Universiteit Leiden

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Serena Viti is our new professor of Molecular Astrophysics

The Leiden Observatory has appointed a new professor. Selena Viti will hold a chair in Molecular Astrophysics. Viti will build a research group that combines different research techniques to unravel the secrets of local and external galaxies. ‘My main ambition is to change the way scientists interpret molecular observations for external galaxies.’

What molecules tell us

Before she came to Leiden, Viti worked as professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department and was the head of the Astrophysics group at University College London. Her research covers a wide range of topics, with the central focus being the study of molecules in space. ‘In particular, I like to use these molecules as tools to study the diverse environments of the interstellar medium in the Milky Way as well as in external galaxies,’ she tells. In 2019, Viti received an ERC advanced grant from the EU. ‘I want to use this grant to shed light on the physical and chemical structure of our local galaxies.’

In Leiden, Viti therefore plans to build a group focused in developing a multi-faceted program that combines state of the art chemical and statistical models in conjunction with interferometric observations. ‘My main ambition is to change the way scientists interpret molecular observations for external galaxies. And besides, I am also looking forward to contribute to the teaching of the many excellent students that every year join Leiden University.’

Vibrant place

Huub Rottgering, scientific director of the Leiden Observatory believes it’s fantastic that Viti has chosen to come to Leiden. ‘She is a great expert in the increasingly important field of astrochemistry’, he says. ‘Traditionally the focus of this field lies on understanding the formation of stars and planets in our own galaxy, but Serena is also going to focus on galaxies in general. In addition, she is going to use machine learning and this has great interest of our students.’

Viti herself also looks forward to her arrival in Leiden. ‘Leiden is one of the top Universities for Astronomy and, certainly, for molecular astrophysics. The Astronomy group is the largest in the country and is one of the most sought groups for postdoctoral and PhD fellows. I am looking forward to be part of such vibrant place!’

About Serena Viti

Viti gained her PhD at University College London (UCL) for her work on the infrared spectra of cool stars and sunspots in 1997. After this, Viti became a post-doctoral fellow at UCL in the field of star formation and astrochemistry, followed by a fixed-term position at the CNR in Rome as a Herschel Scientist. She returned to UCL in October 2003 for an STFC Advanced Fellowship and became a lecturer of Astrophysics in 2004. She was promoted Professor of Astrophysics in 2012 and became head of the Astrophysics Group in 2016. In 2019, Viti received an ERC Advanced Grant. Besides research, Viti is also active in education and outreach. She for example led the ‘Stars ‘R’ Us exposition at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition, co-authored a book an observational molecular astronomy and was a guest at multiple BBC programs. 

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