Nick Murphy

Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian

I am an astrophysicist in the Solar & Stellar X-Ray Group at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO).

My work is primarily on the development of PlasmaPy, which is an open source Python package for plasma science. The overall mission of the PlasmaPy project is to foster the creation of a fully open source software ecosystem for plasma research and education. PlasmaPy is a core package in the Python in Heliophysics Community.

While my primary focus has shifted from research to research software engineering, I have also worked on plasma astrophysics; solar physics; magnetic reconnection; coronal mass ejections (CMEs); the solar chromosphere; partially ionized plasmas; computational plasma physics; open source scientific software code development; non-equilibrium ionization modeling of astrophysical plasmas; UV spectroscopy; dissipation mechanisms in astrophysical and space plasmas; solar and stellar winds; and relationships between laboratory, astrophysical, and space plasma physics.

In the past, I have worked on simulating magnetic reconnection in partially ionized plasmas in both the solar chromosphere and in a laboratory experiment using the HiFi framework with collaborators Jonathan Jara-Almonte, Hantao Ji, Slava Lukin, Chad Madsen, Lei Ni (倪蕾), and Eric Mukherjee. I have also investigated the evolution of topological structures during 3D magnetic reconnection in collaboration with Yi-Min Huang and Clare Parnell. I have also used non-equilibrium ionization (NEI) modeling to investigate the thermodynamic history of plasma in collaboration with Marcus DuPont, Chengcai Shen (沈呈彩), John Raymond, Kathy Reeves, Remington Rimple, and Maurice Wilson. For this effort we used observations of solar eruptions observed by the Ultraviolet Coronagraph Spectrometer (UVCS) on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) on the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), and the X-Ray Telescope (XRT) on Hinode. I have studied the roles of the plasmoid instability and asymmetric reconnection with Paul Cassak, Carl Sovinec, Mari Paz Miralles, Mitsuo Oka, Chengcai Shen, Kathy Reeves, Lei Ni, and Jun Lin.

Previously, I was a graduate student in Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison working with Carl Sovinec (Engineering Physics) and Ellen Zweibel (Astronomy) and supported by the Center for Magnetic Self-Organization in Laboratory and Astrophysical Plasmas.  My Ph.D. thesis involved simulating astrophysically relevant laboratory plasmas (e.g., the Magnetic Reconnection Experiment) using the NIMROD extended MHD code to gauge the impact of global effects on the process of magnetic reconnection.

In the spring of 2014, I co-taught Astronomy 253: Plasma Astrophysics through Harvard's astronomy department with Steve Cranmer. During the spring of 2016, I co-taught Astronomy 253 again with Xuening Bai. The plasma astrophysics lecture slides that I created for this course are available on this website.

I was on the organizing committee for the inaugural Inclusive Astronomy conference which was held from June 17-19, 2015 at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. While much of the work on diversity, equity, and inclusion in astronomy focuses primarily on a single dimension of identity, the goal of this meeting was to take an intersectional approach by considering multiple interacting dimensions of identity. I was a founding co-chair of the Working Group on Accessibility and Disability of the American Astronomical Society, and subsequently served on its coordinating committee. I am an active member of the American Physical Society (APS) Division of Plasma Physics (DPP) Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Organizing Collective Committee (OCC).

If you are interested in working with SSXG scientists, any job postings will be listed on the the SAO employment opportunities page. Future positions will most likely be posted on the AAS Job Register and/or SolarNews. Undergraduates who are interested in solar physics may wish to apply for our group's solar physics REU program.

Nick Murphy -
Please note that I am often very slow to respond to emails!