Inspired by the magic of flight as a teenager, science and the mysteries of the universe have always been my passion. I started my research career jointly at KU Leuven and the University of Warwick pondering evolution scenarios of long-period subdwarf B binaries, a theoretically predicted, but unobserved class of binary stars. Mining a 10-year long observation campaign led me to the discovery and characterization of the first system of its kind: PG 1018-047.
A keen interest in astrophysics and high-performance computing encouraged me towards a PhD in space plasma physics, focusing on the multi-scale interaction with bodies immersed in plasma. Along this path I updated the fully parallel and implicit particle-in-cell code iPIC3D for the analysis of spacecraft charging, engaged in a performance comparison study between CPU, GPU and MIC architectures and developed the first 3D fully kinetic and electromagnetic simulations of the solar wind interaction with lunar magnetic anomalies. This work unraveled the ion and electron dynamics leading to the formation of mini-magnetospheres, an effort rewarded with a cover article in Physical Review Letters and a visiting scientist position at LATMOS/UVSQ.
Currently at NASA/SSERVI's IMPACT and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (CU Boulder, USA), I am exploring plasma-surface interactions with airless and (non)magnetized bodies in space and the laboratory. My collaborators and I have developed 3D fully kinetic simulations to disentangle the kinetic ion and electron dynamics of the solar wind interaction with outgassing comets, focusing on the Rosetta mission and comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Our work currently features as the APS Physics Viewpoint and on the NASA/SSERVI website.
Lunar swirls and their possible connection with magnetic anomalies are an intriguing puzzle yet to be solved. Most recently, we have shown that solar wind standoff, a proposed formation mechanism for these enigmatic features, reproduces the shape of the Reiner Gamma albedo pattern. For the first time a qualitative match between optical remote observations and in situ particle measurements of the back-scattered ions was simultaneously achieved. We have published these results in Nature's Communications Physics.
Most recently, as an active member of SHOTS (Studies on Hermean magnetosphere Oriented Theories and Simulations) and the Hermean Environment Working Group, and in anticipation of BepiColombo's arrival at Mercury, I develop fully kinetic particle-in-cell simulations to study the solar wind interaction with the Hermean planet.
In addition, I am an Associate Scientist for the Plasma Wave Investigation instrument onboard BepiColombo and a co-investigator on ESA's Comet Interceptor mission.
I enjoy teaching and supervising students. I am a passionate glider/GA pilot, hiker and skier. As a competition athlete (track and ultimate), I always look forward to new and exciting challenges!
Current and past support is gratefully acknowledged from: