Otto Hahn Medal for Oliver Zier

June 17, 2024

Former MPA PhD student Oliver Zier received one of the Otto Hahn Medals this year at the Max Planck Society's annual assembly in Berlin. The prize is awarded for the development of novel numerical techniques that allow the accurate simulation of rotationally supported, cold, magnetized astrophysical disks.

Rotationally supported, cold gaseous disks play a central role in astrophysics. They naturally arise from the relentless pull of gravity combined with angular momentum conservation whenever there are dissipative processes in the baryons, leading to protoplanetary disks, accretion disks onto black holes, or large, star-forming galactic disks, to name just the most prominent examples. Numerical simulations are required to study the non-linear physics in such disks, but they are met with substantial technical and physical challenges. In his thesis, Oliver Zier has developed novel numerical techniques that for the first time make it possible to accurately simulate magnetized disk flows with a freely moving, fully unstructured and automatically adaptive mesh. His new methods allow simulations of global disks that can sustain magneto-rotational instability and gravito-turbulence for hundreds of orbits while at the same time can follow local  gravitational fragmentation to very high density contrast. This is a significant step forward towards physically more reliable numerical models of astrophysical disks.

After his undergraduate studies of physics and computer science at the University of Bayreuth, Oliver Zier pursued a master of science degree in theoretical and mathematical physics at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich. He then came to the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in 2019 to work on his doctoral research, which he finished at the beginning of 2023 with a thesis on "Taming rotationally supported disks using state of the art numerical methods". Since the fall of 2023 he works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.

Every year since 1978, the Max Planck Society awards the Otto Hahn Medal and 7,500 euros of prize money to its best junior scientists - mostly for achievements in connection with their doctorates. The prize is  intended to motivate especially gifted early career researchers to pursue a future university or research career.

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