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Student Corner: Lars Lund Thomsen Shares His Study Journey at HKU

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In 2019, I finished my master’s study in Denmark and started the PhD programme at HKU supervised by Dr Jane Dai on the research topics of astrophysical black holes. There have been various challenges such as adjusting to the hot and humid climate and getting through challenges related to COVID-19. Nonetheless, I have had an exceptional experience and never regretted my decision to study at HKU.

At HKU I have been conducting research on a few exciting, cutting-edge topics related to black holes. For example, I worked on a new technique called ‘X-ray reverberation’, which is basically studying the ‘echoes’ produced by the accretion disks around black holes. Similar to engineers using sound echoes to measure the depth of caves, astronomers can use these light echoes to map out the disk structures and probe the parameters of the black holes, with the help of general relativity.  Also, in the past year or so, I have been working on understanding the radiation produced when a star is ripped apart by a massive black hole millions of times heavier than the sun. Indeed, astronomers have observed about 100 such ‘tidal disruption events’! These events illuminate massive black holes in centres of galaxies so we can see them for a transient time, and use the radiation to probe the properties of the massive black holes and decode their evolution since the early universe. 

During the past few years, I have been privileged to be selected to give talks at a few of the largest international conferences in astronomy and astrophysics—such as the American Astronomical Meeting and the European Astronomical Society Annual Meeting—where I broadcasted the works that I published in top astrophysics journals. I have also had opportunities to visit collaborators at the University of Cambridge and the University of California. These experiences have taught me how to present my work effectively to a broad audience and collaborate with experts in different fields. Additionally, through a diversity workshop in the US, I gained a deeper understanding of the obstacles that females and people of racial and ethnic minorities face in academia and how we can help create a more inclusive environment.

I am now approaching the end of my PhD programme, and I am eager and confident to move into the next phase of my academic career. I am immensely grateful that HKU has provided me with an excellent platform to pursue my academic and personal goals. I am also grateful to the Hong Kong Postgraduate Fellowship Scheme, which has given me a lot of support to attend conferences and exchange programmes abroad.












Lars Lund Thomsen (second row), his supervisor Dr Jane Da (first row, middle) and other lab members took photo in front of the new supercomputing system "Blackbody" in the mini data center.