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Will Rocha

I am a Postdoctoral fellow under InterCat at Leiden University working in the Laboratory for Astrophysics.

I received my PhD from Universidade do Vale do Paraíba, in Brazil working on applications of ice laboratory data in radiative transfer codes to interpret astronomical observations. My first postdoc was in the same University with a 1-year internship at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. During this time I learned how to calculate and employ photodissociation rates into thermochemical codes to study protoplanetary disks. I then moved to Denmark to start my second postdoc in the Niels Bohr Institute of the University of Copenhagen where I stayed for 2.5 years. In collaboration with my colleagues, I developed the ENIIGMA code, that will help with the interpretation of JWST spectra of protostars. This experience also improved my knowledge of gas-phase observations of molecules in space, in particular, interferometric observations in the millimeter wavelengths. In February of 2021, I initiated another postdoc in the Laboratory for Astrophysics in Leiden. As part of my duty, I will expand the current Laboratory Ice Database and will measure the refractive index of ice analogues. In addition, I will support James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) program focused on ice observations, in particular Early Release Science and Guaranteed Time Observations.

Postdoctoral fellow


Research profile

My research aims to understand how complex organic molecules (COMs) are formed and distributed in regions where stars are formed. To achieve this goal, I have used particle accelerators in France and synchrotron light (Brazil) sources to study the formation of COMs via energetic processes. Next, I derived the refractive index of these molecules and used them to interpret space-based (ISO, Spitzer) spectra of protostars. For the next Era, I focused on the development of new approaches to interpret those observations, which resulted in an artificial intelligence technique to find spectral signatures of COMs in space - the ENIIGMA code. Some highlights of my past research are: (i) there is evidence of energetic processing of ices toward protostars and (ii) the external irradiation field of OB stars modify the ice reservoir extent in protostellar envelopes. Currently, I am providing the astrochemical community with a comprehensive database of laboratory data and tools to be used in the next Era with JWST. With JWST, I will contribute as PI and Co-I of different proposals, to enlarge the amount of COMs detected in star- and planet-forming regions, as well as will provide essential laboratory data for those discoveries.