Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Dr. Heloise Stevance

Dr. Heloise Stevance

Computational astrophysicist

in linux, scientist

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi! My name is Dr. Heloise Stevance and I'm a Computational Astrophysicist. What does that mean? Classically, astronomers split themselves along a relatively clear line between the Theoretical Astrophysicist (who make models with maths and physics) and the Observational Astrophysicist (who analyse real data from the telescopes). As a computational astrophysicist, I see myself in the middle - I understand the models (even if I don't make them) and I can wrestle with observational data (even if I've not been to a telescope in over 5 years). I am then able to bring these together with modern statistical and computational methods.

These days my area of interest focuses on understanding the life and deaths of massive stars and how they create the black holes and neutron stars that will eventually merge and release gravitational waves like the ones we've detected over the last half a decade.

What hardware do you use?

I mostly use my laptop actually! I have a Dell laptop with 12 threads (Core i7-9850H - 2.60GHz) and 16GB of RAM as well as a GPU (NVIDIA). I also have a Logitech Marble Mouse which I have had for years and adore.

And what software?

As far as operating system is concerned, I'm a big fan of Ubuntu and this machine runs fully on Ubuntu 20.04. I used to have a Windows partition but nowasays I've ditched most things Microsoft. Ubuntu is so much faster and I just can't go back.

For my data analysis I use Python with some typical mathematical and scientific libraries (numpy, scipy, pandas, sklearn) , some astronomy specific ones (astropy), and some home-made ones! (e.g. hoki, FUSS). I love working in Jupyter notebooks for day-to-day data analysis or when I start developing new features. When I'm in the heart of software development I will be using PyCharm, my favourite IDE by far. Also let's not forgot Git and GitHub for version control and for sharing my code with my community.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup? Can I have anything? The truth is that to me, my computing facilities are kind of like my desk. It doesn't matter how big a desk you give me, you can rest assured that I will use every inch of it and by the end of the week it will be covered in papers, drafts and whatnot. Similarly, it doesn't matter how much CPU/GPU power you give me, I betchu I can crash this baby with a memory overload. All jokes aside and more realistically, I think that going up a notch from the setup I currently have would be enough for most of what I do. So if I had to build my own desktop right now I'd get:

  • 2x Intel Core i9 (for 40 threads total)
  • Some Corsaire RAM (to add up to 64GB)
  • A couple of GPUs (not sure which brand though)
  • 4TB of memory to store all my data
  • A case with rainbow lights.

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