UCL Astrophysics Group


Alumni Career Profile - Maria Niculescu-Duvaz

Maria completed her PhD in 2021 with Prof. Mike Barlow. Maria helped confirm that supernovae are major cosmic dust factories!

Maria Niculescu-Duvaz

Please describe (what was) your research area. 

My research area was Cosmic dust creation by Supernovae and Supernova Remnants. As part of my thesis, I helped confirm that supernovae are major cosmic dust factories :)

Describe the Astrophysics group in three words?

Inquisitive, Respectful, Funny

Your most memorable moment whilst doing your PhD? 

Probably when I go observing on the JCMT on Mauna Kea in Hawai’i, that was so fun.

Where are you working now?

I work for a tiny fintech startup called “Pennyworth”, where I am building an app which predicts a user’s financial future, and offers advice on how they can best save and invest their money so they can achieve their life goals.

What attracted you to the job?

Honestly, I was running out of money after travelling and a recruiter approached me – finance is not my area of interest. But, funnily enough I am really enjoying my job.

I’m able to learn so much more about business, cloud computing, data handling and architecture, as well as massively level up my software development. Also I have a surprising amount of freedom in my job, where I’m pretty much left alone to learn everything myself. I think this is one of the best things about working at a startup.

How has your Astrophysics PhD helped you in your line of work?

Sounds strange but I think it’s meant that people have more implicit trust in me and my competency, just because I have a PhD. This is probably partially why I’ve been entrusted with a whole project at my work with little supervision. Also, I think I developed pretty good time management during my PhD which means I know what tasks to prioritise and when. I also think it’s given me a better attention to detail, which is really helpful at work.

What do you aim to be doing in 5 years' time?

Probably working in a senior role as a data scientist in a startup or small company, but in an area which more aligned with my interests, such as educational technology or sustainability.

Any advice for budding scientists? 

You don’t have to feel pressured to commit to academia just because you’re doing a PhD, there is high demand in industry for people with our skill sets. Even if you’re just wavering and aren’t sure what you want to do after your PhD, just try something different out like an internship to get some perspective. Oh and most importantly, get out there and do some outreach :D The world and your confidence will thank you.