I am currently an associate research physicist at the Space Sciences Laboratory at UC Berkeley. I have a variety of research interests in the field of astrophysics, including the formation and evolution of magnetic fields in the convective envelope of stars like our Sun; the physics of magnetically driven eruptions in the solar corona (the principal drivers of space weatherhere at earth); the transport of radiation in solar and stellar chromospheres during strong flares; and the dynamic, magnetic, and energetic connection between the solar interior and atmosphere. Each section of this page contains brief (hopefully understandable!) descriptions of each project, along with some nice visualizations of both observed and simulated datasets. If you are interested in the details of a particular project, an abbreviated version of my Curriculum Vitae contains a list of some of my recent peer-reviewed journal articles.
I received an MA in Mathematics and PhD in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. From 1985 to 1992 I was on the faculty of the U.C. Berkeley Computer Science Department. My research interests include volunteer computing, distributed systems, operating systems, multimedia systems, computer graphics, and computer music. I’m also involved in creating technology for human computing and for adaptively personalized web-based education.
I am a 3rd year physics graduate student working here at the lab in heliospheric radio physics in Prof. Stuart Bale’s group. In particular I’m interested in tracking radio bursts in the inner heliosphere. I also work on mission simulation and design for the CUbesat Radio Interferometry Experiment (CURIE).
I enjoy finding creative and interactive ways to visualize data.
Stuart D. Bale received B.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota in 1989 and 1994, respectively. After three years of postdoctoral work at Queen Mary College, University of London, he came to a research position at the Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) at Berkeley. He joined the Physics faculty in 2004 and is the Director of SSL. He has held visiting appointments at the Observatoire de Paris, Meudon (Univ. Paris VII), LPCE/CNRS in Orleans, France, and the University of Sydney. He is a recipient of the 2003 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).
I am interested in plasma astrophysics from the experimental point of view. Much of the universe is in the plasma state and we are just coming to appreciate the role of plasma dynamics and magnetic fields in the large-scale evolution of astrophysical systems. However, many of the fundamental processes are poorly understood and can only be studied in a limited parameter regime in the laboratory. Examples are magnetic reconnection, collisionless shocks, plasma turbulence, and solar/stellar wind generation and evolution.
My research is focused on developing experiments to understand these processes and, in particular, how microscale, kinetic phenomena, affect large-scale plasma evolution.
I am also interested in low frequency (LF) radio astronomy, at frequencies below the ionospheric cutoff (~12 MHz); these observations need to be made from space. Signatures of solar flare electrons and CMEs dominate the dynamics at these frequencies, however the large-scale structure of the radio sky below 15 MHz remains mostly unexplored.
Our group at the Space Sciences Laboratory develops, builds, and operates space-borne experiments to study in situ the plasma processes active in astrophysical, heliospheric, and magnetospheric systems. These experiments are flown on NASA and ESA spacecraft missions and are often developed as balloon and sounding rocket payloads.
My group is involved with NASA’s STEREO mission to study the generation and evolution of Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) phenomena. CMEs are dramatic, large-scale solar eruptions whose triggering mechanism, evolution, and role in solar physics are largely unknown; however CMEs are thought to play a role in the helicity evolution of the solar dynamo. Several of the experiments on STEREO were designed and built at the Space Sciences Lab. Our experiments will remotely sense radio emission and energetic particles from these events, as well as thermalization and shock processes in the ambient solar wind. Opportunities exist for students to be involved in data analysis on STEREO.
Magnetic reconnection is a phenomenon that allows rapid, topological reorganization of magnetic fields in a plasma; it is the primary agent in solar flare and magnetospheric dynamics and is thought to play a role in solar/stellar wind acceleration, accretion disk physics, and other astrophysical phenomena. Our experiments on the Polar, Wind, and Cluster spacecraft have made important measurements of ion and electron diffusion and plasma turbulence related to reconnection evolution. Experimental studies of electron diffusion and wave physics are continuing.
An ongoing project is the study of electric fields, wave phenomena, and particle acceleration at collisionless shocks. Shocks are ubiquitous in astrophysics and are responsible for particle (cosmic ray) acceleration, plasma heating, and mediating flow at astrophysical boundaries. Dissipation physics, particle acceleration, and the energy budget at shocks are poorly understood. Experiments on the Cluster, Wind, and Polar spacecraft are used to study these problems.
Other important problems currently accessible to experimental progress include solar wind generation and evolution, plasma radio emission mechanisms, and plasma wave-particle interactions.
Space Sciences Lab Director
Professor of Astronomy
Department of Astronomy Senate Faculty
Professor Beckwith is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences. He has served as Director of the Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie (Heidelberg, Germany), the Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (Baltimore, Maryland), and most recently as the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies for the ten-campus University of California system (Oakland, California). He has been on the faculties of Cornell University (Professor of Astronomy) and Johns Hopkins University (Professor of Physics and Astronomy) prior to coming to Berkeley in 2008.
Origins of life, cosmology, star formation, planet formation
Professor Beckwith is interested in nature’s leap from chemistry to biology on the prebiotic Earth and how an understanding of that leap will let us infer the likelihood that life has developed elsewhere in the universe. He is investigating how non-equilibrium thermodynamic processes on a small scale may give rise to chemical reaction networks that will become self-sustaining and ultimately evolve into the life we see on Earth today.
The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) is a new science instrument that exploits the latest generation of adaptive optics technology, coronagraphy, and detectors. We have successfully commissioned GPI at the Gemini South telescope in Chile and in 2014 we started a three-year science program called GPIES (GPI Exoplanet Survey) that will survey 600 stars for the presence of young giant planets.
Jacqueline is a second-year PhD student in the UC Berkeley physics department. She completed her BS in physics at the University of Michigan in 2017 and is currently working on the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) experiment at SSL.
Peter Beiersdorfer received his B. S. and M. S. degrees in Physics from Auburn University, and his M. A. and Ph. D. degrees in Astrophysical Sciences/Plasma Physics from Princeton University. At Auburn he was the recipient of several awards, including the Comer Medal. At Princeton he was a Westinghouse Fellow and Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Fellow, and he received a Charlotte Elizabeth Proctor Honorific Fellowship. For his thesis on “High-Resolution Studies of the X-Ray Transitions in Highly Charged Neonlike Ions on the PLT Tokamak” he received the Doctoral Thesis Prize of the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation. He joined the High Temperature Physics Division at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1988, where his work centered on the measurement and interpretation of spectra from highly charged ions in high-temperature laboratory and astrophysical plasmas. He served in two group leader positions in the Physics Division as well as the project leader of the electron beam ion trap experiment. He was appointed a Senior Scientist and a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff. He holds a research scientist position at the Space Science Laboratory of the University of California Berkeley since 2004.
He is the author or co-author of over 550 scientific publications and editor of several conference proceedings, including the proceedings of the 10th International Colloquium on Atomic Spectra and Oscillator Strength in Laboratory and Astrophysical Spectra, which he organized and held in Berkeley in 2010. He is a visiting scientist at various institutions nationally and internationally and has supervised ten Ph. D. students working on the electron beam ion trap facility at Livermore. He is an Affiliate Professor at Auburn University, Auburn, AL, and served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno until 2016. From 2014 to 2017, he served in the Chair Line of the American Physical Society’s Far West Section, including as Chair of the section in 2016.Moreover, he is an Associate Editor of the Canadian Journal of Physics.
His measurement of the two-loop quantum electrodynamical contributions to the energy levels in lithiumlike uranium (U89+) was chosen as a one of the Physics Highlights of the American Institute of Physics in 2005. He has been awarded the Outstanding Referee Award of the American Physical Society in 2008. In 2016 he was awarded the Laboratory Astrophysics Prize by the American Astronomical Society’s Laboratory Astrophysics Division.
Julian Borrill is a Research Physicist at the Space Sciences Laboratory and a Senior Scientist at Berkeley Lab, where he leads the Computational Cosmology Center. His work is focused on the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), and in particular on the data management challenges posed by the size of current and future CMB datasets. He is co-spokesperson of the CMB-S4 experiment, and a senior member of the POLARBEAR, Simons Observatory, LiteBIRD, and PICO experiments.
Physicist and Master in Astronomy of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. He is currently studying Ph.D. in Physics at the University of California Berkeley. His specialty focuses on astrophysics and space science. In particular, he participated in NASA programs that seek to implement new technologies for observing the Sun with space instruments. It also highlights his permanent interest in broad access to high-quality education. He has been a founding member of groups and collectives in the area of Astronomy in Colombia, such as the Astronomical Divulgation Group and the Solar Astrophysics Group (GoSA) of the Universidad Nacional at Bogotá and the Colombian Students of Astronomy Network. He is an active member of the “Education and Public Outreach” team of the Solar Physics Division of the American Society of Astronomy and Science Clubs of Colombia.
University of California, Berkeley, Space Sciences Laboratory
B.S. in Physics, University of Newcastle, Australia
PhD in Space Plasma Physics, University of Newcastle, Australia
Space Physicist, UCB, 1996-2018
Future Fellow/Assoc. Prof., University of Sydney, Australia, 2013-16