Four new ERC grants at LMU

10 Jan 2022

Four talented early-career researchers have obtained prestigious starting grants together with LMU from the European Research Council.

Four talented early-career scientists from various disciplines have each obtained a starting grant together with LMU for their research. Awarded by the European Research Council (ERC), the project grant is worth approximately 1.5 million euros in each case. Winners are chosen based on the scientific excellence of the applicants and of the proposed project. The research grant is among the most prestigious awards of its kind in Europe.
The successful scientists in this round are already working at LMU: Dr. Joanna Drążkowska, Faculty of Physics, Dr. Sebastian Höhna, Faculty of Geosciences, Prof. Daniel Merk, Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy, and Dr. Liang Emlyn Yang, Faculty of Geosciences.

Astrophysicist Dr. Joanna Drążkowska works as a postdoctoral researcher at LMU’s University Observatory. Her research helps improve our fundamental understanding of planet formation.

Numerous discoveries of exoplanets over the past few years have proven that planet formation is the rule rather than an exception. At the same time, astrophysicists have made huge progress in observations of the birthplaces of planets and learned more about the risks that prevail specifically in the environment around young stars. Despite these important discoveries, the planet formation process as a whole remains a conundrum as its intermediate stages are essentially unobservable.This is where Joanna Drążkowska comes in with PLANETOIDS (“Formation of planetary building blocks throughout time and space”). Her ERC project aims at constructing innovative numerical models of the early stages of planet formation when the dust grows to pebbles and eventually becomes gravitationally bound in building blocks of planets called planetesimals. Global models are scarce for this important phase of planet formation. PLANETOIDS proposes to go beyond the state of the art by combining the most advanced models of circumstellar disk formation and structure, dust evolution, planetesimal formation, and planetesimal growth in one comprehensive framework. The key questions to be investigated are: How does dust grow and circulate in wind-driven circumstellar disks? Where, when, and how many planetesimals can emerge, and how does this result depend on the properties and environment of the host star? And finally: What pathways to fast planet formation could there be? From her models, the astrophysicist hopes to obtain decisive results that shed light on the origin of our solar system and the diversity of exoplanets.


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