My general area of interest concerns the physics of emission line regions using the astrophysical code known as Cloudy. Running highly detailed computations on off-site supercomputers allows our group to analyze the results of simulations in a fraction of the time that would be required on traditional desktop / laptop computers. At Elon, we focus on learning about supernova remnants (exploded stars), active galaxies, starburst galaxies, and star forming nebulae. Below I outline specific projects in which I am involved and our current research group.
For further details, please see my publications page.
Current Research Group:
Active Galactic Nuclei
Spatially resolving the narrow line region (NLR) of active galactic nuclei (AGN) is difficult. A novel statistical technique known as mean field individual component analysis (MFICA) can identify discrete spectral components of narrow line emitting galaxies that allow one to extract physically meaningful parameters. Plasma simulations covering a wide range of physical conditions provide the key link to understanding the deeper nature of the NLR by reproducing the spectra identified by MFICA
Star Forming Galaxies
The evolutionary link between AGN and star formation remains a question of considerable interest. Observations of nearby starburst, star forming, and AGN galaxies can provide crucial clues about the similarities and differences of these objects. Plasma simulations can provide insight about the history of local galaxies by predicting the physical evolution of the gas within them.
The Crab Nebula is a nearby, young supernova remnant. Despite detailed observations covering all wavelengths, many problems remain scandalously unsolved. In particular, the nature of molecular gas and the mass distribution of the Crab Nebula can be elucidated through simulations of high energy plasmas.
Physics and Astronomy Education
My research focuses on interactive learning and gender differences in introductory level physics and astronomy courses. Characterizing the gender gap in these courses will enable teachers to tailor interactive learning to maximize the potential of all students. Much of this research was made possible by the FAST Fellowship.