Jonas LippunerI am a PhD student at Caltech in the theoretical astrophysics group (TAPIR) working with Dr. Christian Ott on nuclear astrophysics and simulations of binary neutron star mergers. I am also part of the SXS collaboration that focuses on numerical relativity simulations of black holes and neutron stars.

My research is currently focused on nucleosynthesis, which tries to answer where heavy elements like silver, gold, and uranium come from. During the Big Bang, only hydrogen and helium were produced and massive stars fuse these together to make heavier elements up to iron. But stars can only produce certain elements heavier than iron in very small quantities through the slow s-process. To explain the observed amounts of heavy elements in our universe, we need to invoke the rapid r-process. It is still unclear where exactly the r-process happens, but we believe that it mainly happens when a neutron star merges with another neutron star or a black hole.

To simulate the r-process in various astrophysical scenarios, I have developed the general purpose nuclear reaction network SkyNet together with Dr. Luke Roberts. Check out some movies I have made with SkyNet that show how heavy elements can be created.

I thoroughly enjoy coding (my programming language of choice is C++) and I am very interested in developing code for GPUs with NVIDIA’s CUDA platform. Some of my earlier research as an undergrad involved CUDA and I am planning on doing more work with CUDA in the near future.