European Astronomical Society prize for star astronomer


Dr Jorryt Matthee (left) with Dr David Sobral (fourth from left) and most of Sobral's XGAL research group, including João Calhau (third from the left) and Sérgio Santos (right) inside Lisbon’s Observatory dome.
Dr Jorryt Matthee (left) with Dr David Sobral (fourth from left) and most of Sobral's XGAL research group, including João Calhau (third from the left) and Sérgio Santos (right) inside Lisbon’s Observatory dome.

Dr Jorryt Matthee has been awarded a 25,000 € MERAC Prize by the European Astronomical Society for the Best Doctoral Thesis in the past three years.

The award is by the FONDATION MERAC (Mobilising European Research in Astrophysics and Cosmology), a non-profit foundation based in Switzerland to recognize and support early career astrophysicists.

Dr Matthee’s  thesis presents spectacular results that have transformed the way we see and understand distant galaxies across time.

His PhD supervisor was Dr David Sobral of Lancaster University who said:

“Jorryt’s outstanding PhD thesis is a fantastic demonstration of the discoveries that can be made when we are truly open-minded, driven by scientific curiosity and not afraid nor limited in our scientific exploration of the entire Universe. It has been a fantastic honour to mentor and supervise Jorryt and watch him become an independent, internationally-leading scientist for whom the sky is certainly no limit.”

Together with Dr Sobral, Dr Matthee discovered some of the brightest distant galaxies, including CR7, and showed that they are much more common than previously thought, with important consequences for future space missions like Euclid.

His thesis presented spectacular results in 11 first-author papers that have transformed the way we see and understand distant galaxies across time. His own state-of- the-art observations with ALMA, Hubble and the VLT telescopes revealed that very distant galaxies are complex, actively assembling systems.  He has also investigated the co-evolution of dark matter halos and galaxies in the state-of-the-art cosmological EAGLE simulation.

Jorryt's PhD work also mapped, dissected and discussed how galaxies have evolved over the first few billion years of the Universe and how they have played a key role in dissipating the cosmic fog during the epoch of re-ionisation, including the first direct observation of a galaxy ionising the surrounding inter-galactic medium.

Jorryt’s work combined observational studies of distant galaxies with David Sobral and theoretical analysis with Joop Schaye. He currently holds a prestigious Zwicky fellowship on extragalactic astrophysics at ETH Zürich and he has visited, worked and given talks at Lancaster multiple times.

The PhD thesis of Jorryt Matthee was conducted at Leiden University, under the supervision of Dr David Sobral and Professors Huub Röttgering and Joop Schaye.

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