Ewine F. van Dishoeck

Leiden University

Primary Section: 12, Astronomy
Membership Type: International Member (elected 2001)
Photo Credit: Henrik Sandsjo


Ewine van Dishoeck is professor of molecular astrophysics at Leiden University, the Netherlands. Graduated from Leiden in 1984, she held positions at Harvard, Princeton and Caltech before returning to Leiden in 1990 where she has been since.  Since 2007, she is the scientific director of the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (NOVA) and external scientific member of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. Since 2009, she is co-Editor of Annual Reviews of Astronomy and Astrophysics. From 2018-2021, van Dishoeck  serves as the President of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the worldwide organization of professional astronomers.  Awards include the 2000 Dutch Spinoza Prize, the 2015 Albert Einstein World Award of Science, the 2018 NAS James Craig Watson Medal, the 2018 Kavli Prize for Astrophysics, the 2019 Karl Schwarzschild medal of the  Astronomische Gesellschaft Germany, and the 2020 Prix Jules Janssen of the French Astronomical Society.  She is a Member or Foreign Associate of several academies, including that of the Netherlands, USA, Germany and Norway.

Research Interests

The research of van Dishoeck's group innovatively combines the world of chemistry with that of physics and astronomy to study the trail of molecules from star-forming clouds to protoplanetary disks through observations, models and experiments. These molecules also serve as diagnostic probes of the physical structure of interstellar clouds and star- and planet-forming regions. Trained as a theoretical chemist, part of her work focuses on understanding and quantifying the basic processes that take place in interstellar space, most notably photodissociation. She also led the Leiden Laboratory for Astrophysics from 1992-2005, in which experiments are conducted to simulate the chemical processes in and on icy grain mantles. On the observational side, her group exploits state-of-the-art observations at submillimeter and infrared wavelengths obtained with telescopes such as the ESO Very Large Telescope, the ESA Herschel Space Observatory and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, facilities in  which she has been heavily involved in the planning.  The third leg of her research involves the development of sophisticated  physical-chemical models of gas-phase and gas-grain chemistry from small to large scales, linking observational and basic processes studies. Recent highlights include the study of the formation and evolution of water and complex organic molecules from clouds to disks, the discovery of dust traps locking up volatiles in disks, and surveys of disk mass and sizes concluding that planet formation must start early.

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