Research Team

November 09, 2021


Paul is interested in the atmospheric properties of exoplanets, both close-in (and potentially transiting) or young directly-imaged planets. For his work, he is using a suite of self-written software that can predict the structure and spectra of atmospheres, or retrieve it from observations. In addition he is interested in connecting atmospheric properties, most importantly the atmospheric composition, to models of planet formation. As a direct probe of the chemical abundances of exoplanets atmospheres may hold the key to unravel planet formation pathways. more

Jiao He

Jiao He works in the Origin of Life Laboratory. He carries out laboratory experiments under interstellar relevant conditions to simulate the physical and chemical processes that happen in the ice mantle on dust grains. He studies the formation of complex organic molecules, particularly those of prebiotic interests, either from thermal reactions between simple atomic and molecules or by irradiation of ice mixtures.

Dmitry Semenov

Dmitry Semenov is an astrochemistry expert at MPIA who is working mainly
on unraveling chemistry of planet formation. He has developed a number 
robust chemical modeling tools such as ALCHEMIC and MUSCLE to fit 
observations of molecular lines. Dmitry uses world-leading observational facilities 
such as NOEMA and ALMA to peer into rich chemistry of protoplanetary disks.
Last but not least, he is also interested in linking the astrophysical
knowledge with the origin of life studies.

Sierk van Terwisga

Sierk van Terwisga is a PSF fellow working on the evolution of protoplanetary disks from an observational perspective, and particularly, on how they are affected by their environment. The sensitivity and speed of ALMA make it possible to study these effects, which are difficult to identify in individual disks, by observing large populations of disks in different environments and at different ages. His research combines observations of both the dust and molecular gas in these systems to get new constraints on how planet formation proceeds.

Kamber Schwarz

Kamber Schwarz is an expert in astrochemistry and millimeter interferometry. She studies the evolution of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen bearing gas in protoplanetary disks with the ultimate goal of determining the composition of material available to forming planets. Her research combines observations from observatories such as ALMA and NOEMA with physcial/chemical modeling in order to constrain the timescales and mechanisms of volatile reprocessing. She is interested in expanding this research to infrared wavelengths, using JWST to observe the CNO bearing molecules in the terrestrial planet forming region of disks and in ice.

Melissa Hobson

Melissa is working on the confirmation of transiting exoplanets from the TESS mission, using both high-precision radial velocity, from spectrographs like HARPS and FEROS, and ground-based photometry from telescopes such as the LCO network. In particular, she is focussing on warm giant planets - Jupiter-sized planets with periods of 10-100 days. These planets are fascinating objects, which pose challenges for planet formation models; they likely formed further out and migrated to their current position. By characterizing this population, their formation and migration can be better understood. Melissa is also interested in the search for and characterization of planets orbiting M-dwarf stars, and in studying exoplanets' stellar hosts to better understand their activity and composition.

Graduate Students

Samantha Brown

Samantha is a PhD student working with Thomas Henning, Wolfgang Brandner and Markus Feldt. She is interested in using the direct imaging technique for the detection and characterisation of protoplanetary disks and exoplanets. By combining radiative transfer models and polarimetric images from instruments such as SPHERE in the VLT, she investigates the morphology and gas/dust relation of nearby protoplanetary disks.

Grigorii Smirnov-Pinchukov

Grigorii is a PhD student working with Prof Henning and Dr Semenov on the thermo-chemical modelling and observation of protoplanetary disks. His project aims to characterize the physical and chemical structure of protoplanetary disks with sub-millimeter ALMA and NOEMA observations, and prepare data processing tools for upcoming JWST.

Riccardo Franceschi

In my research, I collaborate with Prof Henning and Dr Semenov to investigate the fundamental properties of protoplanetary disks, in particular, their mass and spatial distribution. My interest is to link theoretical models with observational data, combining dust evolution and chemical models with sub-millimeter observations (such as ALMA/NOEMA) and scattered light (such as SPHERE) to provide reliable disk masses, to benchmark the depletion of the CO molecule and to constrain the vertical structure of disks. 

Jan Eberhardt

Jan Eberhardt is a PhD student working with Thomas Henning and Trifon Trifonov. He is interested in detecting and characterizing planetary systems. He uses combined detection methods within the WINE and CARMENES collaborations and aims to prepare data processing pipelines for a combined RV and astrometry analysis of the upcoming Gaia full data release.

Klaus Paschek

Klaus is working together with Thomas Henning and Dmitry Semenov on understanding the formation of prebiotic molecules. By trying to understand how these molecules could have formed in outer space and on the Hadean Earth, they hope to reveal parts of the processes involved in the origin of life. Klaus developed a complex simulation coupling up-to-date thermodynamic with -chemical models to understand the formation of nucleobases and the sugar ribose, crucial ingredients of the RNA world, inside the parent body planetesimals of carbonaceous chondrites. He aims to understand the complex reaction network producing ribose and other sugars in even deeper detail by examining the process of autocatalysis in this context with mathematical and numerical methods.

Marten Scheuck

Marten is a PhD student working with Prof. Dr. Thomas Henning and Dr. Roy van Boekel on observations and modelling of protoplanetary disks (PPDs). He uses mid-Infrared interferometry for detailed observational characterisation of these objects on spatial scales corresponding to the inner solar system. By modelling the observational data from the Multi-AperTure mid-Infrared SpectroScopic Experiment (MATISSE) he investigates the general makeup of PPDs, focusing on the gap/cavity structures that are present in many PPDs, that possibly result from the interaction of currently forming giant planets with the disk material.
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