Conny Aerts External Scientifc Member of MPIA
Professor Conny Aerts, an outstanding scientist, has been appointed as External Scientific Member of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg. She is currently Director of the Institute of Astronomy at the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of Leuven and Head of the Astroseismology Department at Radbound University Nijmegen.
Conny Aerts is a brilliant astrophysicist whose worldwide leading research in stellar astrophysics has received many awards. She is one of the few scientists in Europe who have received two Advanced Grants of the European Research Council (ERC). In 2012, Conny Aerts received as the first woman the prestigious Francqui Prize, dubbed the “Belgian Nobel Prize”, since it was first awarded in 1933.
Her main research activities focus on understanding stellar structure and evolution, and on the variability of stars, where she is a pioneer of the important and rapidly growing research direction of asteroseismology. With this approach, one can map the interior structure of stars directly through low-level oscillations (stars “quiver”) that result in tiny periodic brightness fluctuations. This opens completely new ways to understand how stars work.
The research in asteroseismology was for long times largely theoretical, as observations of such oscillations were absent, except for our Sun. Then, the European CoRoT and NASA´s Kepler mission launched observational asteroseismology as a broad field.
Conny Aerts holds numerous international advisory functions, e.g. to the SDSS (Sloan Digital Sky Survey) Steering Committee, the Horizon2020 Program of the ERC, or to the European Space Agency (ESA). She also has a leading role in central space missions on stellar astrophysics, as the Belgian Principal Investigator of the ESA space mission PLATO and as the Belgian co-Investigator of the CoRoT (Convection, Rotation and planetary Transits) space mission. Furthermore, Conny Aerts played a crucial role in shaping the science analysis of the Gaia mission.
Conny Aerts works at the interface of theory and data. For the coming years, her participation in the SDSS-V project and in the Gaia mission, whose data are currently taking research of the structure of our Milky Way into a new era, should be highlighted. She is also involved in the TESS and PLATO space projects, which are of particular importance both for the study of star formation and for the study of exoplanets.
Therefore, the scientific work and interests of Conny Aerts have a strong overlap with the research objectives at MPIA.