Research Team


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.

Rubén Asensio-Torres

Rubén is a PSF Origins postdoctoral researcher. He works on the search and characterization of exoplanets in young stellar systems using the high-contrast direct imaging technique. His research links the presence of substructures in protoplanetary disks to the formation of giant planets. When substellar companions are found, he characterizes their atmospheres via integral field spectrographs, peeking into their physical properties. To this aim, he uses a broad range of instruments in the optical to mid-IR wavelengths, such as SPHERE, CHARIS, MUSE and LMIRCam.

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.

Graduate Students

Miriam Keppler

Miriam is a PhD student working with Thomas Henning and Roy van Boekel.
She is interested in the link between the evolution of protoplanetary disks and planet formation. With the focus on transition disks, she analyses scattered light images obtained with instruments such as VLT/SPHERE through radiative transfer calculations in order to investigate the disk morphology and potential imprints of planet formation.

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.
Martin's research interests lie at the interface between planet formation theory and exoplanet demographics. By confronting simulated planet populations with extensive observation programs (e.g., CARMENES, EDEN), he studies the architectures of multi-planet systems with a special focus on planets around low-mass stars. His dissertation with Thomas Henning and Hubert Klahr puts theoretical predictions to an empirical test to inform the next generation of planet formation models. more

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. 

Gideon Yoffe

Gidi is a PhD student working with Thomas Henning and Roy van Boekel.
He is interested in linking observations of protoplanetary disks with planet formation. With the newly-commissioned mid-infrared interferometer VLTI/MATISSE, he observes the inner regions of the disks, where planet formation may take place, in an attempt to detect substructure therein and hopefully - to relate it to observed exoplanet demographics.
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