IACS student journeys to Tokyo to present his work

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


IACS PhD student Donald Willcox presents his research at the first annual ITCPS meeting in Japan.

An exceptional presentation was given by one of IACS’ distinguished physics graduate students, Donald Willcox, at the first annual Interdisciplinary Theoretical and Computational Physical Science (ITCPS) meeting hosted by the Tokyo Institute of Technology. The workshop took place in Japan from October 2-8, 2017.

Accompanying Don were Physics Associate Professor Marivi Fernandez-Serra and IACS Director Robert Harrison. “Don was a wonderful ambassador for SBU,” said Harrison. “I am sure that anyone who did not listen to how he was introduced must have thought him to be an already established professor rather than a graduate student. Kudos both to Don and the research group(s) producing students of such caliber, confidence, and preparation.”

Don’s research investigates the convective Urca process, the interaction between weak nuclear reactions and convection within white dwarf (WD) stars, which are the progenitors of thermonuclear (Type Ia) supernovae (SNIa). SNIa are such brilliant stellar explosions they indicate cosmological distances in studies of dark energy, but their origins are not yet fully understood. The role of the convective Urca process in progenitor WDs is one such unknown, and Don is carrying out the first 3-dimensional simulations of WD interiors with the relevant weak reactions to address this problem. 

When his advisor, IACS Deputy Director Alan Calder, invited him to present his work at the ITCPS meeting, Don was excited to discuss his research with the dozens of other physicists attending from various universities in Japan specializing in nuclear physics, astrophysics, condensed matter physics, and quantum. This meeting was particularly salient for Don as he was able to discuss the nuclear processes he studies with Professor Toshio Suzuki from Nihon University, who calculated the nuclear rate tabulations that Don is currently using for his simulations. Don was also intrigued to hear about the wide range of computational topics presented at the meeting, including GPU-accelerated simulation codes, which relates closely to his recent efforts to port the reaction network integration in his Stony Brook University group's codes to GPU accelerators.

When asked about his overall experience at ITCPS, Don said, “I'm glad I was able to represent the interesting work our astrophysics group has recently undertaken.”  

Don’s travel expenses were covered through an IACS Travel Scholarship. To read more about IACS opportunities and awards available to IACS core and affiliate PhD students, you can visit www.iacs.stonybrook.edu/awards.