Dr. Dominika Wylezalek

Welcome to my personal website.

I am a DFG-funded Emmy-Noether Research Group Leader at the Heidelberg University (ARI). You can find out more about our research group GALENA at this link. Feel free to contact me about potential PhD, Master or Bachelor Projects in our group.

Before starting this position, I was an ESO Fellow at the European Southern Observatory in Garching b. Munich and an Akbari-Mack and Provost Diversity Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department for Physics & Astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, US. I completed my PhD at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and ESO as a fellow of the International Max Planck Research School on Astrophysics (IMPRS).

The goal of my research is to understand how galaxies form and evolve and what physical processes are most important at different cosmic epochs and spatial scales. I am particularly fascinated by supermassive black holes which are some of the most mysterious objects that astronomers have tried to understand for over 100 years, ever since Karl Schwarzschild presented his solutions to the Einstein Field Equations in 1916. Supermassive black holes are now thought to be hosted by every massive galaxy in the Universe and the energy output of actively accreting supermassive black holes (active galactic nuclei, AGN) has become a critical ingredient in modern galaxy formation theories. I use multi-wavelength photometric and spectral observations to address various aspects in the field of extragalactic astronomy, in particular AGN physics and feedback signatures and the role of AGN in galaxy evolution. I am also very interested in the build-up of large scale structure in the early phases of the Universe and am actively involved in many high-redshift galaxy cluster studies.


JWST ERS Program

Our team was granted ~ 30 hours of observing time with the James Webb Space Telescope as part of the Early Release Science Program. Using a combination of the NIRSpec on MIRI IFUs, JWST has observed distant galaxies with powerful supermassive black holes for our team allowing us to resolve how and where these black holes impact the evolution and growth of their host galaxies. You can find more information here: Q3D ERS Website.

AGN and Galaxy Evolution

Many observations in the past decades have made it clear that the active (quasar) phase of black hole evolution can have profound effects on the formation of the galaxy. One idea – quasar feedback – seeks to simultaneously explain several major observational findings and open issues in galaxy formation theory such as the observed relations between black holes and their hosts.

However, specific examples of quasar-driven feedback in action have been surprisingly hard to come by, and it is far from clear how exactly the coupling between accretion energy and matter on galactic scales is established. Understanding the mechanism, the physics of quasar feedback and its impact on the quasar host galaxy is a major topic of my research.
see e.g. Wylezalek+2018, Wylezalek+2017, Wylezalek+2016b, Zakamska+20166, Wylezalek+2016a, Obied+2016

The build-up of structure

Emerging from the cosmic web, galaxy clusters are the most massive gravitationally bound structures in the universe. Thought to have begun their assembly at 2 < z < 3, clusters provide insights into the growth of large-scale structure as well as the physics that drives galaxy evolution. Our group has successfully identified a very promising sample of ∼ 200 galaxy cluster candidates at z > 1.3, one of the most powerful cluster samples to study galaxy evolution in the densest and most massive environments at high redshift.

see e.g. Noirot+2016, Cooke+2016, Cooke+2015, Hatch+2014, Wylezalek+2014, Wylezalek+2013


A full version can be obtained upon request.

Professional Experience

Sep 2020 - University of Heidelberg, Astronomisches Rechen-Institut, Emmy-Noether Research Group Leader
Sep 2017 - Aug 2020 European Southern Observatory, Germany, ESO Fellow
Sep 2014 - Sep 2017 Johns Hopkins University, Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Mentor: Nadia Zakamska


Sep 2011-Sep 2014 European Southern Observatory/University of Munich, PhD (magna cum laude),
Thesis advisors: Carlos De Breuck, Joël Vernet
Sep 2012-March 2013 JPL/Caltech, visiting PhD Student,
host: Daniel Stern
Sep 2010-Sep 2011 University of Cambridge, UK, Master of Advanced Study in Physics (Part III),
Thesis advisor: Richard McMahon
Sep 2007-Sep 2010 University of Heidelberg, Germany, Bachelor of Science in Physics,
Thesis advisor: Jochen Heidt

Awards & Media

March 2024 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize of the German Research Foundation Press Release on the Heidelberg University website
August 2023 Ludwig-Biermann-Award by the German Astronomical Society: Press Release on the AG Website, Press Release on the Uni HD Website
April 2023 MERAC prize of the European Astronomical Society as Best Early Career Researcher in Observational Astrophysics: Press Release on EAS Website, Press Release on the Uni HD Website
Oct 2022 ESA and NASA press releases of the first results from the JWST Q3D Project
July 2022 DLR (German Space Agency) Verbundforschungs Grant
Jan 2021 Video Portrait by Deutsche Welle (English Version)
October 2020 Interview with Local Newspaper
Oct 2020 University of Heidelberg Press Release
Oct 2020 ZAH Press Release
Jan 2020 Daimler und Benz Stiftung Grant "to support the autonomy and creativity of our next generation of academics"
May 2019 Emmy Noether Grant funded by the German Science Foundation for building up an independent research group
May 2019 Interview with `Women in Research' for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting`
Sep 2018 Forman Team Engineering Excellence Award Winner (as part of the ESO Adaptive Optics Facility Team on the Very Large Telescope (VLT))
Nov 2017 PI of JWST ERS Program: Q3D
June 2017 SDSS Travel Grant Award
August 2016 NASA Group Achievement Award (together with the MaDCoWS Team)
June 2016 Provost's Postdoctoral Diversity Fellowship
May 2015 Akbari-Mack Postdoctoral Fellowship
Nov 2015 NASA press release featuring results from Gonzalez, (...), Wylezalek et al. 2015
Feb 2015 SDSS Travel Grant Award
Oct 2014 ESO Press Release featuring results from Dannerbauer, Kurk, De Breuck, Wylezalek et al. 2014
Oct 2011 - Oct 2014 PhD Fellowship from the ‘International Max-Planck Research School on Astrophysics’ (IMPRS)
Oct 2007 - Oct 2011 Scholarship & Grant by the ‘German National Academic Foundation’, granted to students of academic excellence
Sep 2007 Excellence Award of the German Association for Physics.


Link to my private library on ADS.

Contact Me

Dominika Wylezalek
Astronomisches Rechen-Institut
Zentrum für Astronomie der Universität Heidelberg
Mönchhofstr. 12-14
69120 Heidelberg

phone: +49 6221 54 1858
email: dominika [dot] wylezalek [at] uni [minus] heidelberg.de