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Prof. Judit Szulágyi

(ETH Zürich, Switzerland)

Prof. Judit Szulágyi

The 2021 MERAC Prize for the Best Early Career Researcher in New Technologies (Computational) is awarded to Prof. Judit Szulágyi (ETH Zürich, Switzerland) for her fundamental contribution to the study of circumplanetary disks in planet formation, and the origin of the moons of giant planets.

Prof. Judit Szulágyi obtained a Master in Astronomy from Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary and then her PhD from the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis at the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur in 2015. Shen then moved to ETH Zürich as postdoctoral fellow. In 2017 she was awarded an Ambizione Fellowship at the University of Zürich, until she returned in 2021 to ETH Zürich with an ERC starting grant. Prof. Szulágyi was listed on Forbes Europe “30 under 30 in Science” and obtained several prizes in Hungary and the Pro Scientia Golden Medal from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Her main topic is the study of circumplanetary disks and exomoon formation.

Prof. Judit Szulágyi has become a leading export of the rapidly developing research field of circumplanetary disks and in-situ moon formation. She conjugates deep theoretical and computational insight with the pragmatic attitude of a phenomenologist who delivers testable predictions for circumplanetary disk observations, and to guide the new exciting endeavor of exomoon detection. The whole notion of circumplanetary disks of gas and dust being a natural outcome of the planet formation process, both in core accretion and in disk instability, is new in exoplanet theory. Its implications for understanding the growth of massive planets owes a lot to Prof. Szulágyi’s work. This is one of the very few important conceptual additions to the conventional core accretion formation scenario.

Prof. Szulágyi has been among the first scientists to describe the meridional circulation in circumplanetary disks, which she discovered in her hydrodynamical simulations, and which receives now observational support. Since her PhD, she authored many first-author in which all aspects of circumplanetary disks physics and satellites/exomoons formation, from the impact of circumplanetary disks on accretion shocks and the growth of giant planets to the growth of planetesimals in dust traps in circumplanetary disks, to satellites of gas and ice giants as well as their implications for exomoon formation.

Prof. Szulágyi is also working actively with observers using mock observations of her simulations to guide observational strategies to detect such disks around young planets, and interpret information contained in the observations, e.g., with ALMA and SPHERE. Moreover, recently observations of a circumplanetary disk have matched predictions by Prof. Szulágyi, and in general her ALMA dust continuum mocks correctly guided observers to discover new circumplanetary disks.

The work of Prof. Szulágyi has been conducted at the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, France, ETH Zürich and University of Zürich, Switzerland.