GH 2014

Observations and Modeling of Circumstellar Disks
A Workshop in Memory of Paola D'Alessio
30th June-11th July

Paola D'Alessio Vessuri

This past 14th of November, after battling cancer for more than 8 years, Dr. Paola D'Alessio Vessuri, researcher at the Centro de Radioastronomía y Astrofísica (CRyA), passed away.

Paola was born in Oxford, England, 30th of July in 1964. Her undergraduate studies in physics were carried out in the Universidad Central and the Centro de Investigaciones de Astronomía de Venezuela. Her Master's and Ph.D. degrees were obtained from the Instituto de Astronomía (IA) of the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), becoming a researcher there after graduating. After research stays at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Boston, Massachusetts and at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, she returned to Mexico in 2001 to the Morelia campus of IA, which later became CRyA.

Dr. D'Alessio was a world-renowned expert in the study of the circumstellar disks around young stars in which planetary systems form. In the 15 years after her Ph.D. thesis, Dr. D'Alessio's calculations represented the state of the art of protoplanetary disk models. She was a pioneer in the development of detailed physical models easily comparable with observational data, allowing the inference of the physical properties of these disks

Among her most important results, Paola shed light on the first stage of planetary formation by determining the concentration and growth of solid particles in protoplanetary disks. Along with her research team, she also discovered that protoplanetary disks have grooves gravitationally induced by giant planets in the process of formation.

Paola maintained many fruitful national and international collaborations that included such institutions as the University of Michigan, the Harvard-Smithsonian CfA, the University of Rochester, the University of Indiana, Cornell University, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA, the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, the Herschel Science Centre at the European Space Astronomy Centre of the European Space Agency, as well as CRyA and IA. Her models have been applied to the observations of some 500 disks, obtained with space telescopes like Hubble, Spitzer, and Herschel, and with ground-based telescopes like the Submillimeter Array and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array.

She published 100 refereed articles that, so far, have received almost 7000 citations and continues receiving around 700 citations per year. In addition, she published almost 50 outreach articles and contributed to the education of many young Mexican and foreign astronomers.

Paola has received many professional awards, including the ``Gabino Barreda" and ``Alfonso Caso" medals from UNAM for her master's and doctoral work, the 1997 Weizmann prize awarded by the Mexican Academy of Sciences for the best doctoral thesis in exact sciences, and the "Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz" recognition, which is conferred to distinguished academics of UNAM. For the high impact of her articles she received the Scopus prize of 2009, awarded by Elsevier/CONACyT, and the recognition of Thomson Reuters-Cinvestav of 2009. Recently, she received the State Prize of Science and Technology from the government of the state of Michoacán in 2010.

Paola is survived by her two sons, Sebastián y Darío, under the care of their exceptional father and her lifelong partner, Javier Ballesteros Paredes.

Dr. Paola D'Alessio Vessuri was without doubt a brilliant researcher whose premature passing represents an enormous loss for astronomy worldwide. Those who had the privilege of sharing in her life and work will nevertheless remember her humanity, her warmth, her goodness, her joy, and her strength under adversity.