siaa_logo_blue Eva K Grebel eva_circle

Astronomisches Rechen-Institut, Zentrum für Astronomie der Universität Heidelberg

Heidelberg, Germany

Job Title: Full professor (University of Heidelberg) / Director (Astronomisches Rechen-Institut)



She is an Astronomer: How many years since you got your maximum degree?

Eva Grebel: 14 years.


SIAA: What is the most senior position you have achieved?

EG: Full professorship in astronomy at the University of Heidelberg and director at the Astronomisches Rechen-Institut (since 2007).  Prior to my arrival in Heidelberg in 2007, I was a professor for astronomy at the University of Basel (Switzerland) and director of the Astronomisches Institut (2004 - 2007).


SIAA: Do you feel it was more difficult for you to get a job or a promotion in comparison with male astronomers?

EG: I personally was fortunate in not often having experienced the typical problems faced by female astronomers in many countries, but in my country and in many other European countries it is generally difficult for women to achieve top-level positions as evidenced by the very small fraction of women in these kinds of positions.


SIAA: Are women under-represented in your institution?

EG: Yes.  Out of eight full professors in astronomy, I am the only woman.  There are very few women in lower-ranking permanent positions.  When I accepted my position here, I was the only female full professor in astronomy in Germany.  Meanwhile, there are two female full professors.  Moreover, there is currently one female associate professor.  So we are really dealing with very small number statistics here.  The numbers improve slightly when considering female adjunct professors and permanent staff members at universities and research laboratories.  The number of women decreases rapidly as one moves from students to staff:  Approximately 20% of newly enrolled undergraduate students in physics and astronomy in Germany are female.  Among the students obtaining a master degree (in physics), about 15% are female, and the fraction is similar for finished PhDs.  There are approximately 7% women among those finishing their habilitation (an additional qualification after a PhD, which is still an important step towards continuing an academic career).  There are approximately 3 - 4% female professors in physics and astronomy combined.  I do not have the national statistics for astronomy alone, and the above numbers are about 5 years old.  In any case, they illustrate the well-known drop in the number of women as one proceeds to higher-qualified positions.  We have to make every effort to increase the low fractions of women.


SIAA: What is your family status?

EG: Single.  No children.


SIAA: Have you had any career breaks?

EG: No.


SIAA: How many hours per day do you normally dedicate to work?

EG: About 12 hours, including weekends.


SIAA: What would most help you advance your career?

EG: A reduction in administrative work (including committee duties) and a reduction in the teaching load.


SIAA: What recommendation would you make to young women starting their career in astronomy?

EG: Try to concentrate on your science as best you can.  Try to begin publishing (in refereed journals) as early in your career as possible, since publications (and later also citations) are vital in launching and sustaining a successful career.  Don't waste too much time on conference proceedings, which very few people will ever read (let alone cite).  But do publicise your work also at conferences - you'll be amazed how often even results published in peer-reviewed journals will be ignored unless you make an effort to advertise them in person.  Try to get some teaching experience early on - many jobs in astronomy require this.  Be willing to go abroad.  Gaining postdoctoral experience in different countries and institutions is a very useful experience.  Don't let set-backs or discrimination discourage you.