Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

Dominika Wylezalek receives the 2023 MERAC Award in Observational Astrophysics

Dr Dominika Wylezalek (Copyright: Universität Heidelberg, Kommunikation und Marketing)

The 2023 MERAC Prize for the Best Early Career Researcher in Observational Astrophysics is awarded to Dr Dominika Wylezalek (ZHA/ARI) for her pioneering work using state-of-the-art IFU instruments, in particular for her work demonstrating the impact of supermassive black holes on their host galaxies and the large-scale environment.

Dr Dominika Wylezalek studied physics at Heidelberg University, Germany (BSc, 2010), and the University of Cambridge, UK (MASt, Part III Physics, 2011). In 2014, she received her PhD from Munich University (LMU) with a fellowship from the International Max Planck Research School on Astrophysics which she had spent at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Garching/Munich. She then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the
Kommunikation und Marketing Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA, where she held an Akbari-Mack and Provost Postdoctoral Fellowship. She then moved to ESO in Munich as an ESO Fellow. Since 2020, she has been leading her Emmy Noether Group at the Center for Astronomy at Heidelberg University. Her research focuses on the exploration of the role of AGN and quasars in galaxy evolution, one of the most important and pressing questions in extragalactic astronomy today.

Dominika Wylezalek is a world expert on the evolution of galaxies with intense AGN-driven activity and their impact on the intergalactic, circumgalactic and even galaxy cluster-scale environment. She uses a multi-wavelength, multi-technique, multi-scale and multi-era approach. During her PhD, Dominika found that powerful radio-loud AGN appear to trace very dense and massive distant galaxy proto-clusters, in which galaxy evolution seems to occur at an accelerated pace. As a junior postdoc, Dominika Wylezalek focused on the relation between AGN and galaxy evolution. Using large galaxy and AGN samples at low redshift, and smaller unique AGN samples at high redshift, she has developed new ideas and approaches on how to investigate AGN feedback processes. She has developed new spatially resolved techniques for identifying signatures of AGN, uncovering a much more nuanced picture of AGN activity. She has been and is leading several cutting-edge research projects on AGN feedback using ESO, ALMA, and JWST. She is PI of a JWST Early Release Science project (Q3D) and has become one of the leading experts for AGN science with the JWST. The initial Q3D data already resulted in an impressive and unanticipated result, namely identifying one of the densest knots of galaxy formation around a high-redshift quasar. The work received worldwide recognition, including media attention through several press releases. Under Wylezalek’s lead, the Q3D team is actively working on several upcoming publications with their unique JWST data. The work was conducted at Johns Hopkins University, the European Southern Observatory, and at Heidelberg University.

European Astronomical Society (EAS)

The MERAC Prize consists of three prizes awarded every year by the European Astronomical Society (EAS) . These MERAC Prizes are for early career astrophysicists, one each in Theoretical Astrophysics, Observational Astrophysics and New Technologies: Instrumental / Computational / Multi-Messenger, and they are awarded on uneven years to early career astrophysicists who have achieved their PHD degrees in the previous ten years, which period shall be extended by two years in case of career interruptions for maternity, illness or the like (“Best Early Career Researcher Prizes”), and on even years for the best doctoral thesis in the previous three years, which period shall be extended by one year in case of career interruptions for maternity, illness or the like (“Best Doctoral Thesis Prizes”).

Best Early Career Researcher Prizes are awarded to young astrophysicists either affiliated to or having largely performed the work to be recognized in a European institute. Best Doctoral Thesis Prizes are awarded to the best thesis performed in a European institute. The term European is understood to include all countries with an astronomical society affiliated to the EAS and the Scandinavian countries without a national astronomical society. The EAS will announce the winners of the MERAC Prizes awarded by the European Astronomical Society each February. Awardees will give plenary lectures at the following EWASS meeting and also will give a lecture in Switzerland under the patronage of the FONDATION MERAC.

All awardees will give a plenary lecture at the European Astronomical Society Annual Meeting 2023 to be held in Krakow, Poland, from 10 to 14 July 2023.

Dr Dominika Wylezalek
Centre for Astronomy of Heidelberg University (ZAH)
Astronomisches Rechen-Institut (ARI)

Dr Guido Thimm
Center for Astronomy at Heidelberg University (ZAH)


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