Institute of Astronomy

Equality and Diversity at the Institute of Astronomy

The Institute of Astronomy, like the University of Cambridge, is committed in its pursuit of academic excellence to equality of opportunity and to a proactive and inclusive approach to equality, which supports and encourages all under-represented groups, promotes an inclusive culture, and values diversity.

In 2017 we were awarded Juno Practitioner status by the Institute of Physics:

The Institute was also awarded the Athena SWAN Bronze Award in 2017 (see our submission here: including our Action Plan).


A representative from our Post-Doc community, Ghina Halabi, was funded to attend the Women in Astronomy IV meeting in Texas in summer 2017.  She was also invited to participate in the United Nations Expert Meeting on Space for Women in October 2017.  In June 2018 she attended the UNISPACE+50 event in Vienna, and called for "a UN sponsored international female alumni ambassador programme, for female role models to go back to their countries and their alma maters to inspire young girls to aspire, to dream and to achieve" (

As part of our efforts to support and sustain a positive working environment for all staff the Institute has its own Dignity@ Work contacts, Cathie Clarke and Mary Howe.  For more information about how Dignity @ Work operates, see our local webpages:  There’s also a great deal of information about the University’s policy on the pages here:

 Information relating to other relevant university events and initiatives can be found below:


Supporting parents and carers @Cambridge network

Women’s Staff network

LGBT+ Staff network

Breaking the Silence

Other information relating to family-friendly university policies, or to leave, appraisal, promotion and other HR policies can be found on the University’s HR webpages:

Diversity at the IoA

At the IoA we are proud to support people from all backgrounds and genders. There are fewer women than men in Astronomy departments in academic and technical roles, but the IoA can be a fun and rewarding place to work and we are keen to encourage women to apply to work here.  Below you can meet some of the women currently with us.

Debora Sijacki: Reader in Astrophysics and Cosmology

After a stellar student career in Italy and Germany which included being awarded the Otto Hahn medal by the Max Planck Institute for outstanding studies at PhD level, Debora spent three years as an STFC Post doctoral Fellow at the IoA before taking up a Hubble Fellowship at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard University.  She returned to join the academic staff at IoA in 2013.  Her interest is in the formation and evolution of cosmic structures from small mass galaxies at high redshifts to the most massive galaxy clusters of the present-day universe.  She also currently chairs the Project Management Board for DiRAC, the UK national High Performance Computing facility. She combines her successful career with motherhood.  

Ghina Halabi: Post Doc

I joined the IoA as a postdoc after receiving my PhD from the American University of Beirut. I’m a Junior Research fellow at Wolfson College and a course supervisor at Churchill College. My research is mainly focused on the evolution of stars and the element formation in their interiors. I use evolution codes to model stars and compare their predicted properties to a broad range of observations. I also study how stellar evolution is affected by duplicity and fast rotation.

I advocate gender equality and representation in STEM through my role in the Postdocs of Cambridge Society as University Representation & Policy Officer, the Equality & Diversity committee at the IoA and as co-chair of the Astro-postdoc committee. I represented the IoA at the Women in Astronomy conference in Texas and the United Nations Expert Meeting on Space for Women at the UN in New York.

Sophie Koudmani: Ph.D. student

Sophie Koudmani is a graduate student working on galaxy simulations. 

Originally from Germany, I came to the UK to study Physics at Oxford. Having enjoyed both astrophysics and fluid dynamics, I decided to work on hydrodynamic simulations of galaxies for my PhD. The IoA is an excellent place for numerical projects as we have access to a variety of high performance computing facilities and a great range of expertise in the simulators group. In addition to our weekly group meetings, we also have weekly group lunches providing plenty of opportunities to discuss our research and to share experiences as well as best practices.

Anjali Piette: Ph.D. student

Anjali Piette is a graduate student in the exoplanet atmospheres group.

I grew up in Durham, but in a mixture of Belgian, French and Indian cultures. I've been in Cambridge since the start of my undergraduate studies... and loved it so much that I stayed on for a PhD! The IoA in particular is where I have worked and studied for the past three years, and its welcoming and lively atmosphere has really shaped who I am as a researcher today. I now work on characterising exoplanet and brown dwarf atmospheres based on their emission spectra. It's a really exciting area, and Cambridge is a great place to do it with its large community of exoplanet researchers. I feel very lucky to be in such an inspiring environment!


Page last updated: 20 June 2018 at 09:27