History - Success stories - Brussels 1989

Lina Tomasella (I)

She won the First Prize thanks to his study of the "Toxicity of colour dyes used as tracers". From the Brussels edition she vividly remembers a young girl from Switzerland that arrived with her guitar: "we used to get together in the evenings and we sang different songs from our countries. The atmosphere was really special. The EU Contest was a great opportunity for young students, and I am happy that I am still in science".

She reckons that her participation in the EU Contest was very important for her scientific career: "After my first prize in Brussels my self-confidence was very strong, and for this reason I pursued very firmly my aim to be a researcher in the future". That is why she tries to promote science amongst the students that come to the observatory.

After the EU Contest, she continued to study her Physics degree in the University of Padua. Her initial purpose was to specialise in biophysics, but in Padua such a field of study was not very well developed. While she was working on her thesis "a Professor asked me to focus on the dynamic and climatic stability of our planet and Mars. He actually knew about my success in the EU Contest and he thought that I could analyse very well the different biological fortunes of these planets".

That is how she entered astrophysics and, after the completion of her degree, she stayed in France for one year at the Observatoire de la Côte D'Azur in Nice. She worked on planetary system formation and, later on, she moved to the Netherlands, where she took part in the Rosetta space mission organised by ESA-ESTEC (European Space Agency / European Space Research and Technology Centre). There she would develop some software in order to simulate the trajectory of a spacecraft around a comet's nucleus. Rosetta is the name of the spacecraft, which will be launched in 2003 with the objective of approaching and mapping the comet nucleus's surface. Her work on the Rosetta project was based on "the identification of a safe orbit for the spacecraft, meaning that, in case of manoeuvre failures or telecommunication breakdown, the predicted orbit would not impact on the comet's nucleus before several days. This amount of time would be enough to restore the probe-Earth telecommunication connection or to correct the manoeuvring operations".

After her experience with the Rosetta mission, she was awarded a PhD fellowship for the Department of Astronomy in the University of Padua and she concentrated her work on open clusters. These are groups of young stars that are embedded in the gas clouds from which they originated. She describes her tasks as "the deduction of the stellar radial velocity in order to understand the dynamical evolution of these groups of stars. They are gravitationally bounded at the beginning, but they become subject to progressive detachment within a few million years. This detailed study explains why she has finally become an observer at the Asiago Observatory and why she is frequently at the telescope. She has now obtained a staff position at this Observatory, which is part of the Astronomical complex in Padua, as well as being in charge of welcoming the students that visit the Observatory to see it around and to attend some lectures on how it works.
However, she is working at the same time for another ESA project called the GAIA mission. This will be a project orientated to measure the position and velocity of one billion stars within our galaxy.

She relates, as an anecdote, how surprised she was when she knew that "there was an Enrico Maria Corsini in Asiago. He was another Italian participant at the Contest in Brussels: he did an Astronomy PhD like me and now he has a postdoc fellowship here at Asiago".
Although Astronomy is her main interest, she is very interested in marine biology and speleology too.