In 1985, the UA Theoretical Astrophysics Program (TAP) was created based on the shared vision of Jack (Randy) Jokipii and the then-heads of the astronomy, physics, and planetary sciences departments. The aim was to combine evident faculty and departmental strengths to create a theoretical program that would complement the UA’s recognized strengths in observational astronomy and planetary sciences. Since inception, the State of Arizona has continued to provide annual funding which has supported development of this tightly integrated program and increased the growth and visibility of the UA’s leadership in the area of theoretical astrophysics.
The Departments of Astronomy, Physics, and Planetary Sciences form the Theoretical Astrophysics Program along with key partnerships with Applied Mathematics and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). Membership is open to all UA faculty, research partners, postdocs, and grad students interested in the field of theoretical astrophysics. Several TAP faculty affiliate members are also recognized members of the National Academy of Science: David Arnett, Randy Jokipii, and Renu Malhotra.
Each year, the TAP offers colloquia covering a broad range of current research topics given by early career scholars as well as senior faculty. TAP also awards the Graduate Student Research Prize to one UA grad student or recent Ph.D. with the winning submission selected for research quality and originality. The TAP Small Grants Program provides limited funding to TAP members to support research-related travel expenses, equipment purchase, research dissemination, etc.
Credit: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage) and H. Schweiker (WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF)
The TAP is directed by a Steering Committee composed of six members and a chairperson with member representation equally distributed across the departments of physics, astronomy, and planetary sciences. The steering committee is responsible for making significant program decisions, including program funding priorities and allocations, selection of student prize recipient, new member applications, and general planning of annual program priorities and directions.
Theoretical High Energy Astrophysics, General Relativity, Computational Astrophysics.
Dr. Gurtina Besla’s research focuses on the formation and evolution of low mass dwarf galaxies. Through numerical simulations, Dr. Besla explores the impact of gravitational interactions on the observed properties of low mass galaxies in various environments. Dr. Besla is a world expert in the study of the closest example of an interacting pair of dwarf galaxies, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. Dr. Besla’s research on these galaxies has overturned conventional wisdom, illustrating that the Magellanic Clouds are likely recent interlopers in our neighborhood rather than long term companions to our Galaxy.
Dr. Gralla works on the theory of strong gravitational and electromagnetic fields, as occur near black holes and neutron stars. While most of his research is astrophysically motivated, he also ventures into more theoretical territory like black hole thermodynamics
Dr. Klein’s research focuses on studying fundamental plasma phenomena that governs the dynamics of systems within our heliosphere as well as more distant astrophysical bodies. He has particular interest in identifying heating and energization mechanisms in turbulent plasmas, such as the Sun’s extended atmosphere known as the solar wind, as well as evaluating the effects of the departure from local thermodynamic equilibrium on nearly collisionless plasmas which are ubiquitous in space environments.