I am Full Professor at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute in Groningen. My main research interests are in galaxy evolution and dynamics, with emphasis on what can be learned from the nearby Universe, and in particular from our own Galaxy.
The assembly process of a galaxy leaves imprints in the present-day spatial distribution, motions, ages and chemical abundances of its stars. The Milky Way is the only system (for now) for which we have direct access to this information, because only in our Galaxy and its nearby satellites can we measure the properties of millions of individual stars. The main goal of my research thus far has been to characterize these fossil signatures from a theoretical point of view, and to use observational data to recover those fossils and thereby reconstruct the formation history of our Galaxy. The first steps toward achieving this goal were set out during my PhD Thesis on The formation of the Galactic halo which I defended in Leiden in June 2000 (and for which I received the Christiaan Huygens prize in 2004). More recently, I was also awarded the Pastoor Schmeits prize in Astronomy.
Besides Galactic archaeology, I am also interested on the problem of direct detection of dark-matter, and on the distribution of dark-matter around galaxies (both shape and density profile).
I have held postdoc positions at the Observatorio de La Plata, the Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, and was a NOVA fellow at the Astronomical Institute in Utrecht. In 2003, I was awarded a VIDI grant ("The Milky Way: Rosetta stone of galaxy evolution") , and in 2009, I received an ERC Starting Grant that provides support to my research group.
From 2007 to 2012, I was a member of The Young Academy of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Gaia mission: It was launched on 19 December 2013 and is now mapping a billion stars in the Milky Way!
Cultivo una rosa blanca
Y para el cruel que me arranca