From instrumental design
to scientific exploitation
Home page > Scientific Pole > Stellar and Galactic physics > News > Newcomers in the Stellar and Galactic

Newcomers in the Stellar and Galactic Physics team

Since Autumn 2015, new people joined the team “Stellar and Galactic Physics” in the Scientific Pole. They are PhD students, post-docs or engineer and they are introducing themselves in this article. On the group picture, from left to right: Francesca Fragkoudi, Camilla Danielski, Letizia Capitanio, Meriem El-Yajouri and Guillaume Plum.

 Letizia Capitanio

I’m Letizia, one more Italian in GEPI ... I got passionate about physics only in the final year of high school, after tasting the charm of theater, poetry and literature. It is the idea to ask questions and to answer them with methodology that conquered me, the promise that we can find a solution, that there is a truth. Obviously, five years of study later, you realize that there is not always an answer, and if there were, they are anyway modest given the immensity of our universe.

I passed my license and my Master in Trieste, where I could learn general physics and especially during the Master I followed a course of Astrophysics and Cosmology. My Master thesis was on the Sun: our star is already quite easy to understand. When I obtained my Master degree, in November 2014, I arrived in Paris, driven by all the books I read and movies I’ve seen, as much too romantic girls. I had an experience as an au pair in Triel sur Seine, near Paris, to learn the French language and look for a PhD thesis in Paris Observatory. For my PhD, I am working on the interstellar medium of our Galaxy. With my director Rosine Lallement, we analyze data from different observational programs and get ourselves ready for Gaia data. The goal? to map the interstellar medium as precisely as possible.

 Camilla Danielski

I was born in Verona (Italy), and after a bachelor in science I decided to take up on a dream of mine and I enrolled at University of Padova to study astronomy. My BSc project was focused on studying the expected performances of the ESA “PLAnetary Transit and Oscillation of star’s” (PLATO) mission concept. I enjoyed so much the topic that I chose to specialise myself on detection and characterisation of exoplanets. Hence, I moved to the University College London (London, UK) where I took my MSc and my PhD in Astrophysics. During my PhD I specialised in studying exoplanets from the observational side, and I gained a strong experience in reducing data (from ground-based and space observatories), spectral analysis, Monte-Carlo simulations and statistic methods.

After my PhD I moved to Paris to work at the Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale d’Orsay and Service d’Astrophysique du CEA. As a postdoc at IAS, I worked for a better understanding of stellar variability induced by activity using photometric correlations at different wavelengths. This study was developed in the light of future space mission programmed for studying exoplanets atmospheres such as JWST, EChO and now ARIEL (candidate for the ESA M4 Mission). At CEA I focused on analysing the performances of the JWST/Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), and on the study of the constraints on the planetary parameters that we can obtain with MIRI coronograph observations.

At the end of my postdoc I received the CNES fellowship to work on GAIA space mission in the field of exoplanets. I am now happily at GEPI working on decreasing the degree of uncertainty in exoplanetary data by creating a 3D extinction map on the totality of the sky (necessary to exploit GAIA data), and by recalibrating the surface brightness relation to robustly estimate the radii of stars in the main-sequence.

 Francesca Fragkoudi

I arrived at GEPI as a postdoctoral researcher in January 2016. Born and raised in Cyprus, I escaped island life at 18 to study Physics and Philosophy at the University of Bristol, U.K. By the time I graduated, I had decided that astrophysics is where it’s at (and that I had to leave cold and gray England), so I went to Barcelona to do a Masters in Astrophysics and Cosmology.

After completing my masters thesis on the dark matter bispectrum (supervised by Licia Verde) and then taking some time off to travel around South America, I started my Ph.D. at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille. There, I studied the dynamics of barred galaxies, under the supervision of Lia Athanassoula. I completed my Ph.D. at the end of October 2015 after having worked on boxy/peanut bulges, their effect on orbits and gas flows in galaxies, as well as the dark matter content of galaxies, while always aiming to connect large and small scale processes. After another brief stint in South America doing astronomy outreach (if you’d like to know more about that, look up GalileoMobile’s project “Constellation”) I arrived at GEPI, ready to apply my knowledge of galactic dynamics to our very own Milky Way.

During my two years here I will be working with Paola Di Matteo and Misha Haywood in order to create models of the Milky Way to compare with upcoming Gaia data. If you’d like to know more about my research, feel free to visit my personal webpage, at

 Guillaume Plum

As far as I can remember (and even before according to legend), I always looked up at the sky. As soon as I got the basics in physics in high school, I started to apply them to try and understand how the solar system, stars, galaxies work. So I turned to a degree in fundamental physics at Pierre et Marie Curie University (UPMC). After a first year of Master at UPMC, I arrived in the Master of the Paris-Meudon Observatory, in the course on the dynamics of gravitational systems. Then I made my PhDthesis on the study of the three gravitational instabilities (the manuscript can be found here:

I am now working as a research engineer on the Gaia mission in CU6. I work at this moment on integrating new modules into the analysis chain.

 Stefania Salvadori

I was born in a small city 30 km away from Florence, in Italy. However, it has been long time since I moved from my home town. The first stage of my scientific and geographic journey was Florence, where I studied Physics. During the University I spent a period in Madrid, thanks to the Erasmus project, in order to study Cosmology, Observational Astronomy, and Astro-Particle Physics. After graduating, I moved to the Nord-Est of Italy for a PhD in theoretical Astrophysics and Cosmology at the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste (SISSA/ISAS). During my PhD, advised by Andrea Ferrara, I developed cosmological models to study the formation of the first stars and constrain their properties by using observations of the most metal-poor stars in the Local Group.

After my PhD I moved to the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute of Groningen, in The Netherlands, where I spent six years as a NOVA and VENI Fellow. During my post-doctoral experience I extended my research towards more distant objects exploring the connections between Near- and Far-Field Cosmology. I have investigated the links between the progenitors of present-day dwarf galaxies and more distant Damped Lyman Alpha systems, the contribution that small dwarf galaxies had on the metal-enrichment and reionization of the Local Group, and the possibility of forming direct-collapse black hole seeds at their centers. While collaborating with Eline Tolstoy and her group, I started to be involved in observational campaigns to study the chemical abundance of metal-poor stars in nearby dwarf galaxies, and my interest in understanding the early phases of chemical evolution grew up.

At the moment, I am interested in studying the chemical imprint that the first stars might have left in the Local Universe and in understanding what are the strategies that might allow us to observe their hidden signatures. It is for this reason that I have joined the GEPI Laboratory with a Fellowship de l’Observatoire. My project aims at complementing the group lead by Piercarlo Bonifacio with my cosmological expertise to make testable predictions and catch the living fossils of the first stars. Our final goal is to constrain the primordial Initial Mass Function by comparing model predictions and data that can be obtained by using both current instrumentation along with upcoming spectrographs on present (e.g. WEAVE) and future generation telescopes (e.g. MOSAIC on the E-ELT). Very recently, I awarded a Marie Curie Fellow, which will allow me to extend my staying at GEPI for two additional years. I hope that in this long-term period I will have the possibility to interact with many of you and to develop new collaborations on the broad topic of galaxy formation and evolution!

To read