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July 18, 2019

Magnetic leadership and stellar coding: MSU’s Chelsea Harris named Howes Scholar

Chelsea Harris, a Michigan State University postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is the recipient of a 2019 Frederick A. Howes Scholar in Computational Science Award.

The award is given to recent graduates of the Department of Energy’s Computational Science Graduate Fellowship program who demonstrate not only technical achievements in the field of computational science, but also outstanding leadership and character. 

An alumna of the program, Harris was eligible to receive the highly prestigious honor in memory of Frederick A. Howes, the manager of DOE’s Applied Mathematical Sciences Program during the 1990s who was highly respected for his leadership abilities. Harris will receive $1,000, a crystal paperweight and the title of Howes Scholar.

“I feel honored to have received this award, especially when there are so many others putting in hours to help change academic policies and culture,” said Harris, who joined MSU in 2018 after completing her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in astrophysics from the University of California, Berkeley. “I am proud to be a part of the CSGF community that recognizes researchers’ broader efforts through this unique award. To have won one of the few titles of Howes Scholar is, in itself, an honor.”

As a postdoctoral researcher at MSU, Harris implements state-of-the-art codes for high-order calculations of supernovae from massive stars with rotating cores. In these systems, the star’s magnetic fields and rotation interact, generating more powerful explosions.

“Chelsea is incredibly deserving of this award, recognizing not only her achievements in advancing computational modeling of supernovae but also her contributions as a young leader and role model in the field,” said Sean Couch, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “During her Ph.D. studies and now as a postdoc, Chelsea has tackled research problems that are extremely challenging mathematically, physically and computationally. Her remarkable work ethic and very high level of technical know-how have allowed her to be uniquely successful.”

As part of the award, Harris will deliver a lecture on July 15 at the DOE CSGF Annual Program Review in Arlington, Va., where she will discuss her work implementing high order magnetohydrodynamic method into the FLASH code. Her lecture will cover how stellar magnetic fields and rotation play a role in supernovae and the origin of the elements, the difficulties involved in simulating those fields and the novel approaches MSU researchers are taking to tackle the challenge.

“I'm hoping to sneak in a tiny shout-out to mental health awareness as well,” Harris added.

By: Val Osowski