"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."   Albert Einstein - Living Philosophies

I am a graduate student in Astronomy at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) working with the research group of Prof. Jason H. Steffen. I joined the program in Fall 2017. I research the formation and evolution of planets from their cores to their atmospheres through computational techniques. I am interested in incorporating astrophysics and geophysics into an integrated understanding of planetary systems.

I am also a graduate assistant teaching two lab courses a semester in mechanics, electromagnetism, and other physics topics to both non-majors and physics undergraduates.

Prior to UNLV, I graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Integrated Science, Physics and Astronomy, and Earth and Planetary Science.


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Curriculum Vitae

David R. Rice C.V. pdf

Last Updated : 22 May 2018


Planetary System Instability with Jason H. Steffen and Fred Rasio at UNLV and CIERA

Due to the chaotic nature of the N-body problem, planetary systems often experience collisions of planets. The dynamics of these collisions are essential to the formation of stable systems and the wide variety of exoplanetary systems that have been observed. We use Mercury6 to simulate thousands of systems with a given orbital separation to better understand the timescales of instability. Among other findings, we find that, although the time until two planets in a multi-planet system cross orbits is well-known, the time until a planet-planet collision is dependent on initial conditions. Initial studies formed senior thesis and AAS poster. Paper planned for Summer 2018.

Solar Wind Turbulence with Craig DeForest at SwRI

Solar winds are known to be "gusty", but the cause of this variability has been a topic of debate. Using the heliospheric imaging (HI-1) camera on board NASA’s STEREO spacecraft, we observed an ensemble of compact features in comet tails as they became entrained in the solar wind. By tracking these test particles with PDL tools, we found a surprising regime of semi-confinement that we attribute to turbulent eddies in the solar wind. Our paper was published in ApJ with ADS listing here. NASA press release found here.

Interplanetary Mass Transfer with Jason H. Steffen at CIERA

Ejecta from asteroidal collision events can often be transferred between planets in a system. This process could be significant in exoplanet systems such as Kepler-36, with an outer planet whose semi-major axis is only 11% greater than the inner planet. We created a HEALPix sphere of test particles around a planet in Mercury6 to study mass transfer in a variety of systems. We temporarily halted this project after preliminary studies to focus on our current project. Prof. Steffen later continued; ADS listing of his publication here.
Personal Bio
"All you really need to know for the moment is that the universe is a lot more complicated than you might think, even if you start from a position of thinking it’s pretty damn complicated in the first place."
Douglas Adams - Mostly Harmless

Hi, thanks for visiting my page. I am from a small town outside of the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa. Astronomy first became a part of my life when I saw Saturn's rings through a telescope on a Cub Scout outing. In middle school, I became obsessed as I checked Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) every morning.

Fast-forward; I attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and completed three majors: Integrated Science, Physics and Astronomy, and Earth and Planetary Science. The Integrated Science Program requires classes in everything from organic chemistry to computer programming. I started research on planetary dynamics with Prof. Jason H. Steffen in my second year.

After my undergraduate, I spent the academic year of '16-'17 as a Tutoring Fellow for SAGA Innovations in Chicago. I provided high-dosage, personalized tutoring in math to at-risk high school students in an underachieving school. Read about the success of the program here. I still enjoy tutoring; please visit my site if you or someone you know would like in-person or online help.

I am now researching, teaching, and learning at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where I will pursue my Master's and PhD in Astronomy. We are building a unique research team that can track chemical composition from the stellar nebula to the interior of planets. Our larger collaboration includes high-pressure physicists, astrobiologists, and geologists.

Outside of astrophysics, I enjoy playing card/board games and exploring the city of Las Vegas. However, my favorite activities involve getting out of the city to enjoy the outdoors through camping, hiking, and of course stargazing.

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