Otto Hahn Medal for Francesca Rizzo

March 21, 2022

This year, former MPA PhD student Francesca Rizzo is one of the recipients of the Otto Hahn Medal. The Max Planck Society awards the prize to her for original and groundbreaking work into the kinematic and dynamical properties of high-redshift galaxies.

Francesca Rizzo’s dissertation makes two original and high-impact contributions to the study of high-redshift galaxies. These have provided important new insights into how galaxies form. She developed a new three-dimensional and fully general technique that simultaneously reconstructs both the structure and kinematics of a distant source and the structure of a foreground gravitational lens by which it is multiply imaged.

She applied this technique to radio-interferometer observations of the interstellar gas in a number of lensed galaxies seen just 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang, achieving effective angular resolutions several times better than any previous study. This work showed galaxies to have similar structure to present-day spirals and to be substantially more regular and less turbulent than had been inferred from previous, lower resolution studies. This discovery will force a significant re-evaluation of our ideas about galaxy assembly.

Francesca Rizzo did her Master in Astrophysics and Cosmology at the University of Bologna (Italy) after obtaining a Bachelor in Physics at University of Pisa (Italy). She worked on her PhD about “A strong gravitational lensing view on the dynamical properties of high-redshift star-forming galaxies” at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics under the supervision of Dr Simona Vegetti and Prof Simon White. She is now DAWN/Interactions Fellow at the Cosmic Dawn Center, a research center located in Copenhagen at the Niels Bohr Institute.

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