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How to find us prof. dr. A. (Amina) Helmi

prof. dr. A. Helmi


Short Biography

Amina Helmi (1970) is Professor of Dynamics, Structure and Formation of the Milky Way. Helmi wrote a groundbreaking PhD thesis (for which she was awarded the 2004 Christiaan Huygens Prize), shedding new light on the history and formation of the Milky Way by stating that it probably gradually merged with smaller galaxies. Helmi is searching for these separate galaxies (‘fossils’) and is thus a sort of astro-archaeologist, using the information from star fossils to reconstruct the formation of the Milky Way.

Helmi has been awarded a number of prestigious grants, including an NWO Vidi grant in 2003, an ERC Starting Grant from the EU in 2009, and a NWO Vici grant in 2015. She is an active member of numerous networks. Since 2017 she is member of the KNAW, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Helmi is closely involved with the Gaia space mission, launched in 2013, which is providing very precise measurements to chart the Milky Way. Together with her research team she has published several papers yielding new insights on the Milky Way history and dynamics based on Gaia first and data second releases. In 2018 she led a key paper of the Gaia collaboration, on the motions of satellites around the Milky Way.


Academic Career

2003 - to date

Professor of Dynamics, Structure and Evolution of the Milky Way,  Univ. of Groningen                    

2002 - 2003 NOVA Postdoctoral Fellow, Univ. of Utrecht
2001 – 2002 Postdoctoral Fellow, Max Planck Inst. for Astrophysics
2000 Postdoctoral Fellow, University of La Plata



PhD in Astronomy (2000), The formation of the Galactic halo Leiden University (“Cum Laude”),  supervisors: P.T. de Zeeuw and S.D.M. White


  • Spinoza Prize, 2019
  • Member, Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW, elected in 2017)
  • Member, Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities (elected in 2016)
  • VICI research grant (Innovation Scheme, NWO) 2015
  • Pastoor Schmeits prize, 2010
  • ERC Starting Grant (European Science Foundation) 2009
  • Member, The Young Academy, Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (elected in 2007)
  • Member, International Astronomical Union
  • Christiaan Huygens Prize, 2004
  • VIDI research grant (Innovation Scheme, NWO) 2003
  • CJ Kok prize, University of Leiden, 2000
  • Amelia Earhart Fellowship Award, 1995 and 1997

International Academic Activities


  • Scientific Member, ESO Council for the Netherlands, 2018 – 
  • Co-Chair, ESO’s OPC, Galaxies panel, 2012 – 2013
  • Member, Science Advisory Group to ING director, 2012 – 2015
  • Member, Astronomy Working Group, ESA, 2007 – 2010
  • Member, ESO/ESA Working Group on the Milky Way, 2007 -2008
  • Member, ASTRONET European Science Vision working group, panel B (Galaxies)


  • Co-lead, Milky Way Science Working Group, Euclid Mission, 2011 – 2013
  • PI of the Low Resolution Halo Key Science Survey, and member of the Science Steering Committee, 4most project, 2011 – to-date
  • Lead of “Validation” and “Visualization of multi-D Gaia data” work packages, CU9, Gaia, 2013 – to-date
  • Member, Science team of WEAVE project, 2012 – to-date
  • Member, RAVE Executive Board, 2003 – to-date
  • Member, ‘Chemical Tagging working group’ (Gaia Research for European Astronomy Training), 2007 – 2009


  • Co-organizer of more than 20 international meetings, including SOC of 1 IAU JD and 3 IAU Symposia, and a Royal Society/KNAW/Chinese Academy of Sciences “Frontiers in Science” workshop in China
  • Referee for grant allocation for UK, US, Canada, Germany, Japan, Argentina, Chile, Sweden, Germany, Hungary, ERC St. and Advanced Grants
  • Referee of Nature, Science, ApJ, ApJL, AJ, MNRAS, A&A, PASA, PRD, PRL, Phys. Lett. A & B, JCAP
  • Referee of PhD thesis in Oxford, Leiden, Groningen, Potsdam, Bologna

National Academic Activities

  • Research Coordinator of Network 1: “Cosmology and Galaxies” for NOVA, (Netherlands Top Research School for Astronomy), 2013 -- 2018
  • Chair NOVA research committee, 2017 – 2018
  • Member, Grant Assessment Committee for Astronomy, NWO: 2004 –
  • Jury member of the `Nationale Wetenschapsagenda’, KNAW: 2015

Invited reviews at Conferences in 2011 – to date

  • 2018: EWASS (Liverpool), NAC (Groningen)
  • 2017: ‘Rediscovering our Galaxy’ (Potsdam), ‘The science of Gaia and future challenges’ (Lund), ‘Reaching New Heights in Astronomy’ (ESO, Munich)
  • 2015: `ESO in the 2020s’ (Munich); ‘Dark matter in the Galaxy’ (Amsterdam); ‘Satellites and stellar streams’ (Santiago); ‘The New Milky Way’ (Munich); Plenary talk at EWASS (Tenerife); ‘IAU Symposium
    319: The general assembly of stellar halos’ (Hawaii); Division meeting H on The Milky Way in the era of
    Gaia (Hawaii); `ReSolving Galaxies in The Era of Extremely Large Telescopes’ (Monterrey)
  • 2014: ‘Star formation and Galactic Structure’ (Groningen); ‘Testable solutions to the dark matter problem:
    theory & observations, EWASS’ (Geneva); ‘IAU Symposium 311: Galaxy Masses as Constraints of
    Formation Models’ (Oxford); ‘Satellite galaxies and dwarfs in the Local Group’ (Potsdam)
  • 2013: ‘PN.S future: projects and ideas’ (Leiden); ‘The scientific legacy of Sersic’ (Cordoba); ‘Galaxies within
    the cosmic web’ (Chicago); Gaia Challenge 2013 (Sussex), ‘From Dwarfs to Giants’ (Sesto)
  • 2012: ‘Structure of galaxy disks, EWASS’ (Rome); ‘Galactic Archaeology Surveys’ (Sydney); ‘Dynamics
    meets Kinematic Tracers’ (Ringberg); ‘First Galaxies and Faint Dwarfs: Extreme Probes of the Cold Dark
    Matter Paradigm’ (Santa Barbara);
  • 2011: ‘Assembling the Puzzle of the Milky Way’ (Le Grand-Bornand); ‘Bologna Informal Workshop on
    Dark Matter 2011’ (Bologna); ‘Galaxy Formation’ (Durham); ‘Galaxies in the dark’ (Salta)

Departmental Colloquia in 2011 – to date

  • Dwingeloo 2017;
  • Amsterdam 2016;
  • Göttingen 2016;
  • Cordoba 2015;
  • Santiago 2014;
  • Leicester 2014;
  • Groningen 2014;
  • Cordoba 2013;
  • Zürich 2012;
  • Amsterdam 2011;
  • Lausanne, 2011;

Academic staff supervised

Former PhD students:

  • P. van Oirschot (2018)
  • H. Tian (2017)
  • T. K. Starkenburg (2016)
  • J. T. Buist (2015)
  • G. Monari (2014)
  • M. Breddels (2013)
  • C. Vera-Ciro (2013)
  • E. Starkenburg (2011, with E. Tolstoy)
  • F. Gomez (2010)
  • Y. S. Li (2009)
  • A. Villalobos (2009)
  • G. Battaglia (2007, with E. Tolstoy)
  • M. Williams (2008, Australia, co-supervision)
  • P. Re-Fiorentin (2005, Italy, co-supervision)

Current PhD students:

  • J. Hagen (2019)
  • H. Koppelman (2020)

Former Postdocs:

  • M. Breddels (2013-2018)
  • S. Jin (2011-2014)
  • R. Sanderson (2011-2014)
  • M. T. Antoja (2010-2012)
  • L. Sales (2007-2010)
  • M. Smith (2004-2007)
  • E. Ripamonti (2003-2006, with E. Tolstoy)

Current Postdocs:

  • D. Massari (2017 – 2020)
  • L. Posti (2016 – 2020)
  • J. Veljanoski (2014-2018)
Last modified:01 June 2021 11.25 a.m.

Contact information

Landleven 12
9747 AD Groningen
The Netherlands

Place of work