The American Astronomical Society's Division on Dynamical Astronomy (DDA) has awarded the 2021 Dirk Brouwer Career Award to Amina Helmi (Professoor at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute at the University of Groningen) to recognize and celebrate her outstanding contributions to the field of galactic dynamics.
Professor Helmi is one of the world’s leading researchers in the burgeoning field of galactic archeology. Her work combines theory, computer simulations, and observational campaigns to study how the hierarchical formation history of galaxies leaves traceable imprints in their dynamical-chemical structure. In particular, she has used large datasets from GAIA and other surveys to reconstruct in detail the past dynamical history of the Milky Way.
Professor Helmi’s work provided direct evidence that a fair fraction of the Milky Way globular clusters originate from accreted satellite dwarf galaxies. She also discovered that the inner halo of our Galaxy is dominated by debris from a much larger accreted system, which she named Gaia-Enceladus. She demonstrated that its accretion must have led to substantial dynamical heating and was a key contributor to the formation of the so-called thick disk, starting about 10 billion years ago. This major event is most likely the defining moment in the formation history of the Milky Way, and is consistent with our theoretical expectations from cosmological simulations.
In addition to her own research and impressive publication record, Professor Helmi has also mentored many students and postdoctoral researchers who have moved on to begin outstanding careers of their own.
Prof. Helmi earned her PhD in astronomy at Leiden University in 2000 under the supervision of Tim de Zeeuw and Simon White. Following postdoctoral fellowships at the University of La Plata, the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, and the University of Utrecht, she became a professor at the University of Groningen in 2003.
Professor Helmi will be invited to give a lecture at the 53rd annual DDA meeting in the spring of 2022.
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