I’m a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences. I work with Steven Cranmer to study the motion of magnetic bright points on the solar photosphere as drivers of coronal heating via Alfvén waves. In the past, I’ve worked on thermophysical modeling of Martian sand dunes and on refining estimates of collisional timescales of asteroids.

Here’s what I’m currently working on, described for a…

Solar Physicist: I’m using MHD simulations of the photosphere to characterize the motion of magnetic bright points at higher spatial resolution than can be done observationally. This motion excites Alfvén waves, some of which propagate into the corona and deposit energy. Producing a power spectrum of this motion with more precise (albeit simulated) data provides a refined lower boundary condition for models of coronal heating via Alfvén waves. This work also provides a prediction for DKIST, which will observe these bright points with comparable spatial and temporal resolution.

Normal Person: The surface of the Sun is about 10,000°F (6000°C), but there’s a sort of atmosphere around the Sun, called the corona, which is a million degrees. One of the big questions in solar physics is how the corona can be heated to a million degrees by the relatively-cool solar surface—it’s like boiling a pot of water without turning on the stove. One possible explanation involes what we call flux tubes, which are tubes of gas held together magnetically. These tubes are all over on the Sun. They have one end inside the Sun’s upper layers and the other end is up inside the corona. The bottoms of these tubes get shaken by the churning, boiling motion of the Sun’s surface. This makes the whole tube above the surface shake back and forth, which means waves are traveling up the tubes. When these waves get up into the corona, they shake around the gas, heating it up. This is where we think the corona’s temperature comes from, magnetic waves injecting heat directly into the corona. It’s like boiling water with a microwave oven instead of a stove top—the water’s boiled by microwaves injecting heat directly into the water, instead of by putting the water in contact with a hot stovetop. My research, then, is looking at just how the bases of those tubes are shaken around. I’m using computer simulations of the Sun, because I can look more closely and in more detail than can be done with telescopes. One goal of this research is to make a prediction for what will be seen by DKIST, an upcoming solar telescope that will produce clearer images of the solar surface than have ever been made before.

Five-Year-Old: The Sun is like a big ball of fire in space, and it’s super hot. But there’s a little bit of air in between the Sun and space, and it’s super mega ultra hot! We want to know why the Sun makes that air super mega ultra hot instead of just making it super hot like itself. We think it’s because the Sun works kind of like a microwave when it heats up that air, but we’re not quite sure yet. We’re working on it! I’m using special computer tools to look really closely at the surface of the Sun to see how this all works.

Recent Work

SHINE 2019 poster thumbnail
“Coronal Turbulence Driven from the Photosphere: Opportunities for DKIST”
My poster for SHINE 2019, describing past work and future plans and progress. An updated version of the SPD poster below.
“Preparing for DKIST: Connecting the High-Resolution Sun to the Turbulent Corona”
My poster for SPD/AAS 2019, describing past work and future plans and progress. [ADS]
“Investigating the Complex Motions of Photospheric Bright Points as a Lower Boundary Condition for Coronal Magnetism”
My AGU 2018 poster summarizing previous work and describing future plans. Abstract
Paper on Bright Point Tracking
My first paper! It’s on the same topic as the bright point poster listed next, but goes into more depth and includes an appendix discussing the difficulty of solidly defining how a bright point moves. [arXivADSApJ]
“Characterizing the Motion of Photospheric Bright Points at High Resolution”
I’m currently using simulations to characterize at high resolution the motion of magnetic bright points in the inter-granular lanes of the solar photosphere. These bright points are regions of strong, vertical magnetic flux, and they are buffeted about by the convective churning of the plasma. Their back-and-forth motion creates Alfvén waves in the magnetic field lines, carrying energy into the upper corona where it’s deposited as heat. [ADS]
“Investigating the Poleward Trend of Southern Dune Field Stabilization on Mars Using Thermophysical Observations”
I spent a year looking for evidence of water ice underneath Martian sand dunes that might be cementing the dunes in place. This poster was Abstract 2528 at LPSC 2016, and an earlier version was Abstract 8052 at the Fourth International Planetary Dunes Workshop.
“Refining Asteroid Collision Timescales”
Concluding my undergraduate research, I produced refined estimates of the timescales for asteroid collisions. This work was presented as a talk at the 2013 meeting of the Michigan Space Grant Consortium.
“Family Membership of Koronis Zone Asteroids”
We presented effective techniques and results for investigating asteroid families through multiple, disjoint data catalogs. This work was presented as a talk at the 2012 meeting of the Michigan Space Grant Consortium.
“Asteroid Collisions”
Marking my first undergraduate research project, I present progress and future plans regarding probabilities of collisions between asteroids. This poster was presented at the 2011 meeting of the Michigan Space Grant Consortium.
Sometimes maintaining a CV feels like a whole project in itself.

Non-Academic Projects

Finn Stickers App
Gboard, Google’s keyboard for Android, lets you send stickers (small images) through supporing apps, e.g. messaging apps. Gboard includes its own set of stickers, but any app on the phone can provide more stickers to be made available to the user. I made myself a small app to do just that! It currently features two sticker packs, one featuring my friends’ dog, Finn, and another featuring my world-traveling cow puppet, Cowwy. Friends and family have given it a 5-star rating!
Finn Stickers on the Google Assistant
After making some sticker packs for my Gboard-connected app, I used them to make a simple Google Assistant app. On any phone with the Assistant, say “OK Google, talk to Finn Stickers” to see Finn and Cowwy pictures on demand, no installation required!
Undergrad Webcam Timelapse
I recorded a year’s worth of images from the pubic webcams surveying my undergrad campus and had some fun making composite images and timelapses.

Personal & Contact Info

Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences
391 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

Time Until 2024 Eclipse