Arjen van der Wel awarded with 1.9 Mio Euro ERC Consolidator Grant

April 06, 2016

Arjen van der Wel, scientist in the Galaxies and Cosmology – Department of MPIA, has been awarded with a 1.9 Mio Euro ERC Consolidator Grant. The ERC project is built around the LEGA-C survey - a huge extragalactic observing program at ESO´s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile to study galaxy evolution. The grant will allow the implementation of a working group consisting of the group leader, two postdocs and two PhD students.                                                                             

Arjen van der Wel

The LEGA-C survey represents the largest time allocation so far for extragalactic observations at the Paranal observatory in Chile of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). By using the VIMOS multi-object spectrograph mounted at one of the four huge 8.2m-telescopes, Arjen van der Wel and his group measure and analyse the physical properties of more than 3000 distant galaxies (up to redshift z~1) in unprecedented detail. This includes the ages and chemical composition of their stellar populations, as well as their kinematics to constrain their dynamical masses and the relation to their dark matter halos. “Such information is crucial to link the violent, early formation phases of galaxies to the relatively sedate population we see in the present-day universe”, says Arjen van der Wel.

Example spectrum (left, with many characteristic spectral features) and Hubble Space Telescope image of one of the more than 3000 galaxies in the LEGA-C survey. The galaxy´s redshift of 0.697 corresponds roughly to a look-back-time of half of the total age of the universe. Thus, such a huge sample of galaxy spectra spread over a wide redshift range and different cosmic epochs allows tracing the evolution of galaxies.

The European Research Council has now awarded 1.9 million Euro to build the research group at MPIA to leverage this unique and voluminous dataset. The official start of the ERC grant is April 1, 2016.
The ERC provides different grant schemes within the ERC Frontier Research Grants scheme. All grant applications must demonstrate the ground-breaking nature and ambition of the projects, as well as the excellence of the investigators.

Arjen van der Wel earned his PhD degree in 2005 at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. Afterwards, he worked in the United States at the Johns Hopkins University. In 2008 he came to MPIA. Since 2011, Arjen van der Wel works as Research Scientist in the Department “Galaxies and Cosmology” lead by Hans-Walter Rix. Currently, Arjen van der Wel´s group consists of a postdoc and a PhD student funded from other sources (DAAD, DFG).

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