I grew up in the beautiful Calabria (Southern Italy) and moved to Bologna to study Industrial Chemistry. I worked on high-resolution IR spectroscopy for my bachelor and master thesis, and then flew to Cambridge (MA) to work in the Center for Astrophysics (CfA) at the Harvard University for a one-year pre-doctoral fellowship.

During my stay at the CfA I started working on astrochemistry and spectroscopy of molecules of astrophysical interest. I then did my PhD at the University of Cologne, and subsequently moved to Munich at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics.

Between 2017 and 2020 I lead a small group in the framework of my MPG Minerva fast-track fellowship, and in November 2020 I will start my position as Max Planck independent group leader.

Education and positions held

  • 2017–2020:
    • Minerva Fast Track Fellow, MPE
  • 2015–2017:
    • Post Doc, MPE
  • 2014–2015:
    • PostDoc, UniKöln
  • 2010–2014:
    • PhD Student, UniKöln
  • 2009-2010:
    • Predoctoral fellow, Harvard University

Research Summary

Stars form in dense cores within molecular clouds. All the ingredients that will build-up a planet are present already at this stage, from organic molecules that will build prebiotic material, to the solid that will form the refractory part of the planet.

Molecules are unique tracers of the different phases in the formation of stars and planetary systems, and hence provide the chemical link to understand the emergence of life on Earth.

Using molecular spectroscopy in the laboratory and in space, I will follow the chemical link of our astrochemical origins by:
– studying with unprecedented details the physical structure of starless and pre-stellar cores.
– using data-science/machine learning tools to study the chemical structure of starless, pre-stellar, and protostellar cores.
– using state of the art laboratory experiments to provide high-resolution spectroscopic data for characterizing the chemical budget in all stages of the formation of stars and planetary systems, from starless cores to exoplanetary atmospheres.

My research will provide a crucial advancement to our current understanding of star and planetary systems formation because it will constrain: i. the chemical budget inherited in the different stages and ii. the physics of the gravitational collapse that forms a protostar, its protoplanetary disk, and planets, and hence will allow the community to unveil our astrochemical origins.

Key publications

  • Spezzano, S.; Caselli, P.; Pineda, J. E.; Bizzocchi, L.; Prudenzano, D.; Nagy, Z. “Distribution of methanol and cyclopropenylidene around starless cores” Astronomy and Astrophysics, in press.
  • Spezzano, S.; Caselli, P.; Bizzocchi, L.; Giuliano, M. B..; and Lattanzi, V. ”The observed chemical structure of L1544” Astronomy and Astrophysics, 2017, 606, 82
  • Spezzano, S. ; Bizzocchi, L.; Caselli, P. ; Harju, J.; and Brünken, S. ”Chemical differentiation in a prestellar core traces non-uniform illumination” Astronomy and Astrophysics, 2016, 592, L11
  • Spezzano, S.; Gupta, H.; Brünken, S.; Gottlieb, C. A.; Caselli, P.; Menten, K.M.; Müller, H.S.P.; Bizzocchi, L.; Schilke, P.; McCarthy, M. C. and Schlemmer, S. ”A study of the C3H2 isomers and isotopologues: first interstellar detection of HDCCC” Astronomy and Astrophysics, 2016, 586, A110
  • Spezzano, S.; Brünken, S.; Schilke, P.; Caselli, P.; Menten, K.M.; McCarthy, M. C.; Bizzocchi, L.; Trevino-Morales, S.; Aikawa, Y. ”Interstellar detection of c-C3D2” Astrophysical Journal Letters 2013, 769, L19