Nick Murphy

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

I am an astrophysicist in the Solar & Stellar X-Ray Group at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) and a Lecturer in Harvard University's Department of Astronomy. My research interests include 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.

I am currently simulating magnetic reconnection in partially ionized plasmas in both the solar chromosphere and in a laboratory experiment using the HiFi framework with collaborators Hantao Ji, Slava Lukin, Lei Ni (倪蕾), and Eric Mukherjee. I am investigating the evolution of topological structures during 3D magnetic reconnection in collaboration with Yi-Min Huang and Clare Parnell. I use non-equilibrium ionization (NEI) modeling to investigate the thermodynamic history of plasma in collaboration with Chengcai Shen (沈呈彩), John Raymond, and Kathy Reeves. For this effort we use 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.

I am presently working on the development of PlasmaPy: a community-developed core Python package for plasma physics in the early stages of development. One of the main goals of PlasmaPy is to foster a fully open source Python ecosystem for plasma physics.

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 Inclusive Astronomy 2015 which was held from June 17-19 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. Videos of Inclusive Astronomy 2015 presentations have been posted online. I was a founding co-chair of the Working Group on Accessibility and Disability of the American Astronomical Society, and am currently serving on its coordinating committee.

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 and/or the Banneker and Atzlán Institutes. Unfortunately, I presently do not have funding to support new graduate students or postdoctoral researchers.

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