Fisher Computational Astrophysics Group at UMass Dartmouth


I am a professor in the physics department at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, with research interests including computational and theoretical studies of Type Ia supernovae, giant molecular clouds, star and brown dwarf formation, and astrochemistry. My research interests are mirrored in my academic genes; I can trace my academic genealogy tree back to Lyman Spitzer and Henry Norbert Russell from one of my two Ph.D. advisors, and Al Cameron, Stan Corrsin, Friedrich Bessel, and Carl Friedrich Gauss from the other.

I earned my B.S. in physics with honors from Caltech, where I was a Green Prize recipient. I then moved to UC Berkeley, joining the Berkeley Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics Group, where I held a NASA Graduate Student Fellowship, developed solvers for self-gravity and ideal MHD on adaptive meshes, and worked on simulations of star formation with the ORION code. Afterwards, I moved on to a postdoc at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where I developed the first quantitative theory of the distribution of binary stars.

I then became a research scientist and Astrophysics Group Leader at the University of Chicago Flash Center, where I led an international team of computer scientists, physicists, and mathematicians in the pursuit of simulations of turbulence on what was at that time the largest and fastest supercomputer in the world. In Chicago, my colleagues and I made breakthroughs on the problem of thermonuclear supernovae, completing some of the first three-dimensional simulations of near-Chandrasekhar mass detonations. These simulations led to the now-iconic movies and graphics of thermonuclear supernovae which have been covered in media outlets around the world, including an episode of “The Universe” on the History Channel. For this work on turbulence and supernovae, my colleagues and I at the Flash Center were honored by the Department of Energy with a Certificate of Service “For… leadership in advancing the field of computational science and engineering by using high-performance computing… to elevate the understanding of the physical problems of nuclear ignition, detonation, and turbulent mixing of complex multi-component fluids and other materials as represented by supernovae.”

I am now a tenured faculty member in the physics department at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and have been a visiting faculty member at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies, the Institute for Advanced Studies, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Institute for Theory and Computation, as well as a Kavli Scholar at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I also hold a visiting faculty position with the International Center for Relativistic Astrophysics Network, headquartered in Italy. I am pursuing several new and exciting research projects with my graduate and undergraduate students in my active and lively research group. Interested hard-working graduate and undergraduate students are welcome to stop by my office to talk to me. I am also the current graduate program director for the physics department, and am more than happy to answer questions from prospective Ph.D. and Masters students interested in applying to our graduate program.

Visit Research and Publications for a more in depth look at my research.

-Robert Fisher