Carl Fields Tackles the Largest Questions of Our Universe

Left photo credit: Adele Han, Right photo credit: Neulyn Moss

The illustrious arc of Dr. Carl Fields’ time in graduate school at Michigan State University recently concluded as he began his postdoctoral research at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He continues working to answer some of the largest questions of our Universe.

In 2017, ICER highlighted what was already an impressive list of research accomplishments from Fields. Now in 2021, he reflects on his time in graduate school and his continued work in modeling astrophysical phenomena.

Fields’ research focuses on simulating the explosions of stars. These massive simulations are too data-intensive for a regular computer to handle, so they are carried out with supercomputers. During his time at MSU, ICER’s supercomputer provided resources for these large-scale simulations.

“I am interested in learning more about how stars explode, the different elements they produce, and how we can observe explosions with current and next-generation astrophysical observatories,” Fields explained. “Stellar explosions are an important part in many areas of astronomy including the creation of elements needed for life, production of gravitational waves, and in fueling the future generations of stars.”

Fields continues to iterate and build on the models he described in 2017, but with a new understanding of what is necessary to produce high fidelity simulations of massive stars. “These are very computationally challenging astrophysical phenomena,” Fields acknowledged. “However, access to the resources at ICER and improvements to our core simulation tools are allowing us to move past this and build on some of the best sets of models produced of massive stars in the final moments prior to explosion.”

Now a Feynman Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow, Fields admitted that he thought receiving the fellowship was a long shot for reasons outside of his control. “I think that part of my success in obtaining this fellowship was the strong letters from my previous advisors and a project that aligned very well with the mission goals of the Lab,” Fields reflected. “I am thankful for this!”

If he could go back in time to give advice to himself when he was just starting grad school, one area that stands out to him is work-life balance. “I think it was easy in graduate school to work on research outside of working hours,” he recalled. “If I could go back, I would use that time to spend more time with my friends and colleagues and towards cultivating a better work-life balance.”