LYP Interview #1_Dr Suzanna Randall

 

Dr. Suzanna Randall

Profession: Astrophysicist

Dr. Suzanna Randall works as a scientist at the European Southern Observatory in Garching near Munich and for the ALMA telescope project in Chile. Following a multi-stage selection process, she is currently training to become the first German woman in space with the private initiative "Astronautin". The mission will be to the International Space Station ISS and will encompass both scientific experiments, focusing on the female body in weightlessness, and outreach/education activities aimed particularly at girls. She also co-moderates “Terra X Lesch & Co.” on the ZDF YouTube channel.

The following interview is loosely based on the questionnaire by Marcel Proust and was given to Quai7 in September 2020.

 Quai7: Why did you become an astrophysicist? 

Suzanna Randall: I have been fascinated by space since I was a little girl, and have always been curious by nature. As a teenager I started reading up on stars and planets, cut astronomical images out of magazines and fantasized about flying into space, or at least studying it from afar and discovering new worlds. So when it came to deciding on what I wanted to do for a career, astrophysics seemed the obvious choice!

Quai7: What are you currently working on? 

Suzanna Randall: I currently spend about half my time supporting the ALMA telescope in Chile. ALMA is the largest telescope in the world in the mm-wavelength regime and consists of 66 antennas. Within ALMA, I am responsible for a piece of software used to assure the data quality. The other half of my time I divide between astronomical research focused on the evolution of stars and activities for the “Astronautin” project, such as astronaut training or outreach activities. 

Quai7: You are flying  to space station ISS. What insights do you hope to gain from the mission? 

Suzanna Randall: Scientifically, I hope to contribute to research on the female body in weightlessness. Any findings will also have implications for medical research here on Earth, which is currently still biased towards the male body. In terms of societal impact, I hope to show girls and women in Germany and around the world how exciting science can be, and rouse their interest in STEM subjects. Personally, I look forward to seeing our planet from above and enjoying the feeling of floating weightless! 

Quai7: What do you think and feel when you look at the stars? 

Suzanna Randall: One of the great things about working at telescopes is that you get to see some of the darkest night skies in the world. I still love looking up at the stars as a break from work and simply dreaming about what may be out there. 

Quai7: Why do the laws of nature exist? 

Suzanna Randall: So that humans can have fun trying to figure them out. 

Quai7: Is the universe/our earth created by chance or is there a plan behind it? 

Suzanna Randall: I am not religious and believe the universe and our Earth were created by chance. 

Quai7: Where do we humans come from, where are we going? 

Suzanna Randall: As an astrophysicst, I say we humans come from stardust and will go back to being stardust. 

Quai7: Would you fly to a planet where the total time for the journey is 30 years? 

Suzanna Randall: That’s a tough question and my answer depends on the scenario. In principle I am up for exploration and even colonizing other planets, but I would not go if it would mean leaving all my friends and family behind. 

Quai7: Is there life outside the earth? 

Suzanna Randall: I am convinced that there is life out there somewhere, yes. However, any life beyond Earth is likely to be quite primitive (e.g. microbes) and/or too far away for us to detect it, never mind make contact. 

Quai7: What is perfect earthly happiness for you? 

Suzanna Randall: Being awed by the beauty of nature 

Quai7: What is your favourite pastime? 

Suzanna Randall: I really enjoy paragliding, being outside and playing with the elements.

Quai7: Which book is currently on your bedside table? 

Suzanna Randall: “Girl, woman, other” by Bernadine Evaristo 

Quai7: What qualities do you value most in other people? 

Suzanna Randall: Honesty, kindness, curiosity, openness 

Quai7: Which mistakes are you most likely to excuse? 

Suzanna Randall: Rashness, insensitivity, changing one’s mind

Quai7: Your favourite character in history and why? 

Suzanna Randall: Sally Ride, because she inspired me to become an astronaut. 

Quai7: Your favourite writer? 

Suzanna Randall: Isabel Allende

Quai7: Your favourite composer? 

Suzanna Randall: Beethoven

Quai7: Your present state of mind? 

Suzanna Randall: Pensive

Quai7: Your motto or favourite quotation? 

Suzanna Randall: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”

Quai7: Thanks a lot, dear Suzanna!

 

Suzanna Randall preparing for her flight to space station ISS.

 

 

"Die Taschen von Quai7 sind wirklich unkaputtbar."

Sophia