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304 interviews since 2018

Arcelia Hermosillo Ruiz

Astronomy and Astrophysics PhD Student

Who are you, and what do you do? What do you like to do outside of work?

Hi! I’m Arcelia, a PhD student in Astronomy and Astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. I am curious about the world, how things work, and our place in the universe—and I love a challenge, so becoming an astrophysicist just made sense! As a researcher, I read published work by other scientists to understand theories in the field and inspire my own research. I spend the rest of my time working through analytical problems and coding in Python, C, and sometimes FORTRAN. I present my work at conferences and public events, so science communication and data visualization are also important aspects of the job. I have a couple of years left in my program before I become a doctor (but I won’t be able to save anyone’s life, unfortunately).

Arcelia Hermosillo Ruiz giving a presentation
Arcelia prepares for a presentation

I study the evolution of our Solar System by modeling planets and thousands of “particles” with nbody integrator codes. The particles in these simulations represent all the objects in our solar systems that are not planets. (There’s millions of them!) I compare outputs from my simulations to measurements of Kuiper Belt Objects (icy objects beyond Neptune) in order to constrain how the planets in our Solar System changed their orbits over the last four billion years.

Arcelia Hermosillo Ruiz's setup
Next stop: Doctora Hermosillo Ruiz

I also study planetary systems around other stars–extrasolar systems–by comparing simulation outputs to images of “debris disks” around their star. These images are primarily taken by state-of-the-art space telescopes, but there are a few ground-based telescopes that have adequate resolution to measure these disks. A debris disk is a disk of material that did not make it onto planets as they were forming. This disk is composed of bodies ranging all sizes from dust particles to approximately Pluto sized-objects. The asteroid belt and Kuiper belt are two debris disks in our Solar System. Through my research, I’m contributing to discoveries in planet formation and evolution.

I find joy in mentoring students who are aspiring to become astrophysicists or scientists in general, especially if we share similar backgrounds. When I’m not working on my science or academic projects, I enjoy spending time with loved ones, watching movies, playing on my Nintendo Switch, hiking in beautiful California, and taking care of my plants. I love exploring creative outlets such as coloring, painting, and photography, and am always looking for new hobbies to be slightly good (and bad) at. My photography Instagram account is @bylaarcy7.

Arcelia Hermosillo Ruiz's houseplants
Arcelia takes very good care of her plants

What hardware do you use?

My office setup consists of a 13” MacBook Pro 2018, Dell UltraSharp Curved UltraWide Monitor, and standing desk provided by the university. I love the wide monitor since I can switch between various windows without having to hide any. My laptop serves me well for short-scale simulations, googling “how to” millions of times, photo editing, Netflix, etc. The bulk of my simulations run on supercomputer clusters, so I haven’t needed anything more advanced.

Arcelia Hermosillo Ruiz's office
Arcelia's office shows her minimalist aspirations and her love of plants

I bought the Moonlander keyboard about three months ago and have been loving it so far; it’s really helped control chronic shoulder/upper chest pain that I’ve experienced for two years now. Around the same time, I bought the Logitech Lift mouse, and it’s helped forearm pain as well. These two pieces of hardware have improved my posture and made a great impression on my grad student friends who pass through my office! I also just bought this rocking stool so that I can rest my feet on a surface while sitting at my desk.

I love keeping these calendar and dog puzzles on my desk for times my brain needs a break from my research. I also love surrounding myself with plants and decorations that bring me joy. Various fidget gadgets have passed through my desk, and currently I have a 3D-printed banana slug and Velcro thing that is supposed to be used for my wires…

One of Arcelia Hermosillo Ruiz's puzzles
Puzzles are good for the brain

I primarily use my iPad Pro for notetaking and reading/annotating science literature. Once in a while I doodle on my iPad between meetings or in the evenings. Last, I use AirPods Pro buds when my office mates are in the office taking virtual meetings or want to vibe to some tunes while I work.

And what software?

For coding on my laptop, I use VS Code, the terminal app, and Jupyter Notebook. I used to only code in emacs for my undergrad research until my computer science friends taught me about Sublime and other text editors–changed my life! Now I use Vim for quick edits through the terminal. When SSH’ing into the cluster, I edit code with emacs. There, I use Slurm to queue jobs.

Through our university, I have access to Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc., which I use regularly. For writing my science papers, I use the online LaTeX text editor Overleaf. My favorite note-taking app on my iPad is Notability, which conveniently syncs with my laptop! For midday pick-me-ups I go to Spotify for music that could pump me up.

What’s your keyboard setup like? Do you use a custom layout or custom keycaps?

I have a white Moonlander with linear keyswitches. This is my first mechanical keyboard and ergonomic anything, and I’m loving it! I have been editing my keyboard layout every two weeks or so. It’s exciting to optimize my layout as I continue to get used to the keyboard.

What would be your dream setup?

I would love to have both a work computer and personal computer, but I can’t convince myself to buy a new laptop for work, since my current one works fine. Once I’m in a new position and have work funds to buy a new laptop, I hope to get one of the newer MacBooks. As an aspiring minimalist, it would be nice to see fewer cords and things on my desk. At the same time, however, I like having fun decorations and need my three devices at any given time. I’m not actually sure that I would change anything!

At home I have a desk in my bedroom, which I don’t use as often since I mainly work on campus. My dream for a home setup would be a separate office room with a comfortable, cozy chair and great natural lighting. I would love having a large monitor that I could connect my Nintendo Switch to and play video games peacefully. This would help me reach a less cluttered aesthetic, which is my ultimate goal.

Arcelia Hermosillo Ruiz's photo of trees
Keep reaching for the stars, Arcelia! You're in good company!

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