Contact Info

Office: 352 MWAH
Phone: (218) 726-8247
Email: ewest at d.umn.edu

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Teaching

Many students find physics to be a strange, abstract, and difficult subject. As a biochemistry major, I felt the same way. Somehow I managed to survive my introductory physics courses (here, at UMD!). It was only much later when I discovered how exciting and profound physics can be. More importantly, I discovered that with patience, effort, and determination, even someone like me could learn and appreciate physics. But I didn't come to that realization by myself; I had many outstanding teachers who patiently guided me, encouraged me, and fueled my curiosity. Remembering how the fog of physics lifted as a result of their caring is a constant driving force in my teaching. My teaching is a tribute to those outstanding individuals, to whom I can only hope to repay by paying it forward to my own students.

Below are the courses that I currently teach, or have taught, at various institutions.

Current Courses (Fall 2017)

Past Courses @ UMD (2015-present)

  • PHYS 1021 Exploring Current Topics in Physics
  • PHYS 2013 General Physics I
  • PHYS 2013 General Physics I Discussion
  • PHYS 2015 General Physics II Discussion
  • PHYS 2017 Honors General Physics I Discussion
  • PHYS 4031 Thermal and Statistical Physics

Past Courses @ Rochester Institute of Technology (2010-2015)

  • PHYS-207 University Physics I: AP-C Waves
  • PHYS-209 University Physics II: AP-C Optics
  • PHYS-211 University Physics I
  • PHYS-216 University Physics I: Physics Majors
  • PHYS-283 Vibrations and Waves
  • 1017-312 University Physics II
  • 1017-313 University Physics III
  • 1017-314 Modern Physics I
  • 1017-316 Particle Physics, Stars, and the Big Bang
  • 1017-389 University Physics IIA
  • 1017-559 Introduction to General Relativity

Research

Gravity is one the most familiar forces in our everday lives. Yet of the fundamental forces in nature, gravity is the least understood, and the least tested. My research is focused on understanding gravity under the most extreme conditions, called the strong-field regime. These conditions hold in the vicinity of compact objects such as neutron stars and black holes. In these regions of spacetime, the effects of Einstein's theory of general relativity become pronounced and unavoidable. The strong-field regime is therefore ideal for testing general relativity and improving our understanding of gravity.

In particular, my research is aimed at improving theoretical modeling of gravitational waves produced during the coalescence of two compact objects. Models often involve a hybrid of analytical approximations (black hole perturbation theory, post-Newtonian expansions, post-Minkowskian expansions) and numerical approximations (numerical relativity), which are then married together in an appropriate way. Accurate modeling is crucial for detecting gravitational waves, extracting useful information from them, and testing the predictions of general relativity.

After almost 50 years of effort by untold numbers of physicists and engineers, gravitational waves were finally detected by LIGO in 2015 (announced in early 2016). With these first detections, the era of gravitational wave astrophysics has officially commenced. And with it, there is an increased demand for fast, efficient, accurate, and realistic gravitational waveform templates.

Active Research Interests

  • General Relativity
  • Post-Newtonian Gravity
  • Black Hole Perturbation Theory
  • Numerical Relativity

Prospective Research Interests

  • Tidal Effects in Neutron Star Binaries
  • Gravitational Wave Asteroseismology
  • Effective Field Theory Approach to Gravity

Current Student Projects

  • Matching Post-Newtonian and Numerical Relativity Gravitational Waveforms
    (Sheyda Salehirad, graduate (M.S.), UMD; in progress)

Past Student Projects

  • 3D Visualization of Precessing Black Hole Binaries Using Blender
    (Karl Osterbauer, undergraduate, UMD; currently an undergraduate at UMN Twin Cities)

  • Gravitational Wave Parameter Estimation of Black Hole Binaries in Eccentric Orbits
    (Henry Jackson, undergraduate, RIT; currently a Ph.D. student at Penn State)

  • Relativistic Tidal Love Numbers in Polytropic Stars
    (Travis Robson, undergraduate, RIT; currently a Ph.D. student at Montana State University)

  • Computation of Quasinormal Mode Frequencies for Non-Spinning Black Holes
    (Matthew Beach, undergraduate, RIT; currently works at Voith, building and designing turbines for hydroelectric power plants)

  • Stellar Structure in Scalar-Tensor Gravity
    (David Anderson, undergraduate, RIT; currently a Ph.D. student at Montana State University)