Meet...Chiara Spiniello

13 April 2021

Chiara Spiniello

Name: Chiara Spiniello
Job title: Hintze Fellow

What are you currently working on?
My biggest scientific interest is understanding the structure, evolution and formation of the most massive and oldest galaxies in the Universe. At the moment I am working on many exciting projects aimed at finding and characterising different classes of extreme and rare objects; these are gold mines to better understand how structure formed early on in the Universe history and how they evolved until the present day. Ultra-compact massive galaxies, ultra-diffuse faint galaxies, and strong gravitational lenses are all rare treasures that can help us in understanding how galaxies have formed and evolved in cosmic time.

I am leading an ongoing large observational programme to study the stellar content of "relic galaxies". These galaxies are the "ancient fossils" of the Universe: they formed very early and then did not meet any other structure in their life, so continued on their isolated path without increasing their size nor changing their stellar content over cosmic time. In the same way that an archeologist searches for dinosaur fossils, I am observing these ancient fossil galaxies, relics of an ancient universe, in the nearby Universe that are exactly as they were when they formed only one or two billion years after the Big Bang.

Describe a typical day
A typical working day would always start with a coffee. As many Italians (and especially Napolitans) I enjoy my espresso, dark and concentrated ;) and I cannot even talk nor think before my morning coffee! During breakfast I usually read the astro-ph archive to keep me up-to-date with the literature and to select interesting new papers to read.

My office hours are full of interactions, chats, "social" moments with colleagues. I love to talk to other researchers asking about their work and sharing my own.

I usually take a break in the afternoon for sport. My second passion, after astronomy, is basketball and I am a player and a coach which means I am busy with training at least four times a week. After that, and after a good dinner, I go back to my first passion and evenings are usually the most productive part of my day.

Now, in lockdown, I have a brand new routine which substitutes in-person catch-ups with virtual ones. Both chats with colleagues and training with teammates are unfortunately restricted to Zoom.

If you had an entire day at your disposal (not at work), what would be your ideal way to spend it?
Sleeping longer, waking up with an amazing breakfast, hopefully prepared by somebody else ;), then travel to the beach (or in the great outdoors) and spending the day with friends. In the afternoon, I would spend a couple of hours at the baskeball court for a friendly game and finally, out for aperitivo and dinner with teammates!

What is your favourite place in Oxford?
Unfortunately, in spite of working in Oxford for a year already, I haven’t had much chance to explore the city because of COVID-19. At the moment, my favourite place is Christ Church Meadow. I find walking along the river relaxing.

Plan B: what would you be doing if you weren’t doing your current job?
I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to do the job that I do – although sometimes it is really hard having to change city, house, friends and life every few years... I guess my plan B would be being a basketball coach, possibly for children.