Erik Rosolowsky

Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Alberta.

About Me

As a professor, I teach physics and astronomy at the University, complete research on star formation, and perform service for the professional, university, and public communities. I received my doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, where I studied the properties of star forming clouds in nearby galaxies. Since 2013, I've been on the faculty here, where I've taught classes across the curriculum. When I'm not busy working, I enjoy baking, running, as well as board and card games.

For more information, including contact information and available research group positions, see my directory entry.

Research Portfolio

"We're made of star stuff." -- Carl Sagan, Cosmos

This wonderful quote means that most of the atoms into our body -- the carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen that are essential to life -- were forged in the nuclear engines of now-dead stars. How did those atoms make their way from these ancient stars into our solar system, then our planet, and ultimately into us?

Connections between Stellar Generations

The figure above depicts what happens to the gas in stars when they die, move through the interstellar medium (ISM) and form into new stars. We astronomers have a pretty good idea of how things work for the blue-coloured connections, but anything with a red connection is not particularly well understood or tested. All of my reserach focuses on one of these red links in the star formation cycle.

Data Science and Astrophysics

Modern astronomy is fundamentally Data Science, where we use computing and large data sets to make new discoveries. My reserach group develops new approaches to managing these data borrowing insights from statistics, computer science, machine learning and artifical intelligence. Some of our work is developing new software and platforms to support astronomy like CARTA or CIRADA.

Star formation in nearby galaxies

We can study star formation in our own Milky Way in great detail, but studying nearby galaxies shows us star formation from a critical outside perspective. I focus on studying the molecular gas that forms the star. Since the internal conditions of this gas control how star formation starts, we want to map out how these conditions change across a galaxy. We address these questions with large surveys of tens or hundreds of nearby galaxies including work from the PHANGS and the EDGE collaborations.

Taking the Temperature of Star Formation

Molecular clouds are filled with simple (usually toxic) molecules, like ammonia, carbon monoxide, and hydrogren cyanide. The ammonia molecule is a near-perfect thermometer of cold gas, molecular gas. My research group uses ammonia and other species to map out the changing temperature and chemistry near forming stars. The molecules formed in these clouds can be incorporated into the comets of new solar systems. The Green Bank Telescope (above) is the main facility for this work.