I am a full professor at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute in Groningen. My main research interests are 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. For the Milky Way and its satellites we have direct access to this information for millions of individual stars. My research thus far has focused on characterizing these fossil signatures from a theoretical point of view, and on using observational data to recover those fossils and thereby reconstruct the formation history of our Galaxy. Besides Galactic archaeology, I am also interested on the nature of dark-matter. I have worked on the distribution of dark-matter around the Milky Way and its satellite galaxies using the motions of stars, and on predictions for direct (and indirect) detection.
I completed my PhD Thesis on The formation of the Galactic halo at Leiden Observatory in the year 2000, for which I received the Christiaan Huygens prize in 2004. In 2010 I was also awarded the Pastoor Schmeits prize in Astronomy. In 2003, I was awarded a VIDI grant ("The Milky Way: Rosetta stone of galaxy evolution"), in 2009 I received an ERC Starting Grant, and since 2015 a Vici grant provides support to my research group.
I was member of The Young Academy between 2007 and 2012. In 2016, I was elected member of the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities. Since 2017, I am member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). In 2019, I received the very prestigious Spinoza prize. In 2021, I was awarded the Lodewijk Woltjer Lecture award. In 2021, I was also appointed Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion and I received the Dirk Brouwer Career Award.