Although she wanted to be an astronomer, Rijutha Jaganathan now peers into ultrahigh vacuum chambers to study reactions catalysed by PAHs. Shy and reticent is what people would describe her at first glance though her friends strongly disagree. Moving from Bangalore to Aarhus has been the biggest decision of her life and she credits her research group and EUROPAH friends for helping her cope. Here’s what she has to say about her love for travel and history and her passion for astrochemistry. 

A monsoon evening by the lake, Bangalore

Till a year ago, home was Bangalore – a city of gardens and lakes in the heart of south India. I did my Bachelors in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics and Masters in Physics from St. Joseph’s College and then spent a few months in Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai where I discovered my passion for astrochemistry.

A bird’s eye view of Aarhus

In September 2017, I moved to Denmark to join Aarhus university for my PhD. I work in Liv Hornekær’s group. I combine my passion for astronomy with experimental surface science techniques like Scanning Tunneling Microscopy and X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy to study and understand the catalytic properties of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the interstellar medium. My research work involves working with ultra-high vacuum, learning surface science techniques, studying surface reactions, understanding the chemical complexity of the interstellar medium and working closely with theorists and observational astronomers.

Just a normal day at the lab… more things falling apart than you expected


A typical work day involves a lot of silent cries for coffee and home apart from shouting at inanimate objects and talking to the computer screens. The rare good day brings with it beautiful atomic resolution images of PAHs or mysterious x-ray photoelectron spectra.

Aarhus is Denmark’s second largest city and predominantly a student city. But my favourite thing about the city is that it was a Viking port town. I haven’t stopped reading and learning about the Vikings ever since I moved here. The toughest task though has been learning Danish. Most people here speak English so there’s hardly any motivation to learn.

The best thing about my job is that I get to learn so much from so many people. My group members have become family to me.

Enjoying my first ever snow with my group members in the university campus.

I love travelling and spend most of my free time either travelling or planning a trip or writing about my travel or reading about travel. I like walking around cities randomly to indulge in my other hobby, photography. You can read about my adventures here www.avial7.wordpress.com.

I love places with history and would gladly spend a day walking amidst ruins