The newest member of the team, Sanjana will join Leiden University in September 2018. A chemist by training, she hopes to study PAHs in the lab as well as by theoretical calculations. An Indian who grew up in London, she is looking forward to experiencing a new country and a new culture.


Hi, I am Sanjana – the last addition to the EUROPAH ESRs! I joined Leiden University as a PhD student in Astrochemistry in September 2018 under the supervision of Prof Harold Linnartz and Prof Xander Tielens. My project is focused on the photodynamics (chemical and physical processes) of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the interstellar medium. This involves working with a bespoke instrumental setup at Leiden University known as the Instrument for Photodynamics of PAHs (i-PoP, see below). The instrument is an ion trap time-of-flight mass spectrometer which helps us study the fragmentation of PAHs after they’ve been exposed to radiation/light.

The i-PoP setup at Leiden University (September 2018)

My biggest challenges coming into this PhD will definitely be learning how to use i-PoP, and understanding the basics of Astronomy! I graduated from King’s College London with a First Class Honours in MSci Chemistry with Biomedicine. I am a (physical) chemist by training, and as someone that self-identifies as a chemist I need to put in a lot of extra work to teach myself the astronomy of PAHs and other related interstellar objects. I plan on taking various Master’s courses offered by the Department of Astronomy at Leiden University to help bring me up to speed.

Moving from the UK to the Netherlands hasn’t been much of a difference in terms of the weather (I still have to use a brolly every day) or the language (everyone speaks perfect English) but it’s been very fun riding my bike around town and going on boat trips along the canals. I’ve seen some beautiful places, made some fast friends and eaten some fantastic deep-fried Dutch food, so I’d say the move has been a success on all fronts so far. I plan on taking Dutch lessons for my own pleasure, and my goal is to own a boat by the end of these four years so I can truly say I’ve made it as a Dutchman.

(Fun?) Facts about myself:

  • My nickname is Ninja (or Daki, I’ll respond to either)
  • I am obsessed with ducks
  • I’ve spent a lot of my time so far in the Netherlands taking pictures of random Dutch dogs and sending them to fellow dogspotters
  • I enjoy baking and I know lots of food things; I’m a sucker for a good food-based TV show (Masterchef Australia is THE BEST)
  • I’ve seen 13% of the world! (According to TripAdvisor)
  • I love anime and manga and everything Japanese
  • I’ve been on TV and in newspapers around the world a few times for REALLY random things (ask me about them some time)