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Dr. Tim Lichtenberg   (he/him)

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Tim works as Assistant Professor at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute of the University of Groningen, where he leads the growing Forming Worlds team. He investigates the growth and evolution of rocky planets in order to embed the birth and life cycle of terrestrial worlds in an integrated picture. Ultimately, he wants to understand the planetary environmental conditions that led to the origin of life on the early Earth, and how widespread such places are in our galaxy.


The research of the Forming Worlds team is embedded within the Alien Earths, AEThER, and Large Interferometer for Exoplanets research initiatives, and funded by the Branco Weiss Foundation, the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, and the Faculty of Science and Engineering of the University of Groningen.

Research Positions

10/2022 –

10/2019 – 09/2022

08/2018 – 09/2019


09/2014 – 07/2018

09/2012 – 08/2014

08/2012 – 01/2013

09/2009 – 08/2012

Peking University (北京大学), Beijing, P. R. China

Semester abroad, chinese language and culture

Department of Physics, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany

B.Sc. Physics / specialisation in astronomy

Thesis: Constraining Exoplanet Characteristics with Asteroseismology

Teaching & Mentoring

Mentored students

BSc Honours College research project "Characterizing exoplanet surface composition with LIFE", Flavia Pascal, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, main supervisor, 2023–

MSc thesis project "Geodynamic evolution of sub-Earth GJ 367 b", Lotte Bartels, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, main supervisor, 2023–

PhD research project "Evolution of rocky exoplanet atmospheres", Emma Postolec, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, main supervisor, 2023–

PhD research project "Evolution of rocky exoplanet interiors", Mariana Villamil Sastre, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, main supervisor, 2023–


DPhil research project "Reduced atmospheric chemistry on rocky exoplanets", Harrison Nicholls, Oxford Atmospheric Physics, co-supervisor, 2023–


PhD research project "Fluid flow in aqueous planetesimals", Beat Hubmann, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, main supervisor, 2023–

BSc thesis "Distinguishing surface features on atmosphere-less exoplanets", Lucas Priolet, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, main supervisor, 2023


BSc thesis "The prevalence of steam in magma ocean atmospheres", Boyd van der Plaat, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, main supervisor, 2023


BSc thesis "Detecting cooling protoplanets with direct imaging", Lorenzo Cesario, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, main supervisor, 2023


BSc thesis "Spectral signatures of volcanic exoplanet atmospheres", Marijn Smorenburg, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, main supervisor, 2023

MSc thesis "Planetesimal hydrology", Beat Hubmann, ETH Zurich Earth Sciences, co-supervisor, 2022

BSc semester project "Investigating the surface composition of airless, terrestrial exoplanets with LIFE", Gustav Pap, ETH Zurich Particle Physics & Astrophysics, co-supervisor, 2021


DPhil projects "Climate of condensable-rich exoplanet atmospheres", Robert J. Graham, Oxford Atmospheric Physics, co-supervisor, 2020–22

DPhil project "Beyond runaway: initiation of the post-runaway greenhouse state on rocky exoplanets", Ryan Boukrouche, Oxford Atmospheric Physics, co-supervisor, 2020–22

MSc semester project "Silicate melting and metal pooling in planetesimals", Madeleine Müller, ETH Zurich Earth Sciences, co-supervisor, 2020

Student mentor, University of Oxford, St Cross College, 16 graduate (MSc/DPhil) students from the natural sciences, 2019–22

BSc thesis "Percolative core formation in terrestrial planetesimals and protoplanets", Madeleine Müller, ETH Zurich Earth Sciences, co-supervisor, 2019


MSc thesis "Quantitative Predictions for the Observability of Protoplanetary Collisions", Irene Bonati, ETH Zurich Earth Sciences, co-supervisor, 2016–17


BSc semester project "2D Numerical Modeling of Pebble Accretion Influence on Planetesimal Evolution", Fabio Luchsinger, ETH Zurich Earth Sciences, co-supervisor, 2016



Exoplanets, MSc course, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen, main lecturer, 2023/24


Hands-on Numerical Astrophysics School for Planet Formation Sciences, summer school, German Science Foundation priority research programme 1992 "Exoplanet Diversity", Rauenberg, lecturer, 08/2023

Star and Planet Formation, MSc course, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen, co-lecturer, 2022/23

Life and Information, BSc seminar, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Groningen, guest lecturer, 11/2022


Origin and role of volatiles in the early solar system and planets, Block course for MSc and PhD students, University of Bayreuth, Bayerisches Geoinstitut, guest lecturer, 01/2020

Planetary Physics and Chemistry + Geophysics II, ETH Zurich Earth Sciences, substitute lecturer, 2017/18

Physics I+II for non-physicists, ETH Zurich Physics, Teaching Assistant, exercise/exam design, 2014–16

Scientific computing techniques, Göttingen University Physics, Teaching Assistant, 2013/14

Introduction to Astro- and Geophysics, Göttingen University Physics, Teaching Assistant, 2013

Basic physics lab course, Göttingen University Physics, Lab Assistant, 2012/14

Community Service

External Examination & Defence Committees


Keavin Moore, "Coupled Models of Water on Terrestrial Planets Orbiting M-Dwarfs", PhD thesis, advisor: Nicolas B. Cowan, McGill University, Tiohtià:ke/Montréal, Québec, CA, 12/2023

Bayron Armando Portilla Revelo, "Closing the gap between theory and observations of planet-forming disks with radiative transfer models", PhD thesis, advisors: Inga Kamp, Ewine van Dishoeck, University of Groningen, Groningen, NL, CA, 12/2023

Nynke Visser, "The influence of the ice-albedo feedback on the long term carbon cycle of Earth-like exoplanets", MSc thesis, supervisors: Inga Kamp, Mark Oosterloo, Dennis Höning, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, Groningen, NL, 08/2023

Raymon P. Ferdinand "Outgassing and Exoplanet Atmospheres: A study of the effects of outgassing on the temperature and composition of the secondary atmospheres of rocky exoplanets", BSc thesis, supervisors: Floris van der Tak, Michiel Min, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, Groningen, NL, 06/2023


Yapeng Zhang, "Isotopes and the characterization of extrasolar planets", PhD thesis, promoters: Ignas Snellen, Laura Kreidberg, Leiden Observatory, Leiden, NL, 06/2023

Mantas Zilinskas, "Lava Worlds: Characterising atmospheres of impossible nature", PhD thesis, promoters: Yamila Miguel, Ignas Snellen, Leiden Observatory, Leiden, NL, 05/2023

Meeting Organisation

Rocky Worlds Discussions, monthly virtual seminar series, Co-Host, 10/2022–

LIFE Science Team meetings, monthly virtual team meeting, Co-Host, 03/2022–

Rocky Worlds III, SOC, Zurich, 01/2024

Annual LIFE Science Team workshop, Co-Chair, 09/2023

Goldschmidt 2023, Unraveling planetary interiors with extraterrestrial samples and space data, Co-Convener, Lyon, 07/2023

Origins of Solar Systems (GRS) Gordon Research Seminar: Constraining the Origin and Evolution of Planetary Systems Through a Multidisciplinary Approach, Co-Chair, South Hadley, US, 06/2023

The (geo)chemistry of terrestrial planet formation, SOC, Groningen, NL, 03/2023

Rocky Worlds II, SOC/LOC, main organiser, Oxford, UK, 07/2022

PLATO Atmospheres Workshop, SOC, Berlin/virtual, 12/2021

LIFE Lorentz center workshop (cancelled due to COVID-19), SOC, Leiden, NL, 06/2021

AGU20: Accretion and differentiation of rocky planets: perspectives from geophysics, geochemistry, & astronomy, session co-convenor, San Francisco/virtual, 12/2020

LIFE workshop III, SOC, Zurich/virtual, 12/2020

ESO workshop: Threats from the surroundings, SOC, Munich/virtual, 11/2020

Exoplanets III, Moderator, Heidelberg/virtual, 07/2020

Mini-workshop: LIFE – Large Interferometer For Exoplanets, SOC, Zurich/virtual, 05/2020

3rd Oxford Meeting on Planets, LOC/SOC, Oxford, UK, 12/2019

Exoclimes V, LOC, Oxford, UK, 08/2019

2nd Oxford Meeting on Planets, LOC/SOC, Oxford, UK, 12/2018

Water during planet formation and evolution 2018, LOC/SOC, Zurich, CH, 02/2018

The Origins of Volatiles in Habitable Planets: The Solar System and Beyond, LOC, Ann Arbor, USA, 10/2017

NCCR PlanetS Workshop: The crucial role of water, LOC/SOC, Zurich, CH, 12/2016

Academic Associations

European Association of Geochemistry, 07/2021–

International Astronomical Union, 05/2021–

American Geophysical Union, 01/2020–

European Astronomical Society, 06/2019–

Royal Astronomical Society, 06/2019–

Europlanet Society, 03/2019–

European Geosciences Union, 01/2019–

Swiss Society for Astrophysics and Astronomy, 01/2015–

German Astronomical Society, 11/2013–

German Physical Society, 11/2010–

Funding & Awards

Research & Workshop Grants

Workshop grant for Rocky Worlds Discussions, Meteoritical Society, PI, 02/2023

Faculty Research Grant, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Groningen, PI, 12/2022

Research Grant of the Branco Weiss Foundation, PI, 08/2022

A-rated ERC Starting Grant Proposal (reserve list), European Research Council, 06/2022

Workshop grant for Rocky Worlds II conference, Royal Astronomical Society, PI, 05/2021

Workshop grant for Rocky Worlds II conference, Meteoritical Society, PI, 03/2021

Research grant Geodynamic Regimes During Planetogenesis, Simons Foundation, PI, 12/2018

Bernoulli postdoctoral fellowship (not started), University of Oxford & University of Bern, 03/2018

Research grant Early Postdoc.Mobility Fellowship, Swiss National Science Foundation, 12/2017

Research grant Linking Interior-Atmosphere Regimes to Planetary Accretion, Swiss National Science Foundation, PI, 12/2017

Workshop grant for Water during planet formation and evolution, University of Zurich, Co-I, 04/2017

MERAC funding and travel award for project Volatile degassing from terrestrial planet precursors, Swiss Society for Astrophysics and Astronomy, PI, 09/2016


Planetary and Solar System Sciences Division Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award 2023, European Geosciences Union (EGU), 04/2023

Winton Award for Early Achievement in Geophysics 2022, Royal Astronomical Society, 01/2022

Doctoral Thesis Award 2019, German Astronomical Society, 09/2019

PhD Prize for Planetary Systems and Astrobiology 2018, International Astronomical Union, 06/2019

Non-stipendiary Junior Research Fellowship, St Cross College, University of Oxford, 06/2019

Horneck-Brack Presentation Award, 2nd prize, European Astrobiology Network Association, 09/2018

'Dr. Berliner – Dr. Ungewitter' prize for M.Sc. thesis, Göttingen University, 12/2014

M.Sc. diploma awarded 'with distinction', Göttingen University, 07/2014


Media Interviews & Press Releases

Biographical interview with news outlet "Welt der Physik", part of thematic "Year of Science 2023" of the German Ministry for Science and Education, 04/2023

Panel member for Astrofísica UC Golden Webinars in AstrophysicsLynnae Quick - The Role of Cryovolcanism in Creating Habitable Niches on Ocean Worlds in Our and Extrasolar Planetary Systems10/2021

Panel member for Astrofísica UC Golden Webinars in AstrophysicsFrances Westall - Biosignatures and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life: A Historical Overview from the Beginnings to the State of the Art, 10/2021

Press release and media communication for Lichtenberg et al. 2021a (Altmetric), 01/2021

Public talk "Wasser, Wüste oder Lava: Wie entstehen erdähnliche Planeten?" (German), virtual, Planetarium Göttingen, 11/2020

Letters to a Pre-Scientist Pen Pal, 2019-20

Press release and media communication for Lichtenberg et al. 2019b (Altmetric), 02/2019

ETH Zürich focusTerra special Exhibition "Expedition Solar System", 2018-19

ETH Zürich Scientifica 2015 - "Licht und Astronomie – Geschichte und Geheimnisse des Universums", 09/2015

Figures and media for german popular science article “Exotische Welten – Wie alte Sterne neue Planeten bilden” by Dominik Schleicher in “Sterne und Weltraum”, 08/2015

Astrobites reddit "Ask-Me-Anything", 06/2015

Visit of primary school in Zürich Seefeld with Q&A, 06/2015

Visualisation video of cosmological star formation simulation, 07/2014

Public talk "Ferne Welten im Computer: Planetenentstehung durch Gravitationsinstabilitäten" (German) , Institute for Astrophysics, University of Göttingen, 03/2014

Blog & video posts

Hidden water in magma ocean exoplanets10/2021

The turbulent hearts of shrouded super-Earths05/2021

Early carbon depletion of terrestrial worlds from the outside-in, 05/2021

Molten exoplanets as a window into the earliest Earth, 01/2021

Formation of the Solar System in two steps, 01/2021

Two emergent faces of rocky planetary systems, 02/2019

Planetesimal magmatism as a key to the chemical assembly of terrestrial planets, 01/2019

Spotting Protoplanet Collision Afterglows in the Stellar Neighbourhood, 11/2018

Impact splash chondrule formation during planetesimal recycling, 11/2017

Supernova ejecta pollute young planetary systems, 08/2016

On the variety of asteroid interiors, 04/2016


Astrobites – The astro-ph Reader's Digest


Astrobites is a daily astrophysical literature journal written by graduate students in astronomy around the world. Its goal is to present one interesting paper per day in a brief format that is accessible to undergraduate students in the physical sciences who are interested in active research. During my authoring activity for Astrobites from 2014–2016 I published a variety of blog articles. Until 2019 I remained active in the Astrobites community in various administrative and supportive roles.

Why open research practices are a clever move12/2016

Modest chaos in the early solar system11/2016

Driving planetary dynamos by giant impacts08/2016

Water worlds – self-arrests, thermostats and long-term climate stability07/2016

Massive circumstellar disks accrete faster than low-mass ones05/2016

Grand Fireworks from the Local Super-Bubble04/2016

Bridging the gap: asteroid collisions without quantum foam03/2016

The tempestuous adolescence of circumstellar disks02/2016

Sustainable Climates on Greenhouse Super-Earths?11/2015

Ripping Apart Asteroids to Account for Earth’s Strangeness11/2015

Dry Out Super-Earths via Giant Impacts10/2015

Triggered fragmentation in self-gravitating disks09/2015

Giant planets from far out there08/2015

Nature’s Starships Vol. II – A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Bloody Cold Beginnings07/2015

Nature’s Starships Vol. I – Ride in on Shooting Stars06/2015

Circumplanetary disks… soon!05/2015

Hot Shots: How to Trigger Star Formation in the Early Universe by Supernova Blast-Waves05/2015

Why is star formation so inefficient?04/2015

Are Extrasolar Worlds More Likely to Be Water-rich?03/2015

Sneak a peek on the cause of death of protoplanetary disks02/2015

Are Carbon-Rich Planets Just an Observational Bias?01/2015

Orderly disorder: Simulations of planet-disk dynamics with AREPO12/2014

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