Introducing Professor Sera Markoff

24 May 2017

Dr S. Markoff (1971) has been appointed professor of Theoretical High-Energy Astrophysics, with a focus on relativistic compact objects and astroparticle physics, at the University of Amsterdam’s (UvA) Faculty of Science.  The new chair is based at the Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy (API), also in collaboration with the Gravitation and AstroParticle Physics Amsterdam (GRAPPA) Center of Excellence, a joint program between API and the Institute of Physics (IoP).

Gravity in action

Sera Markoff specialises in the study of accretion — the gravitational capture of material — around compact objects like black holes, and investigates how that energy is processed and released into a variety of forms, including extreme outflows and radiation. Markoff is particularly interested in understanding the details of how relativistic, magnetised fluids behave in strong gravity, resulting in the launching of ‘jets’ of plasma at nearly light speed that both accelerate high-energy particles as well as drastically impact their environment. She has helped establish the theory of how this physics translates over a factor of millions in size, from stellar-mass black holes up to supermassive black holes living in the centres of galaxies.  

As professor at the UvA, Markoff will focus on how the macroscopic properties of the magnetised plasma couple to the microphysics of particle acceleration and light production – a fundamental missing piece of the puzzle necessary for correctly interpreting data from facilities in space and on the ground. Her research connects to larger questions on galaxy evolution and cosmology as well as on astroparticle physics, and thereby straddles the research directions of both API and GRAPPA.   Markoff leads a research group encompassing both observational and theoretical methods, most recently including large computer simulations.