Lieke van Son

Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows
Visiting Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Astrophysical Sciences
2023-2026 Cohort

Lieke van Son aims to explore our Universe through ripples in space-time, called ‘gravitational waves’. She completed her Ph.D. at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard, and will obtain a joint doctorate from the Anton Pannekoek Institute, University of Amsterdam in December 2023. She obtained her B.A. and M.A. in Astronomy with a specialization in Cosmology, from Leiden University.

Gravitational waves are inherently different from the ‘normal’ light. The first confirmed detection in 2015 heralded a new era in astronomy, as they allowed us to ‘see’ parts of the Universe that were inaccessible before. The gravitational-wave events observed today are the fossils of massive stars: black holes and/or neutron stars that collide and merge. Van Son uses this stellar graveyard to learn how these otherwise elusive massive stars lived their lives and shaped our Universe. In her work, she combines computational simulations with analytical models, in order to unravel the complex phenomena that govern stellar evolution and ultimately lead to the formation of merging black holes and neutron stars.

Apart from her science, she engages in various outreach initiatives, ranging from the development of an astronomy exhibition to promoting STEM careers among high school students. Further, she is involved in ComSciCon, a nonprofit that organizes a series of workshops for graduate students on science communication across the US, Canada, and France.