Martin Asplund New Director at MPA

Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) is pleased to welcome Prof. Martin Asplund as a new director. He will join the existing MPA directors Prof. Wolfgang Hillebrandt, Prof. Rashid Sunyaev and Prof. Simon White in leading the scientific directions of the institute.

Prof. Asplund obtained his PhD in theoretical astrophysics from Uppsala University, Sweden, in 1997. He then took up a research fellowship at the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen for two years before moving back to Uppsala University as assistant professor. In 2002 he joined the faculty of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University where he was soon promoted to full professor. Earlier this year the 37-year old Swede was appointed as Scientific Member and Director of MPA as one of the youngest within the Max Planck Society. He formally started his new role at MPA in September 2007.

Prof. Asplund's research interests encompass stellar astrophysics, the origin of the chemical elements and the formation and evolution of galaxies. His research straddles both theory, numerical simulations using supercomputers and observations with the largest telescopes in roughly equal parts. In particular, his work has focussed on modelling the atmospheres of stars and the radiation they emit in order to use stars as probes of stellar, galactic and cosmic evolution. By observing stars of different ages and locations, one can thereby uncover for example how stars forge the different elements by nuclear burning and how a galaxy like our own Milky Way has evolved with time since its formation. His recent work on accurately determining the chemical composition of the Sun has dramatically changed this crucial astronomical yardstick with profound implications for many fields of astronomy. He is also well-known for his research on understanding the very first stars born after the Big Bang.

At MPA Prof. Asplund will build up a group working on stellar astrophysics and galactic chemical evolution. This new scientific department will complement and further strengthen existing research endeavours at the institute.