Credit: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (


  • since 2017

    Professor at LMU

    Since February 2017 I am a professor for theoretical astrophysics at the LMU Munich, leading an ERC funded research group on planet formation.

  • 2015-2016

    Postdoc at MPIA

    Moving back to Germany, I worked as a postdoc with Hubert Klahr and Thomas Henning at the MPIA in Heidelberg for 1.5 years.

  • 2013-2015

    Postdoc at CfA

    I spent almost 3 years at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA working with Sean Andrews and up to today keep an affiliation with the CfA as Research Associate for ongoing projects and collaborations.

  • 2011-2012

    Postdoc at LMU

    I was postdoctoral researcher at the LMU Munich and the Excellence Cluster 'Universe' working with Barbara Ercolano.

  • 2007-2010

    PhD in Astronomy

    I got my PhD in Astronomy from the University of Heidelberg, working at the Max-Planck-Institute of Astronomy under the supervision of Kees Dullemond. Afterwards I stayed at the MPIA as a postdoc until June 2011.

  • 2003-2007

    Studies at U. of Würzburg and State Univ. of New York

    I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Würzburg, Germany and my Masters at the State University of New York at Albany.


rings in TW Hya disk The general topic of my research is the structure and evolution of protoplanetary disks, the birthplaces of planets. More specifically, I am woking on the dynamics and the size evolution of solid particles in these disks. Young stars and the disks around them are built up from interstellar matter which contains only very small, at most micrometer-sized dust particles. This small dust is the material out of which planets form. However the mechanisms which lead to the growth along over 45 orders of magnitude in mass are still poorly understood. The aim of my work is to understand how grains can grow from small to large and how they are distributed and transported in the disk.

These results have a vast impact on planet formation, disk structure and evolution and the chemistry of protoplanetary disks. I also work together with observers in order to compare my models to observational data and thus test the theory behind them. The questions we set out to answer are the following:

  • What are transition disks (disks with large inner cavities)? Do they host planets or is some other effect the reason for their appearance?
  • Can we use dust observations to probe the structure and evolution of protoplanetary disks?
  • Can our models help us understand features of our own solar system, such as the size distribution of chondrules found in meteorites, the isotopic composition of water, or the size of the solar system?
  • How can we explain the existence of mm-sized pebbles in the outer regions of disks? How do they form and how do they migrate?
  • How does grain growth proceed from sub-µm sized dust to planetesimals? Can we understand this with models based on current laboratory experiments?
  • What is the size and structure of so-called dead zones, i.e., regions where the disk is predicted to be non-turbulent and what is the role of fine dust grains in this picture?


live from NASA ADS

Refereed papers:


disk image
Astrophysik I (SS19)
Lecture (Bachelor)
credit:wikipedia image, Bolz
Astrophysik des Sonnensystems (SS19)
Seminar (Bachelor)
credit:wikipedia image
Astrophysical Advanced Seminar (SS19)
Seminar (Masters)
disk image
The Formation and Evolution of Planets in Protoplanetary Disks (WS18/19)
Lecture (Masters)
credit:wikipedia image
Astrophysics Essentials (WS18/19)
Lecture (Masters)
Introduction to Radiative Transfer Processes (SS18)
Lecture (Masters)
Astrophysical Advanced Seminar (SS18)
Seminar (Masters)
The Formation and Evolution of Planets in Protoplanetary Disks (WS17/18)
Lecture (Masters)
Astrophysics of the Solar System (WS17/18)
Seminar (Bachelor)
Astrophysik II
(1 substitution lecture)
Lecture (Batchelor)
The Formation and Evolution of Planets in Protoplanetary Disks (SS17)
Lecture (Masters)
Astrophysics of the Solar System (SS17)
Seminar (Bachelor)

Press & Outreach

Disk Survey Images
20 Ring Worlds seen with ALMA
HD163296 artist impression
Planet Hunting with ALMA
TW Hya image
Most Detailed Image of a Disk
HL Tau image
A Dust Clump in HL Tau?
Flying Saucer Disk Image
A Frozen Flying Saucer
gaps image
Disk Gaps Don't Always Signal Planets
disk tunnel image
Inner dust ring around star gets supplies abroad
gaps image
Popular Science Article
lucky particles
Lucky Dust Particles
IRS 48 artist impression
Dust Trap in IRS 48


Scheinerstr. 1, 81679 Munich, Germany

+49 (0) 89 2180 6973

til [dot] birnstiel [at] lmu [dot] de