Dr. Chervin Laporte, a Distinguished Researcher at the Institute of Cosmos Science (ICCUB-IEEC), was awarded an ERC Starting Grant by the European Research Council (ERC) in its 2019 call for his project “Numerical Simulations of the Milky Way’s Accretion History (VIA LACTEA)”, which is officially starting today at the Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the University of Barcelona.

ERC Starting Grants, which are part of the program Horizon 2020, are designed to help talented researchers who want to establish their research teams in Europe. The awarded candidates must have an excellent scientific track record showing scientific talent and an excellent research proposal for the next five years. These are evaluated on the basis of excellence as the sole criterion by selected international peer reviewers.

About the project VIA LACTEA

The EU-funded VIA LACTEA project will investigate the formation process of the Milky Way. To achieve its goal, it will analyse its major accretion events using state-of-the-art computing techniques as well as the formation of the inner-halo. Secondly, it will look into the impact of known satellites. The project will build on the European Space Agency Gaia satellite’s three-dimensional map of the Milky Way, which shows that the stars in our galaxy are much more complex in structure and kinematics than previously thought.

The early third data release of the Gaia satellite has revealed much complexity in the structure and kinematics of stars in the Milky Way than previously appreciated. In the disc, Gaia has shown that our Galaxy is still enduring the effects of a collision that set millions of stars moving like ripples on a pond. In the stellar halo, the data uncovered a large single debris structure pointing to a massive accretion event 10 billion years ago, at a time when the disc was in its infancy. Our basic assumptions of dynamical equilibrium and axisymmetry at the basis of nearly all mathematical models of the Galaxy are now falling short to make further progress on our inference on the Galaxy’s formation or the distribution of dark matter. This proposal aims to explore the deep coupling between the stellar halo and the Milky Way disc and bulge, to gain new insights on the formation history of the Milky Way through its most major accretion events through a number of state-of-the-art computing techniques.

 In the words of Dr. Laporte, “The aim of his project is to constrain the accretion history of the Galaxy, and study how this influenced the formation and evolution of the Milky Way as well as the distribution of dark matter in the Galaxy through a series of numerical simulation campaigns. The predictions from these runs will be central for the interpretation of data from future and upcoming large photometric/spectroscopic surveys on the ground (WEAVE, SDSS-V, DESI, 4MOST and LSST at the Vera Rubin Observatory). As part of his project, I will also be joining the SDSS-V collaboration, which will map and measure chemical abundances and radial velocities for ~5 million stars in the Milky Way in both hemispheres and the WEAVE survey at La Palma.”

About Dr. Chervin Laporte

Among other recognitions, Dr. Laporte was awarded the Ramon y Cajal Fellowship in 2020. He has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Institute of the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU) as a Kavli Fellow between 2020 and 2021, at the University of Victoria as a CITA National Fellow from 2017 to 2019 and a prize fellowship at the University of Columbia in the City of New York as a Junior Fellow of the Simons Society of Fellows (2014-2017).

Dr. Laporte began his academic journey at the University of Cambridge (2006-2010) where he took a degree in Natural Sciences and did his PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (2010-2014). His expertise covers a wide range of fields such as galactic dynamics, computational cosmology, galaxy formation and interpretation and data mining of large astronomical datasets. Throughout his career, Dr. Laporte has worked on dark matter on the scale of tiny dwarf galaxies to that of the largest bound objects in the Universe, galaxy clusters. He now primarily works on the formation and evolution of the Milky Way through a combination of numerical simulations and interpretation of large dataset (e.g. SDSS, Gaia) and dark matter on astrophysical scales.

Outside astrophysics, Dr. Chervin Laporte is a musician (jazz pianist) and enjoys scuba diving. One of the better outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic was that it gave him the time to make more progress on improvisation with the support of his mentors in NYC and Maryland.

More information

Read the full description of the project «Numerical Simulations of the Milky Way’s Accretion History (VIA LACTEA)».