Veerle Sterken, a passion for space


The winner of the Christophe Plantin Prize 2021 is Veerle Sterken, a Belgian aerospace engineer and researcher currently based in Zurich. Her work has included conducting pioneering research on interstellar dust in the solar system. This young Belgian woman is already well known in her field.

Passionate about space and astronomy from an early age, she studied in Belgium, the Netherlands, where she was involved in the Darwin mission, France and Germany, and participated in European Space Agency (ESA) projects. In 2014, she moved to Switzerland to work at the International Space Science Institute (ISSI). She currently lives in Zurich, where she works as a researcher and group leader at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), focusing on the study of space dust.

Veerle Sterken specialises in 'interstellar dust in the solar system'. She has worked with the Stardust satellite team, the only team to have brought what is presumed to be interstellar dust back to Earth. This dust was then analysed in the laboratory. During this study, our scientist and her team simulated the trajectories of the particles 'captured' by the Stardust satellite. Research allows us to learn more about our solar system and space. Through this research, we can map our own region in the Milky Way and obtain information about everything around it.

The Christophe Plantin Prize is awarded to a Belgian living abroad who is not well known in their own country and who helps to promote Belgium's influence. It showcases three sectors in particular: culture, social commitment and science. See our section Do you know these Belgians? if you want to know more about the generous Christophe Plantin.