UCL Astrophysics Group


Alumni Career Profile - Dirk Scholte

Dirk completed his PhD in 2024 with Prof. Amelie Saintonge.

Dirk Scholte_Desi 2
I started my PhD at UCL in October 2020. The prospect of 3.5 years of open-ended research was definitely daunting as I was getting used to the enormous freedom to explore and learn new skills. Especially in the beginning it was easy to feel a little overwhelmed by the amount of work and the difficulty of it. However, with great supervision and a supportive research group this quickly turned into an exciting journey. Doing a PhD is not always fun or easy, however, it would not be so rewarding if it were. I really enjoyed becoming part of the department at UCL and working with many smart and kind people.
During my PhD I studied galaxy evolution using spectroscopic observations of millions of galaxies in the DESI survey. The aim of my work was to improve our understanding of the physical processes that shape the diverse population galaxies we see in the Universe. In particular, I used measurements such as their gas content, chemical composition, and mass to understand the processes that form them and determine their current appearance. 
The past few years I had the opportunity to visit many exciting places and work with people from all over the world. One of the at first most scary but ultimately very rewarding experiences was to give talks and seminars to share my work with academics at different universities and at conferences. However, my favourite PhD moment was submitting my thesis whilst observing in the Mayall 4-m telescope at Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona (pictured).
I am now working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Observatory of the University of Edinburgh. Here I get to continue studying galaxies and have access to recent JWST observations which allow us to build a coherent picture of galaxy evolution throughout the history of the Universe. I will be working on this for the next few years!
Whilst the science I get to work on is very exciting it is not the most important factor that keeps me motivated to do my work. The people I get to work with, solving problems together and having a supportive network are very important on a daily basis. If I were to give any advice to someone thinking of starting a PhD, it would be to not only think carefully about the research you want to do but also to find people that you will enjoy working with for the next three years. This is not just about picking the “right” supervisor, but you should also look at the broader research group that you want to join. The right fit is different for everyone and you’ll only improve your chances of finding this by keeping an open mind and talking to lots of people.