Andrea Derdzinski

NSF Graduate Research Fellow
Astronomy Department, Columbia University


My thesis with Zoltan Haiman broadly focuses on the theory of binary-disk interaction. I'm particularly interested in the influence of gas on the evolution of supermassive black hole binaries that emit gravitational waves detectable by the future space-based gravitational wave detector LISA, and how we can use gravitational waves to probe the environments of these systems. I use the hydrodynamical simulation codes DISCO and FLASH.

extended research interests

EM counterparts to GW events

I'm running hydrodynamical simulations of black hole migration to investigate the influence of gas on black hole binaries. I'm also exploring the response of a disk to a SMBH binary merger, as perturbations in the disk may lead to shocks that produce characteristic electromagnetic signatures following the emission of gravitational waves.

Modeling dust formation in novae

Increasing evidence supports that shocks are ubiquitous in nova outflows and are responsible for powering nova emission across the electromagnetic spectrum. These shocks are likely radiative and can form dust formation sites within the ejecta that are shielded from ionizing radiation. I'm interested in how this type of rapid dust formation may occur in other transient phenomena. In a recent publication ( here ), I worked with Brian Metzger to create models that show dust can form efficiently in post shock material, which explains the dust formation puzzle for classical novae.

The fate of interacting white dwarf binaries

In between these projects, I spend time thinking about the evolution of super-Eddington mass transferring white dwarf binaries (from undergraduate work at UC Santa Cruz with Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz). Using numerical and hydrodynamical models, I am finding that these binaries can significantly alter their circumbinary environment before they merge and (possibly) produce type Ia supernovae.


I participated in the Institute for Science and Engineering Educators Professional Development Program in 2015 and in 2016 as a Design Team Leader.
From 2016-2017, I received the Lead Teaching Fellowship for the Astronomy Department at Columbia University. Teaching can have a profound impact on how students approach science, and I find pedagogical training to be critical for being an effective educator. My teaching practices are centered upon using inquiry-based teaching methods that encourage learning science by doing science. My lesson plans are flexible to various learning methods and allow students to engage with material in an individual (and more effective) way.


In addition to professional talks at institutions and conferences, I have experience speaking to a broad range of audiences on topics ranging from gravitational waves to cool solar system missions (e.g. with Astronomy on Tap NYC and the Columbia Astronomy Outreach program). I was recently a finalist in the international 3-Minute Thesis Competition. I participate in events that encourage youth involvement in science, such as "Meet the Scientist" at the Intrepid Museum's annual Kid's Week.


When I'm not thinking about space, I'm getting lost on motorcycles inside and outside of new york city.

Email me for an updated version of my CV.