The two winners of the first edition of the A&A awards for individuals in the initial stages of their careers were announced at the annual meeting of the European Astronomical Society.
After undergraduate studies at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Miriam Keppler moved to MPIA in Heidelberg, where she completed both her master’s degree, which included an ERASMUS year in Grenoble, and her PhD, and where she is now a postdoc. She is probably best known for her discovery of a (proto)planet in a gap of a protoplanetary disk, which is the first such detection and something that planetary astronomers had been seeking for a long time. Protoplanetary disks and planets have both been imaged for over a decade, and gravitational interaction with an embedded planet has always been one leading explanation for the gaps that are observed in some of those disks, but Miriam Keppler's 2018 A&A paper first closed this loop by finding an uncontroverted observational example. Miriam Keppler has since built on this work by characterizing both disks, through ALMA and near-IR high contrast imaging, and planets, through near-IR spectrophotometry. The broad scope of her work is impressive for someone who completed her PhD less than a year ago and bodes very well for her future career.
Early career prize
After undergraduate studies and a master’s degree at the Copernicus University in Torun, Joanna Drazkowska moved to the Institute for Theoretical Astronomy in Heidelberg for her PhD, and she has since been a postdoc, first at the Institute for Computational Science in Zurich and now at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. Her work is on the theoretical side of planet formation in protoplanetary disks; she develops models of the growth of the solid phase from micron-size dust grains to Earth-size (and larger) planets. The 2016 A&A article for which she is receiving the A&A early career award is a milestone in that field as it was the first to overcome the fragmentation barrier, or meter-size barrier, which had blocked all previous planet formation models. Joanna Drazkowska showed that the "traffic-jam effect" (a local drop in the radial speed of the particles) that results from the radial drift of the solids can locally enhance the solid/gas density ratio to the point where planetesimals can form via a particle-gas hydrodynamical effect known as streaming instability, hence removing the previous decimeter limit to growth. This trailblazing study triggered many follow-up studies on mechanisms for dust pileup, both by Joanna Drazkowska and her collaborators and by others, and has been extremely influential.