How Stars Shed Light on Dark Matter

Hi, my name is Ethan Lilie and I am a junior majoring in physics and minoring in math. I currently do research under Dr. Andrew Zentner in the field of theoretical cosmology (which basically means how the universe evolves over time). My research is on the effects of spin-independent dark matter on stellar evolution, which is a fancy way of saying I look at how dark matter that interacts with elements whose number of protons is an integer multiple of helium (i. e. beryllium, carbon, oxygen, etc) changes how stars evolve. Dark matter can change how stars evolve because these particles can get captured by stars and act as a mechanism to transfer heat. The math behind all of this was first worked out David Spergel and William Press in the 80s, and has since been improved upon by others.

I spend most of my time writing code modeling dark matter in Fortran (a programming language that originated in the 50s) and then running simulations of stars and looking at graphs from these simulations in Python (a more modern programming language). This research is important because it can give us new insight into how stars evolve that deviates from our theories of stellar evolution that do not involve dark matter, and it can also give restraints on possible dark matter particles if our predictions disagree with current observational data. Learning more about dark matter or putting more restraints on dark matter particles is very exciting because we know next to nothing about what dark matter is, aside from constraints on what it cannot be. 

The CURF will allow me to continue doing research and learn more about physics as an undergraduate in preparation for graduate school. I hope to publish a paper on this research before I graduate. After my undergraduate degree I plan to continue my career in physics by pursuing a PhD, and hopefully go on to eventually become a professor. I would also like to stay in the area of research I am currently in because I think the intersection of various areas of physics, like particle physics and general relativity, in cosmology is really cool. 

Recently, my brother got married and the featured image on this post is a picture of me (in the middle) and my two brothers from the wedding. When I’m not doing research or physics homework (which isn’t often) I am a big movie and television enjoyer. Some of my favorites movies are Spirited Away, Memories of Murder, Lady Bird, Whiplash, and Everything Everywhere All at Once. As far as TV goes I really like Barry, March Comes in like a Lion, and Monster.

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