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I’m Alex Gurvich, a graduate student in Astronomy at Northwestern University working in the galaxy formation group with Claude-André Faucher-Giguère. My research is focused on using the FIRE simulations to understand the connection between supernovae and other forms of stellar feedback and how they regulate star formation both by generating turbulence in the interstellar medium and by launching massive galactic outflows. I am currently interested in the source of bursty star formation in new high resolution simulations of Milky Way-like galaxies and the transition from bursty to time-steady states of star formation.

I’m also interested in both the development and analysis of numerical simulations of all kinds. My previous research includes generating images of gravitational lensing using simulation software at Carnegie Mellon and investigating the Lyman-α forest in the Illustris galaxy formation simulation as part of an REU program at the Harvard Center for Astrophysics. I have attended a number of workshops on High Performance Computing and am particularly interested in leveraging new accelerated and “manycore” computing resources, like Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) and the Intel Xeon Phis.

As a 2018-2019 Blue Waters Graduate Fellow I will develop a GPU accelerated version of the non-equilibrium chemistry solver CHIMES, developed by Dr. Alex Richings– a current postdoc in the Northwestern Galaxy Formation group. CHIMES was recently coupled to the FIRE simulation code and when enabled can dominate up to 95% of the computational time, making it prohibitively expensive to use in already expensive high-resolution studies. We have identified the part of the code that would benefit the most from being offloaded to GPUs and have developed a pilot application to solve the necessary coupled ODEs on GPUs using CUDA. I am currently working on implementing an implicit solver to address the stiff nature of the relevant ODEs along with focused optimization fixes in order to achieve what we predict will be at least an order of magnitude speed up over the current CPU implementation. This would bring the non-equilibrium chemistry in line with the rest of the cost of the simulation allowing us to run at the high resolutions we require for our science cases.

As part of a science communication workshop I took part in, I recorded a video of me giving a public lecture about using hydrodynamic simulations of galaxies to study star formation– you can check it out below.

Outreach is very important to me as well. I staff the Space Visualization Lab at the Adler Planetarium for their Astronomy Conversations program, where professional astronomers use unique visualization resources to engage the general public. I’ve also been developing a new visualization platform to use to convey my research to a broad range of audiences, Firefly. You can try a prototype version of Firefly here, at my git repository.

I also spend a lot of time organizing (and sometimes delivering) public lectures for Chicago’s branch of Astronomy on Tap and for CIERA Astronomer Evenings at Dearborn Observatory. I regularly volunteer to run the Dearborn Telescope for weekly public observing sessions and I taught an after school class on stellar evolution at a local middle school as part of the district’s Science Olympiad.

If you have any questions about what I do or would just like to get in touch, feel free to shoot me an email or drop by my office.