Silke Andree's Experiences at the SFB 956

About Silke

My name is Silke Andree and I am a doctoral candidate at the "I. Physikalische Institut". I am employed within the SFB 956. I also wrote my Diploma thesis in Cologne, which is why I had the possibility to get to know two different workgroups within the SFB.

For my Diploma I have been working in the instrumentation group of the institute. Astronomical observations would not be possible without sophisticated technical support and that is why I have been working on (SIS heterodyne) receivers for sub-millimetre frequencies. These frequencies are very important for astronomers as they give us a possibility to trace the birth of stars. Building such receivers requires knowledge of superconductivity as well as high frequency electronics and a cleanroom where mixer chips, including structures that are only a few nanometer thick, can be processed. Working for my Diploma I spend a lot of time in the lab, testing new devices, as well as with computer simulations, working out explanations for my measurements.

For my doctoral thesis I am currently studying star formation regions. Stars form from cold and dense clouds of atoms, molecules and dust, so called molecular clouds, which are found between the stars in galaxies. The question is how star formation depends on the chemical and physical condition within the clouds and how these are influenced by radiation from other stars. To answer these questions I am working on models describing star forming regions, on the related computer simulations and of course also with observational data.


A typical and an atypical working day

On a typical day I spend quite some time programming. I like programming work and that is one of the reasons why I chose my topic. Of course there is also reading literature, thinking about the physics and the chemistry for the models and discussions with colleagues. Once a week there is a meeting to discuss the work progress.

For lunch we -‑ that is the workgroup -- usually go to the canteen altogether. Sometimes there are Colloquia with invited scientists giving talks about their work and out of personal interest I also attend a lecture twice a week. Furthermore, due to my employment at the university, I am involved into teaching. At the moment I am correcting exercises and leading a tutorial.

On a less typical day I might be working at the "Tag der offenen Tür" at the DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft und Raumfahrt) due to the visit of the Stratospheric Observatory Sofia ( or even in other countries like this year in Chile.



Within the work for my doctoral thesis I already had the possibility to spend three weeks working at the NANTEN2 telescope ( in the Chilean Atacama desert. I was involved in observations as well as technical maintenance. Further information on the telescope can be found on the website or in the report by Ronan Higgins.

Working here in Cologne I find it fascinating that I can participate in many different international projects. There is the Stratospheric Observatory SOFIA and the NANTEN2 telescope mentioned above or, brand new, the Stratospheric Terahertz Observatory (STO,, a Long Duration Balloon experiment launched from Antarctica.

Current position

Since 2016 Silke works as Data Science Consultant at Bayer Business Services.