Speakers 2022

Volker Bromm

University of Texas at Austin, USA

Volker Bromm is the Josey Centennial Professor in Astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin. He is the Chair of the Department of Astronomy, since August 2019. Dr. Bromm received his PhD from Yale University in 2000. His thesis on “Star Formation in the Early Universe” was recognized with the Robert J. Trumpler Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, given annually to a recipient of the PhD degree whose work is judged particularly significant to astronomy. After postdoctoral fellowships at Cambridge University and Harvard, he joined the astronomy faculty at UT in 2004. Dr. Bromm is a leader in the theoretical understanding of the early stages of cosmic history. He has pioneered the theory of how the first stars, black holes and galaxies formed out of the primordial material that emerged from the Big Bang, utilizing the powerful supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC). His predictions are to be tested with the next generation of frontier telescopes, such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, and the Giant MagellanTelescope (GMT). Volker Bromm maintains a vibrant outreach program, engaging with the public in multiple ways. He has authored popular articles for Scientific American, Sky & Telescope, and Astronomy Magazine. His work is frequently covered in the media, including appearances in TV documentaries on black holes and the early universe, on the BBC, German public television, and on U.S. science channels. He provided some of the science visualizations for the “Tree of Life” movie, directed by Terrence Malick, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and was nominated for the Academy Awards in the Best Picture category.

Felix Aharonian

Max Planck Institute for Nulcear Physics, Heidelberg, Germany

Felix Aharonian is Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies and External Scientific Member of the Max-Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, Heidelberg. He is a researcher with four decades of experience in astroparticle physics (PhD in 1979, Moscow Engineering-Physics Institute). Since the beginning of his scientific career, he has been engaged in observational and theoretical studies of high-energy phenomena in the Universe. His research interests cover several topical areas, including the acceleration, propagation and radiation processes of relativistic particles, the origin of cosmic rays, physics and astrophysics of relativistic outflows (Pulsar Winds, AGN jets, GRBs, etc). Gamma rays as carriers of information about the hadronic and lepton processes at high energies have always been the focus of his scientific interests. Regarding the detection methods and instrumentation, he played a key role in the introduction of the stereoscopic approach in the Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescope (IACT) technique. Currently, it is the standard principle of operation of IACT arrays. He has been a founding member of several large scale projects. Currently, he is actively involved in the HESS and LHAASO experiments.

Georges Meynet

Observatoire de Genève, Université de Genève, Switzerland

After a diploma in Physics at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale of Lausanne and a PhD at Geneva University in 1990, Georges Meynet did a post doc at Université Libre de Bruxelles. In 2006 he became professor at the Department of Astronomy at the University of Geneva. His research interests are stellar physics, stellar evolution, consequences for stellar populations in galaxies, and nucleosynthesis as well as for the nature of the progenitors of different types of core-collapse supernovae. His research is presently focused on the physics of the first stellar generations in the Universe in connection with the understanding of the origin of Carbon Enhanced Metal Poor stars. He is leading an advanced ERC project called STAREX (Stars at the Extreme) aiming at producing new models for the first generations of stars, investigating their properties and potential indirect and direct observational signatures. He is active in promoting astronomy towards general audience having contributed to the building of a public observatory (the François-Xavier Observatory) and a planetary walk in St-Luc Val d’Anniviers. He is now promoting a project of supernova-fountain.

Rachel Somerville

Center for Computational Astrophysics, Flat Iron Institute, New York

Rachel Somerville received her PhD in Physics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She held post-doctoral positions at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and Cambridge University. She has held faculty positions at the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University, and was on the research staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute. She was a senior group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, and held the George A. and Margaret M. Downsbrough Chair in astrophysics at Rutgers University. She is currently a Group Leader at the Center for Computational Astrophysics at the Flatiron Institute. The main goal of Somerville's research is to understand how galaxies and supermassive black holes form and evolve within a cosmological context. She uses semi-analytic modeling, numerical simulations, and observations to approach these problems. She was awarded the 2013 Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics by the American Institute of Physics, and a 2014 Simons Investigator Award by the Simons Foundation. She has been a member of many observational collaborations, including GOODS and CANDELS, and is a member of the JWST Early Release Science team CEERS. She co-directs the SMAUG (Simulating Multi-scale Astrophysics to Understand Galaxies) collaboration, and is a co-PI of the Learning the Universe Simons Collaboration.

Samaya Nissanke

University of Amsterdam

Samaya Nissanke is an associate professor in gravitational wave and multi-messenger astrophysics and the spokesperson of GRAPPA (centre of excellence in gravitation and astroparticle physics) at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She completed her PhD at the Institut d’Astrophysique Paris, followed by postdoctoral fellowships & research positions at the Canadian Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics), Caltech  and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Colorado-Boulder and Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands. She is the recipient of several scientific awards including the Breakthrough 2020 New Horizons Prize in Fundamental Physics (shared with Jo Dunkley and Kendrick Smith) and the 2021 Suffrage Science Award in Engineering and Physical Sciences.  

Elena Maria Rossi

Leiden Observatory, Leiden, The Netherlands

Elena M. Rossi is an Assistant Professor at Leiden Observatory since 2011. She is a theoretical astrophysicist, working on a broad range of topics, involving gas and star dynamics around compact objects and gravitational wave astrophysics. She received her PhD in 2005 from the Institute for Astronomy in Cambridge (UK), where she developed her “structured jet model”, which —among other applications — is now instrumental to interpret the emission  following double neutron star mergers. Her work on gravitational wave sources such as supermassive black holes (formation and evolution) and white dwarf binaries (as galactic tracers) earned her a prominent position in the LISA consortium as Science Team co-chair. Her involvement in the ESA mission LISA started in 2006 while holding a NASA Chandra Fellowship at UC Boulder. As a postdoctoral fellow at Hebrew University, she started working on tidal disruption events and her multi-band modelling of the thermal emission and disc formation simulations have been highly impactful, so to be asked to be co- editor and author of the first review book on this topic. For her work on the Galactic Centre stellar dynamics and dark matter halo distribution with dynamical tracers, she has been awarded a ERC Consolidator grant in 2020. 

Pascal Oesch

Université de Genève, Switzerland

Pascal Oesch is an Associate Professor at the University of Geneva and at the Cosmic DAWN Center at the University of Copenhagen. He leads an observational research group “Galaxy Build-up at Cosmic Dawn” which focuses on understanding the build-up and assembly of the very first generations of galaxies based on panchromatic observations. In particular, he and his collaborators make use of very deep imaging and spectroscopy from space telescopes such as the Hubble, Spitzer, and soon the James Webb Space Telescope, in addition to ground-based follow-up with Keck, VLT, ALMA, and NOEMA. Using these observations, he has continually extended our cosmic horizons to the most distant galaxies, allowing us to trace the build-up of galaxies out to z~11, when the Universe was only ~400 Myr old. He received his PhD in 2010 from ETH Zurich, before moving to the University of California, Santa Cruz, as a Hubble fellow. After a YCAA fellowship at Yale, he then moved back to Europe in 2016 for a faculty position at the University of Geneva.

Annalisa Pillepich

Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, Germany

Annalisa Pillepich is an astrophysicist who develops and uses supercomputer simulations of large volumes of virtual universes to understand the formation and evolution of galaxies and the functioning of our Universe as a whole (e.g. https://www.tng-project.org/). She is a research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg. Before that, she obtained her Bachelor and Master in Physics at the Università di Pisa, to then complete her PhD in Physics at the ETH in Zurich in 2010 with a thesis on "Constraining Primordial Non-Gaussianity from the Large Scale Structure of the Universe" under the supervisions of Cristiano Porciani. She worked as a postdoc at the University of California in Santa Cruz and at Harvard University in the groups of Piero Madau and Lars Hernquist, respectively, before reaching Germany in 2016.

Carole Ann Haswell

Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

Carole Haswell is Professor of Astrophysics at The Open University, UK. She leads an exoplanets research group and the Dispersed Matter Planet Project, which is an extremely efficient radial velocity search for short period, low mass planets orbiting bright, nearby stars. She was a member of the Ariel Science Advisory Team, co-authoring the “Red Book” which led to adoption of the mission. She wrote a textbook on Transiting Exoplanets which is an accessible introduction to the fundamentals underpinning exoplanet astrophysics. Before moving to The Open University, she held a permanent lectureship at The University of Sussex (UK). She did her PhD at The University of Texas at Austin (USA) and postdocs at Space Telescope Science Institute (MD, USA) and Columbia University (NY, USA). She was an undergraduate at Oxford University (UK).