Although having been born and having spent his early childhood in the US, Professor Blaes spent his formative years growing up in the UK, where he earned his BSc in Astrophysics from Queen Mary College, University of London. He then moved to Italy and earned his DPhil from the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste, Italy. He returned to the US as a Chaim Weizmann Research Fellow in Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology, and then spent time as a Research Associate at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. He joined the faculty of the Physics Department at UCSB in 1993, and was Physics Department Chair from 2010 to 2013. He is currently a Scientific Editor of the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The release of gravitational binding energy as material falls onto a dense gravitating object is responsible for some of the brightest sources in the universe. The physics of these accretion flows is enormously complex, involving plasma physics, magnetohydrodynamics, turbulence, and dynamically important photon pressure. I and my collaborators study this physics using the tools of supercomputer simulations as well as analytic theory of instabilities and photon-matter interactions, in order to help illuminate the rich phenomenology associated with accretion onto compact objects. Recent examples of our work include the discovery that opacity-driven convection can significantly enhance turbulent angular momentum transport in dwarf nova outbursts around white dwarfs; the dynamics of photon bubbles in radiation pressure dominated, magnetically confined accretion columns on neutron stars; and the discovery that observed variability in quasars can be driven by convection in the ultraviolet emitting regions of their accretion disks.
Mailing address: Department of Physics Broida Hall University of California Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9530