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Best Early Career Researcher in Theoretical Astrophysics 2021

Dr Antoine Strugarek

(CEA Saclay, France)
The 2021 MERAC Prize for the Best Early Career Researcher in Theoretical Astrophysics is awarded to Dr Antoine Strugarek (CEA Saclay, France) for groundbreaking contributions in stellar astrophysics, including dynamo theory, predictions of solar flares and pioneering work on star-exoplanet interactions.

After fundamental studies in ENSTA-ParisTech, Antoine Strugarek obtained an MSc in Physics and Applied Maths. He then obtained a PhD joint between CEA Astrophysics Dept. and Fusion Dept., working on turbulent plasma confinement in the Sun and in Tokamak device. The creativity and robustness of his broad work was recognized as the best PhD in 2013 by the French Astronomical Society. He then moved to Canada, where he was awarded a CITA fellowship and a fellowship from Québec. He then came back to France to prepare the exploitation of Solar Orbiter (2016-2018). In 2018, he moved as a tenured researcher to the Dept. of Astrophysics of CEA Paris-Saclay to work on the Sun, stars and their interactions with exoplanets. Dr. Strugarek, is a highly-recognized expert on several topics: turbulent plasma confinement and turbulent dynamos, evolution of magnetism in star-planet systems, solar flare prediction and evolution.

Dr Antoine Strugarek tackled the difficult problem of magnetic confinement of turbulent plasmas using ambitious giro-kinetic simulations. He performed, with Prof. Jean-Paul Zahn, the first 3D global MHD model of the Sun from deep inside the radiative zone all the way to the surface. His key results include the proof that turbulence can be controlled by acting on the temperature gradient, improving the stability of Tokamak plasmas, and the fact that magnetic fields cannot prevent the spread of the solar tachocline contrary to horizontal turbulence.

Dr Strugarek led an unprecedented study of stellar dynamos. He conducted a coherent suite of convective dynamo simulations, spanning several effective temperatures and Rossby numbers, to measure the influence of rotation and stellar mass on magnetic field generation, which allowed him to derive scaling laws for stellar magnetism, and reconciled theoretical understanding of solar and stellar magnetic cycles. He also worked on a forecasting model for solar flares, based on self-organized critical models. His research was furthermore at the heart of the preparation to exploit the ESA Solar Orbiter, focusing on the how the Sun controls heliosphere.

Dr Strugarek has developed leading simulations of stellar winds and star-planet magnetic interactions. His group performed among the first comparisons of models and data for starplanet interactions, thanks to major allocations to the largest supercomputers in Europe.

The work of Dr Antoine Strugarek has been conducted at CEA and CNES, France, and University of Montréal, Canada.