Master’s degree in Physics
The life of a supernova
Astrophysicists have quite the challenge: understanding the universe is a boundless task, just like space itself. Tremendous leaps and bounds have been made over time in exploring and understanding the universe and its entities, with university campuses very much at the centre of these discoveries and breakthroughs.
Bishop’s University Master’s degree student Abdelbassit Senhadji is a scientist whose interest in space has narrowed to a specific phenomenon, the supernova. A supernova is an astronomical event that takes place during the last stellar evolutionary stages of a massive star’s life, whose obliteration is marked by a final massive explosion. The explosion suddenly creates a “new” bright star, before it slowly fades from sight over several weeks or months.
Over his time at Bishop’s, Abdelbassit has been gaining a better understanding of supernovae in the Physics lab, but now he is at a crossroads with his research.
“I was working on MESA (Modules for experiments in Stellar Astrophysics), which is a software that I and other astrophysicists use to study stars evolution,” explains Abdelbassit. “But my knowledge of the software isn’t broad enough, so I was looking for a program that would help me learn more.”
The student from Oran, Algeria found an intensive program at a summer school at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his trip will be fully funded by the B.E.S.T. Projects Fund.
“My teacher will be Dr. Bill Paxton, who actually built MESA. It will be great to learn directly from the person who created the software!” exclaims Abdelbassit.
“MESA is a more specific and accurate than any other software for understanding stars evolution and maybe supernovae. In this course I will learn different codes that will help me use this software. MESA is not easy to use; I will need to write a code and use my background in physics to fill the gaps in my knowledge.”
Abdelbassit, who hopes to teach astrophysics after doctoral studies in the field, has plans for his return to the Physics lab. “I want to write a specific program that hasn’t been done before. Right now I am missing some information and shortcuts for this specific code.”
Fueled by perseverance and passion, he plans on continuing his work on this project, which he will present to Dr. Paxton.
“My hope is that he will show me where I made mistakes in my work, and what the solutions are. A program like this has never been created before. If I succeed in writing it, it is possible that we will see something that hasn’t been discovered before!”