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Dr. Tim Lichtenberg

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

DPhil student project "Hydrogen-rich atmospheric chemistry on rocky exoplanets",  Harrison Nicholls, Oxford Atmospheric Physics, co-supervisor, 2023–


PhD student 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


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

PhD examination committees

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

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

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

6th Chianti Topics International Focus Workshop: Geology, Physics and Chemistry of Planetary Environments, SOC, Firenze, Italy, originally 05/2023 (postponed to 2024)

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

Honors & Awards

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

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