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Dr Annemieke Petrignani has been appointed as MacGillavry Fellow in the Molecular Photonics group of the Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences. Her research focuses on organic chemistry from space to the origins of life.
Dr Annemieke Petrignani. Photo: UvA

Dr. Petrignani obtained her Master degree at the Delft University of Technology in Pattern Recognition.  She then moved on to obtain her PhD at the FOM institute AMOLF in atmospheric photophysics, for which she frequently worked at Stockholm University to perform ion-storage ring experiments and at SRI International, Menlo Park, to develop sources to prepare molecules in specific quantum states. Afterwards, she did postdoctoral work at the Max-Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, Heidelberg, where her research focussed on the spectroscopy and electron recombination of cold molecular ions relevant to molecular clouds where planet formation takes place.

In 2011, she started working for the Leiden Observatory where she performed experimental studies on the breakdown chemistry of large organic molecules that play an important role in planet formation and possibly as pre-cursors of the building blocks of life. In 2014, she obtained a Vidi grant and started her own group at the University of Amsterdam.

Hydrocarbons in space

Annemieke Petrignani was awarded a Vidi grant to study the shape and sizes of hydrocarbons in space. Her studies aim to unravel the organic inventory in space by investigating the infrared to visible spectral behaviour of large gas-phase hydrocarbon species in the laboratory in interplay with theory and observation. One of her most significant contributions is the discovery of infrared and visible fingerprints for extra-terrestrial hydrocarbon molecules.

These discoveries pave the way to unravel the inventory of large organics in space that have thus far evaded detection. Annemieke aims to use these fingerprints not only to identify these large organics, but also to unravel their role in the cosmic carbon chemistry and possibly in the emergence of life and homochirality. In her future work, she will continue to address these key questions with an increased focus on emergence of life on exoplanets and possible universal building blocks of life.


Dr. Petrignani’s research is part of the NWO Dutch Astrochemistry Network (DAN), the NWO Planetary and Exoplanetary Science (PEPSci), and the national Origins Center as well as the international initiative between NWO and NASA. She is one of the co-founders of the Amsterdam Origins Center (AOC) initiative and aims to combine the complexity of origins research with the HIMS initiative on Computer aided Chemistry CoaCh. Her vision is to implement AI techniques to tackle the challenges related to big data and complex (experimental) studies.

For those interested in the Amsterdam Origins Center, send an email to Prof. Carsten Dominik to be added to the mailing list and/or visit one of our bi-monthly Origins meetings.

MacGillavry Fellowship

The Faculty of Science of the University of Amsterdam attaches great importance to the contribution of female scientists in research and education. For this reason we founded a recruitment programme for talented women, named after the ground breaking crystallographer professor Carolina MacGillavry (1904-1993), an alumna of the University of Amsterdam.

After two successful rounds in 2010 and 2013, this is the third time we opened up these special tenure track positions. There are six positions available in this round. The Faculty of Science received 420 applications from all over the world. Twenty-one candidates received an invitation for a selection day, which included an interview with the selection committee and giving a public lecture. Negotiations with the candidates of choice are currently ongoing.