You are here: Home

Computational Stellar Astrophysics at UVic

Welcome to the Computational Stellar Astrophysics group in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria. On this site you will find resources, movies, images, documents and publications pertaining to computational astrophysics (and physics) projects in research and teaching.


The Computational Stellar Astrophysics group investigates how stars evolve,  how the elements are made at various times in the Universe, and how the different nuclear astrophysics sources contribute to the chemical enrichment of the Universe.

Research questions include:

  • hydrodynamics of convection in stars and the interaction of convection with nuclear burning
  • mixing in stars due to secular instabilities; these are instabilities operating on the thermal rather than dynamic time-scale, and include thermohaline mixing as well as some instabilities induced by rotation and magnetic fields
  • nucleosynthesis simulations in a wide range of astrophysical sites and its dependence on nuclear physics input
  • the origin of the elements in stars and stellar explosions, as well as in interacting binary stars, such as merging white dwarf stars and nova; one of the goals is to provide reliable yields of nuclear production for a wide range of sources that can be used to study galactic chemical evolution
  • the long-term evolution of stars, from the main-sequence through the giant-branch phases and eventually to the planetary nebula and white-dwarf stage, as well as the progenitor evolution of different types of supernova
  • chemical evolution of galaxies: physics of stellar yields and their impact on observable abundances of samples of galactic and extra-galactic stars

Group members investigate exotic nucleosynthesis processes in order to explain unresolved questions in nuclear astrophysics. We draw on a comprehensive set of computational tools that we have developed over the past decade that cover both detailed nucleosynthesis and stellar evolution codes, as well as codes and tools for stellar hydrodynamics and galactic chemical evolution simulations. Senior group members focus, for example, on the evolution of super-massive stars to address the problem of abundance anomalies in globular clusters. We investigate the intermediate neutron capture process (i process) in rapidly accreting white dwarfs. Several members of the group focus on large-scale hydrodynamic simulations to better understand convective mixing in stars. Our nuclear astrophysics simulation predictions are then tested and embedded in chemical evolution models of dwarf spheroidal galaxies and the Milky Way.

Our research is based on designing, performing and analysing computer simulations, including the necessary software tools. We are using a range of simulation codes and tools, some of which we have developed ourselves. These codes include advanced nucleosynthesis codes, stellar evolution codes, as well as several hydrodynamics codes. We are working toward making our research results available through Web-based remote data exploration platforms. Please check the Research section of this site for more details, and some example results of our simulations, including movies and additional images that complement the corresponding published papers.


We use computational projects and problem solving techniques in most of the upper-level and graduate classes. We make use of various tools and codes, including

Please see the Teaching section for examples.


  • Dr Falk Herwig, Professor
  • Dr Pavel Denisenkov, Senior Research Associate
  • Dr Benoit Côté, PDF
  • Dr Róbert Andrássy, PDF, CITA National Fellow
  • Christian Ritter, Graduate Student (PhD)
  • Austin Davis, Graduate Student (MSc)
  • Ondrea Clarkson, Graduate Student (MSc)





    Past members

    • Luke Siemens, Undergraduate student
    • Adam Paul, Undergrad student (USRA, Co-op)
    • Eric Deleeuw, visiting research student from MSU, 2015
    • Dr Sam Jones, PDF 2014/15 -> Humboldt Fellow Germany
    • Laurent Dardalet, visiting research student from France, 2014
    • Pablo Prado, graduate student, 2013/14Nicholas Bruce, 2013, undergraduate student
    • Dr Jean-Claude Passy, PhD 2013, -> Argelander, Bonn, Germany
    • Athira Menon, MSc 2012, -> Monash, Australia
    • Dr Marco Pignatari, post-doc 2007-2010 -> Lecturer Hull University, UK
    • Daniel Conti, 2010-2011, undergraduate student
    • William Hillary, 2009, undergraduate student
    • Debra Richman, 2009, undergraduate student -> MSU