Dr Dominika Wylezalek

Heidelberg University, Germany

Dr Dominika Wylezalek

Best Early Career Researcher in Observational Astrophysics:
The 2023 MERAC Prize for the Best Early Career Researcher in Observational Astrophysics is awarded to Dr Dominika Wylezalek (Heidelberg University, Germany) for her pioneering work using state-of-the-art IFU instruments, in particular for her work demonstrating the impact of supermassive black holes on their host galaxies and the large-scale environment.

Dr Dominika Wylezalek studied physics at Heidelberg University, Germany (BSc, 2010), and the University of Cambridge, UK (MASt, Part III Physics, 2011). In 2014, she received her PhD from Munich University (LMU) with a fellowship from the International Max Planck Research School on Astrophysics which she had spent at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Garching/Munich. She then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA, where she held an Akbari-Mack and Provost Postdoctoral Fellowship. She then moved to ESO in Munich as an ESO Fellow. Since 2020, she has been leading her Emmy Noether Group at the Center for Astronomy at Heidelberg University. Her research focuses on the exploration of the role of AGN and quasars in galaxy evolution, one of the most important and pressing questions in extragalactic astronomy today.

Dominika Wylezalek is a world expert on the evolution of galaxies with intense AGN-driven activity and their impact on the intergalactic, circumgalactic and even galaxy cluster-scale environment. She uses a multi-wavelength, multi-technique, multi-scale and multi-era approach. During her PhD, Dominika found that powerful radio-loud AGN appear to trace very dense and massive distant galaxy proto-clusters, in which galaxy evolution seems to occur at an accelerated pace. As a junior postdoc, Dominika Wylezalek focused on the between AGN and galaxy evolution. Using large galaxy and AGN samples at low redshift (with SDSS-MaNGA), and smaller unique AGN samples at high redshift, she has developed new ideas and approaches on how to investigate AGN feedback processes. She has developed new spatially resolved techniques for identifying signatures of AGN, uncovering a much more nuanced picture of AGN activity. She has been and is leading several cuttingedge research projects, including various ESO, ALMA and JWST Early Release Science Projects on AGN feedback. She is PI of a JWST Early Release Science project (Q3D) and has become one of the leading experts for AGN science with the JWST. The initial Q3D data already resulted in an impressive and unanticipated result, namely identifying one of the densest knots of galaxy formation around a high-redshift quasar The work received worldwide recognition, including media attention through several press releases. Under Wylezalek’s lead, the Q3D team is actively working on several upcoming publications with their unique JWST data.

The work was conducted Johns Hopkins University, the European Southern Observatory ESO, and at Heidelberg University.