Tomalla Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Center for Theoretical Astrophysics and Cosmology
Institute for Computational Science, University of Zurich
I'm interested in the formation and evolution of gravitational wave sources, the role of their astrophysical environments, and associated electromagnetic signatures. My work is motivated by the upcoming space-based interferometer LISA, and I use the hydrodynamical simulation codes DISCO and FLASH. I received my PhD from Columbia University with advisor Zoltan Haiman working on the interplay of accretion disks and coalescing supermassive black hole binaries.
The presence of gas around a SMBH binary raises opportunties for pre- and post-merger electromagnetic signatures. For example, the powerful emission of gravitational waves during a binary merger can produce perturbations in a surrounding disk, leading to shocks and associated emission that is characteristic of disk properties.
Increasing evidence supports that shocks are ubiquitous in nova outflows and are responsible for powering nova emission across the electromagnetic spectrum. In many cases these shocks can be radiative and responsible for dust formation sites within the ejecta. This explains the puzzle of early dust formation in these violent eruptions and presents testable observational implications - check out our Astro2020 white paper.
I am also interested in 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.
In addition to TAing and instructing lab courses, I participated in the Institute for Science and Engineering Educators Professional Development Program in 2015 and in 2016 as a Design Team Leader.
In 2016, I received the Lead Teaching Fellowship at Columbia University, during which I attended several pedagogical workshops and organized a few of my own. My teaching practices are centered upon using inquiry-based methods that encourage learning science by doing science. My lesson plans are accessible to various learning methods and allow students to engage with material in individual (and more effective) ways.
I have experience speaking to a broad range of audiences (from professional to general public) on topics ranging from gravitational waves to cool solar system missions (e.g. with Astronomy on Tap NYC and the Columbia Astronomy Outreach program). In 2018 I was 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.