A Day in the Life of Sarah Brough

Collaborative. Curious. Genuine.

I'm an observational astronomer whose research focuses on how the most massive galaxies in the Universe grow over time. I undertook my PhD studies at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK.

In 2004, I moved to Australia to work at Swinburne University. From 2009-2017 I worked at the Australian Astronomical Observatory, where I have been involved in several major surveys of galaxies using the Anglo-Australian Telescope.

I recently joined UNSW as an Associate Professor in the School of Physics, Faculty of Science.
Learn more about Sarah

  • 7:00 am - Time to get up. I’ve never been a morning person but since becoming a mum I try and squeeze in some time for me before everyone else gets up. This is usually spent catching up with social media, savouring my first cup of tea of the day and more often than I’d like, hanging the washing out.
  • 7:30 am - My partner gets our 4 year old son up and we enjoy breakfast together before getting everyone washed and dressed and out of the house.
  • 8:15 am - I'm in the car and off to join everyone else in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel while my partner takes our son to daycare.
  • 9:00 am - I spend the first hour at work catching up on email and smaller administrative tasks. This morning the emails are on women in science related issues as I chair the Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Chapter of the Astronomical Society of Australia, as well as from my new network of 75 women in science following taking part in the Homeward Bound leadership initiative in Antarctica in 2016. Some emails update me on research papers coming out of the two large (100ish person teams) galaxy surveys I am a member of. I am also working towards bringing access to the new Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) to Australian researchers (we are seeking $3 million to make it happen) and receive updates on where this process is up to. I arrange meetings to discuss some of these things further and also organise flights and a hotel for a conference in the Dolomites in Italy.
  • 10:00 am - Time for coffee. On Thursdays the UNSW astrophysics group have 'astrocoffee' together where we can discuss research papers and find out what’s going on in the astronomy community.
  • 10:30 am - Mornings are usually filled up by meetings related to any of the committees or projects I am working on. Sometimes these are in person but more often they are by videoconference.
  • 1:00 pm - Lunch. I need to get away from my desk to eat my lunch otherwise I find I’m very unproductive in the afternoon. That short break helps me process all the morning ideas and work out what avenue I need to pursue next.
  • 1:30 pm - Time for some research. I am working on a paper at the moment looking at whether the rotation of galaxies depends on their mass or their environment. With sample five times larger than has previously been available, I am seeing that the amount of rotation depends on mass, in contrast to previous analyses.
  • 4:30 pm - I take a moment before leaving work to note where I'm up to with projects and mark out times in my calendar for completing everything that still needs to be done.
  • 5:00 pm - Time to leave. I need to pick my son up from daycare before it closes at 6:00 pm and need to allow for the vagaries of Sydney traffic.
  • 6:00 - 7:30 pm - Family time. Time to walk my son home from daycare and hear about his day while he eats dinner before reading bedtime stories.
  • 7:30 pm - Time to cook dinner. After dinner I try and catch up on email and the administrative tasks I didn’t deal with during the day and do a bit of report writing. I find I can’t do research during this time as I guarantee I will break more than I fix.
  • 9:30 pm - Time for some winding down, a little more social media, Netflix and reading (occasionally all at once which I’m not sure is recommended) before bedtime around 10:30 / 11:00 pm. I definitely need my sleep.