MSU's Philipp Grete wins prestigious doctoral thesis award

MSU's Philipp Grete wins prestigious doctoral thesis award
Posted at 3:09 PM, Oct 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-06 15:09:04-04

Philipp Grete, Michigan State University research associate in computational astrophysics, is this year’s sole recipient of the German Astronomical Society’s most outstanding dissertation in astronomy and astrophysics award.

Grete completed his dissertation “Large eddy simulations of compressible magnetohydrodynamic turbulence,” last year at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Science and the Institute for Astrophysics at the University of Göttingen, Germany, qualifying him for the notable honor.

“The award feels great,” said Grete, who works with Brian O’Shea, associate professor in the physics and astronomy department. “This is a good closing of the Ph.D. thesis that was not always easy, so having such a successful finish is quite rewarding.”

Grete’s research aims to more fully understand and model the processes of magnetohydrodynamic turbulence, key to illuminating the physics of the sun and other stars, energetic matter streams and galaxy clusters.

“One problem we have in astrophysics is the large range of scales involved, from planets to galaxy clusters,” Grete said. “We don’t have enough computational resources in the foreseeable future to simulate all the detail, so we developed a new model to incorporate effects of turbulent small-scale motion.”

Grete’s innovative approach can account for sub-grid scale turbulence, the unresolvable motion below the computational grid, and reintroduce it into the simulation for a finer level of detail, a significant advance in his field.

“I’d like to congratulate Dr. Grete on receiving this prestigious and highly competitive award – only one of these is awarded each year to students graduating from German universities, and the receipt of it speaks volumes to the high quality of his scientific efforts up to this point,” O'Shea said. "I’m delighted that Dr. Grete is continuing his excellent work here at Michigan State University.”

The more precise models will also provide new ways of studying the cosmos across disciplines.

“This method can be applied to different areas, especially in astrophysics,” Grete said. “Having this kind of recognition from the AG and astrophysics community is important to me and my work because it has been rather specific to fundamental physics and numerics up to this point.”

Grete attended the society’s annual meeting in Göttingen earlier this month to receive the award and give a lecture about his dissertation.