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Veronica Allen, PhD

Astrochemistry and Public Outreach

My research aims to understand how the molecules of life came to exist. I use observations of star-forming regions to understand how stars form, as well as learning how the molecules surrounding them form. 
As a science communicator, I teach children about astronomy using fun interactive lessons.
My research and outreach are currently supported by an NWO Veni award.



After growing up in the US with a wholehearted love of astronomy, I moved to the UK to attend the University of Leeds. In 2013, I obtained an MPhys/BSc degree in Physics with Astrophysics and moved to the Netherlands to do my PhD in Astrochemistry at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute. Under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Floris van der Tak, I completed my PhD in 2018 and returned to the US the same year to begin a fellowship in the NASA Postdoctoral Program at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. After nearly 3 years at Goddard, I returned to Kapteyn in early 2021 to begin my NWO Veni fellowship work.

You can find more information about my life and my science on this prezi that I gave as a lustrum speaker in 2021.

Recent Media Appearances

Kenniscafe panel: In Het Licht (NL)

Line art of the sun shining on a plant with a ladybug resting on one of the leaves

Staren naar driekwart van de zon (ukrant) (NL/EN mix)


Interview with oogTV about Zpannend Zernike (NL)


Article for Linda meiden (NL)


My Work

My current research is primarily in the field of astrochemistry. I mostly use sub-millimeter observations from the ALMA observatory in Chile, but I also use time-dependent chemical models to understand how the chemical composition of star-forming regions changes over time.  After my fellowship at NASA Goddard, I began working with observations of Solar System objects and have an interest in Ocean Worlds (those bodies in the Solar System that could have liquid water). 
As part of my work communicating my research to the public, I also give lectures and lessons to the general public with a preferred focus on school children. I also plan to make a lesson for high school students about building and using a radio dish.


High- and Low-mass Star Formation

The details about how stars form are not fully understood, so I use sub-millimeter observations of star-forming regions to study the chemical composition and gas motion around young stars. This helps us to understand how long young stars have been forming and gives us chemical milestones along that timeline.

Fun facts

  • My favorite moon used to be Io (the super volcanic moon of Jupiter), but my new favorite is Enceladus since Cassini took its beautiful photos.

  • I have lived in 3 countries and visited 14.

  • My favorite movie series are Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

  • I got my first telescope when I was 7 years old and I have had my current telescope for 20 years.

  • My hobbies (other than stargazing) are ice skating, cosplay, and dog agility (behendigheid).

  • I have a Spoonflower creator page where you can buy space-y fabric and make your own solar system dress/shirt/curtains/whatever!

Me standing in the dark with my blue Newtonian telescope, my hair blowing in the wind
A depiction of my moving history. From southern California, to northern England, to the northern tip
Me posing with my name plate during the Planetary Science Winter School when I shadowed a mechanical
My medium-sized tri-color dog, Dragon, jumping over an obstacle during an agility competition.
Me posing next to the NASA meatball in my cosplay as a vintage interpretation of Rey from Star Wars.
The surface of Io, moon of Jupiter. Yellow and orange and covered in volcanoes.
The surface of Enceladus, moon of Saturn. The surface is white and icy with blue stripes.

Contact Me

Thanks for your interest in my research. Get in touch with any questions or comments regarding my work or outreach opportunities. I’d love to hear from you.

Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, Landleven 12, 9747 AD Groningen

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