Interview with HAO's Anna Malanushenko

Thursday, January 30, 2020

I was born and raised on the Crimean peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea (Eastern Europe), an area currently disputed between Russia and Ukraine. In brief, I was born in a politically incorrect place.

I grew up near the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory where my parents were astrophysicists. It was similar to Sunspot, NM, in that it’s also in the mountains and at the time of my birth, the population consisted mostly of scientists. Everyone knew each other and when walking down the street at night the people I’d encounter would most likely be stellar astronomers coming to/from their work.

Photograph of Anna Malanushenko
Anna in Arizona

I wanted to be a scientist relatively early in life. During my childhood, I often visited my parents at the Observatory during their shifts—Dad on stellar, Mom on solar telescopes, and it was obvious how much they enjoyed their research. Back then I didn’t think I would be an astrophysicist too, but I did want to do STEM, so I chose it as a major in high school. My second choice could have been a medical doctor or a surgeon. I got admitted to a boarding school affiliated with St. Petersburg State University, which is considered one of the best in the country and acceptance is dependent on high grades. Later, I remained at St. Petersburg State University to study physics.

My growing desire to do research motivated me to apply to Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), and I was admitted to the Solar Physics program in Tucson, Arizona. There I met and worked with Charles Lindsey and John Leibacher in helioseismology. Because this experience was so rewarding and successful, I returned as an REU student to Tucson for several more summers.

Around this time, I decided to apply to graduate school in the United States where both my parents had been living and working. At Montana State University in Bozeman, I tried to blend in—I went to grad school, I rented an apartment, I had a boyfriend, and before I knew it, I was a local and was loving it! At MSU, I began to study the solar corona with Dana Longcope, specifically working on 3D coronal loop reconstructions from observing the plane of sky. In addition, during a collaborative project, I was introduced to an NCAR/HAO scientist named Sarah Gibson. From Sarah I learned about an NCAR Advanced Study Program that would later bring me to Boulder, CO.  After completing my PhD at MSU, I did my first postdoc at Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Lab where I worked with Karel Schrijver and Marc DeRosa on developing new ways to model coronal magnetic fields.

Upon completing my first postdoc at Lockheed Martin, I applied and was accepted to the NCAR ASP Fellowship program and joined HAO. One of my HAO projects is global 3D reconstructions of the solar corona. Our research team includes Sarah Gibson, Terry Kucera, and Dave McKenzie. I currently work with Matthias Rempel, Craig DeForest, and Jim Klimchuk on a paper that I hope will make a major contribution to interpreting coronal loop observations. I also recently started to expand my area of research to include the interplanetary space. I have several projects with a large group led by Sarah Gibson on modeling and observing coronal mass ejections and on predicting their impact on Earth. 

Currently, being in Boulder and working at HAO has been a very positive experience for me. The atmosphere is very friendly, supportive, and all encompassing. I feel fine being myself, for example, being an ethnic Russian despite coming from what most people would think to be Ukraine. Much like where I grew up, Boulder is unique in its concentration of scientists and I feel at home in this environment. I am also trying to grow beyond science by accepting some organizational challenges and responsibilities. This is more fun than I expected but also more of an effort than I anticipated. I am developing professionally and personally at HAO, doing some community service by mentoring and being a member of the strategic plan steering committee.

Outside of work I am more likely to “do” things rather than “watch” things. I like completing crafts such as woodworking, sewing, or origami. While I enjoy hiking, my favorite summer activity is to bike to a waterside and relax with a good book, then bike home. Brazilian Ju-Jitsu is another of my passions. Compared to other martial arts, I like that it lacks kicks and punches, it is less aggressive than many other martial arts, but I also like the mental challenge of it; it’s like playing chess with your body parts!

Read more....Some thoughts about Crimea