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Interview with Hendrik Schmerling

  • Please introduce yourself

My name is Hendrik Schmerling and I am from Cologne.

  • What institution do you work for?

I work as a PhD-student at the Rheinische Institut für Umweltforschung.

  • What was your career?

I didn’t actually start with astronomy, I started with meteorology; and that came more as a coincidence that I started with astronomy.

  • How did you get into exoplanet research?

It actually happened that a lecture was offered at our university; and that sounded very interesting to me, so I took part in it and afterwards asked the professor if I could work for him as a student. And of course I did, he was so kind to give me this position. And afterwards I was offered a PhD position, which I of course accepted immediately.

  • Please briefly describe your research topic.

I work mostly on planet discovery, analyzing data from space telescopes to try to find new exoplanets. But partly I also do atmospheric modeling.

  • What scientific question(s) do you seek to answer?

The most interesting thing, of course, is how the other planets, planets outside our solar system, are structured, how many of them there are and what diversity they all have.

  • What methods do you use?

As mentioned earlier, the main focus is to evaluate the data from space telescopes. Partly also with other telescopes, which are in Italy or in the Atacama desert, are used, in order to confirm that once again.

  • Why do you find your research topic in particular interesting?

Oh, I could say a lot of things now, of course, but it is above all the discovery of the unknown that is the most and the best thing about it.

  • Where do you see connections between your topic and other fields of research?

First and foremost, it’s about verifying where we came from and where we’re going. And there exoplanets are one of the most important components and pieces of the puzzle to verify the general existence of the earth and the planets and stars in general and just to learn how it all is connected, how the universe is built, and especially stop planets.

  • Do you regularly collaborate with other SPP 1992 projects?

I mainly work with my research group, of course, but also with a research group from Tübingen, and there it is mainly about atmospheric modeling, because they are experts in the field of radiative transfer and have written their own program codes for it, which I like to use. And that’s why I have to ask them every now and then how this is actually done.

  • Which SPP 1992 offers did you make use of?

Actually, not that many, because I started my studies right during the Corona pandemic, and that’s when they cut back a bit on the joint meetings, and summer schools, workshops and such. So far, I’ve only participated in online offerings, especially the webinars and the joint conferences.

  • Could the SPP 1992 support your research?

Of course, I am partly paid by the funds, which I would already call very good support. But also the whole expertise that prevails here is of incredible importance for me, because alone I could not concentrate on the things at all and I would also still know so little about this field if the other researchers in the SPP had not helped me.

  • What might we know about your topics in 10 years?

Of course in 10 years one has found still much more planets than that is already the case today, and then I hope nevertheless also that on the basis of that one knows still much better how planets have formed, how many planets there are in the universe and in the Milky Way and how such solar systems are then structured.

  • What are your hobbies outside of science?

I actually have a few hobbies. Besides skating, especially with inliners, I love to ride my bike, but I also play the ukulele.

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