FLORIS VAN DER TAK is a Submillimeter Scientist in the Astrophysics programme of the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON), Professor of Submillimeter Astronomy at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute of the University of Groningen,Board member of the Netherlands Origins Center, and PI of the oLife program to investigate the origin of life on Earth and other planets.
He was trained in astrophysics and astrochemistry in Leiden, Bonn, and Berkeley. Since moving to Groningen in 2006, his research interests are in Physics of the interstellar medium and the formation of stars, Molecular spectroscopy and radiative transfer, Interstellar chemistry and (more recently) Exoplanet habitability.
He has been and is currently involved in several space projects: Herschel/HIFI (2001-2019), SPICA/SAFARI (2014-2020), and currently LIFE (since 2021). He has been on a number of international review panels, such as the ESO OPC (2010-2013), the SOFIA TAC (2015/2019), and recently the ESA Voyage 2050 topical team (2019-2020). He also served on national committees such as NWO’s Rubicon program (2015) and NOVA’s submm instrumentation review (2017), as well as local ones (2018–2021: Chair, Board of Examiners, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute; 2018–2021: Member, Blaauw Prize Committee, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute).
Van der Tak has published over 230 papers in peer-reviewed journals, which have been cited over 10,000 times. Highlights include the first detections of interstellar H2D+, ND3, and other molecules, the discovery of variations of the cosmic-ray ionization rate across our Galaxy, and the structure and chemistry of rotating disks around high-mass protostars. He is widely regarded as an expert in the collisional excitation of interstellar molecules and the radiative transfer in their rotational lines.
The group of Van der Tak has contributed significantly to the understanding of the physical structure and chemical composition of star-forming regions. Their key methodological advances are the development of advanced radiative transfer programs, innovative modeling techniques, and databases. Currently, the group focuses on the origin of amino acids in space, the lifetimes of interstellar gas clouds under UV irradiation, the delivery of volatile material to (exo)planetary surfaces, the detectability of potential biomarkers in exoplanet spectra, and the habitability of moons around exoplanets. The group consists mostly of international students, with a male/female ratio of about unity.