Amélie Saintonge appointed new director at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy

Head of a new research department on Star Formation and Galaxy Evolution

June 20, 2024

Earlier this year, Amélie Saintonge was appointed as scientific member of the Max Planck Society and director at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, where she will lead the new research department Star Formation and Galaxy Evolution in the institute.

Amélie Saintonge, who recently joined the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) as director, has a long track record of performing internationally-leading research in galaxy evolution. In particular, she studies the interplay between galaxies and the environments they live in, with a particular focus on the central role of the cold interstellar medium in regulating galaxy growth. She has demonstrated that star formation – far from being a universal process – proceeds with an efficiency that varies systematically from galaxy to galaxy, and with cosmic time. Her scientific achievements benefit from her leadership of large observing projects across the whole radio astronomical spectrum, from cm- to mm- and sub-mm wavelengths, while also bridging across to the optical astronomy and theory communities.

The focus of Amélie Saintonge’s new research department “Star Formation and Galaxy Evolution” at MPIfR will be to deliver the strong observational base, in particular at (sub)mm/radio wavelengths, that is required to study the connection of galaxies with their large-scale gaseous environments and the cosmic web, the physics and chemistry of the interstellar medium, and the drivers of star formation across all environments and scales, from the Milky Way, to nearby galaxies and the early Universe.  

We now realize that the histories of galaxies are determined simultaneous by things that happen on both very large scales, like the flows of gas along the cosmic web of dark matter, and on the very small scales where individual stars are formed out of this gas”, says Prof. Saintonge.  “To solve this multi-scale, dynamic problem, we need to use all the tools at our disposal, but observations of the interstellar medium at radio wavelengths are particularly crucial. With its rich legacy of technology development for submm and radio astronomy and access to world-leading facilities, MPIfR is the perfect environment to conduct this research.”  

We are very excited that we could attract such an excellent scientist to our institute and the Bonn/Cologne area as a whole.  Professor Saintonge will bring inspiring new science aspects, further demonstrating the amazing breadth of science that you can do with radio astronomy”, states Prof. Michael Kramer, Director at MPIfR and Head of its “Fundamental Physics in Radio Astronomy” research department. “Whereas my division investigates extreme states of matter and its behaviour in strongly relativistic environments, Amelie’s work is concentrating on star formation in galaxies, but also on their important evolution as a whole.”

Saintonge is originally from Canada, where she studied mathematics and physics at the University of Montreal. She obtained her MSc and her PhD both from Cornell University (Ithaka/U.S.), playing a central role in the Arecibo radio observatory’s ALFALFA survey. She was then a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Theoretical Physics of the University of Zürich, Switzerland, before taking up a joint research position at the Max Planck Institutes for Astrophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching. Since 2013, she is Professor of Astrophysics at University College London. Between 2013 and 2021 she was a Royal Society University Research Fellow, and in 2018 was awarded the Fowler Award for Early Achievement in Astronomy by the Royal Astronomical Society.

We are very pleased to have Prof. Amélie Saintonge as the new Director at the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie,” concludes Prof. J. Anton Zensus, Managing Director at MPIfR and Head of its “Radio Astronomy/VLBI” research department. "With her excellent research at the interplay of star formation and galaxy evolution, she will complement the science at our institute, also utilizing a new generation of telescopes in an outstanding way."

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