursue careers in STEM fields. Laura is available for visits to local schools to speak to students about her research, career path, and the exciting opportunities available in astronomy and astrophysics. Laura is interested in supporting young women and girls who may face unique challenges and barriers in pursuing careers in STEM. She believes that everyone should have the opportunity to pursue their passions and interests, regardless of gender, race, or background.
Get in touch
Laura is available to zoom in to your school (anywhere in Australia) or to arrange an in-person visit to local Sydney/NSW schools. Please visit the school visits page for more information, or contact Laura via email at Space@AstroLaura.com