Max Grönke starts new research group at MPA

December 09, 2021

There are still many unanswered questions in galaxy formation and evolution, especially on small scales, thinks Max Grönke, who leads the research group “Multiphase Gas” at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics since November 1, 2021.

Max Grönke became interested in astronomy at an early age; already as a school-boy he visited Jochen Weller in Cambridge, who happens to be from the same place in the Black Forest. Max then went on to study physics at the Free University in Berlin, where he wrote his bachelor's thesis at DESY. For his master's and later his doctoral thesis, he moved to the Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics in Oslo. This was followed by postdoctoral positions in the U.S., at the University of California at Santa Barbara and as a Hubble Fellow at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Since November 1, he leads the research group “Multiphase Gas” at the MPA.

Max Grönke's group will explore gas dynamics in and around galaxies, particularly on scales previously too small to resolve in standard galaxy simulations. Max's previous research has included radiation transport in galaxies and magneto-hydrodynamics; two areas he is now bringing together in his research group.

While galaxy formation and evolution on large scales is mainly dominated by the dark matter distribution, on small scales various baryonic processes determine how gas gets into galaxies, its motion there, how it is partially converted into stars, or is ejected from the galaxies. Max and his group will explore the previously unexplored plasma physics with magneto-hydrodynamic simulations on small scales and then use radiative transfer equations to determine how to observe these processes. This connection to data-driven astronomy is important, though the particular appeal for Max Grönke lies in the focus on the theoretical basics and fundamental questions.

MPA’s theoretical focus thus suits Max very well; he is already looking forward to regular exchanges with colleagues with whom there is much overlap. Currently, there is only half the group at the institute: one PhD student and one postdoc are here already; two more are expected to join the group next year. Also Max himself is only working fifty percent at the moment; he is on parental leave for the other half.

Max likes to spend his free time with his family and friends, especially enjoying the fresh air outdoors. So despite the pandemic last year, he managed to explore the East Coast of the USA and has also been out and about somewhat in the Bavarian mountains. He is really looking forward to the time after Covid and the opening of the Bavarian “Biergärten” next spring.

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