The David and Lucile Packard Foundation has announced that Carl Rodriguez, who will join UNC’s department of physics and astronomy in January 2023, is one of 20 recipients of the 2022 Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering.
Rodriguez is currently an assistant professor in Carnegie Mellon University’s department of physics and a member of the McWilliams Center for Cosmology. He will be an assistant professor in UNC-Chapel Hill’s department of physics and astronomy beginning in January.
The fellowship recognizes innovative early-career researchers and includes $875,000 to aid in each fellow’s research for five years.
“We are very proud of Carl for receiving this prestigious fellowship and very excited to have him joining us at UNC,” said Frank Tsui, professor and department chair of physics and astronomy. “Carl is an innovative researcher, a capable and caring adviser of postdocs and students at all levels and a charismatic communicator and teacher. His research and expertise in stellar dynamics, gravitational-wave physics and computational astrophysics will significantly strengthen our department, linking and enhancing several areas of excellence in gravitational physics, astrophysics and astronomy, computational physics and nuclear physics and our Institute for Cosmology, Subatomic Matter and Symmetry (CoSMS).”
Rodriguez’s work focuses on gravitational waves, ripples in spacetime that were first observed by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in 2015. He is particularly interested in the dynamics and evolution of stars and star clusters, and what the gravitational waves they create can tell us about stars and galaxies across cosmic time.
“Stars are not fixed on the night sky, and their movements over billions of years create some of the most exciting astronomical events, from gravitational waves to gamma-ray bursts to supernova,” Rodriguez said. “The Packard Fellowship will provide our group with the freedom to develop the next generation of computational tools to explore this dynamical, high-energy frontier with unprecedented physical resolution.”
In his work, Rodriguez uses high performance computing, including machines at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, to simulate the dynamics of star clusters to better understand how gravitational forces effect the evolution of binary stars and create gravitational waves.
In addition to the Packard Fellowship, Rodriguez won a 2022 Sloan Research Fellowship and a Kaufman New Investigator Award in 2020. He joined the Carnegie Mellon physics faculty in the fall of 2020 after completing an ITC Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard and a Pappalardo Postdoctoral Fellowship at MIT. He earned his doctoral degree from Northwestern University and his bachelor’s degree from Reed College.
“Each of the fellows in this year’s class is exceptional, and we’re excited to support them as they push the boundaries of discovery and innovation in their fields,” said Richard Alley, chair of the Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering Advisory Panel and 1991 Packard Fellow. “We welcome them to the community of Packard Fellows and look forward to learning from them and helping them advance the frontiers of science and engineering for the good of all of us.”
The Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering are designed to encourage innovative, blue-sky thinking by providing maximum flexibility and support to scientists and engineers early in their careers. This flexibility allows fellows to pursue trailblazing experimental research into critical issues like COVID-19 and climate change.