Matthew W. Choptuik Astronomy, Astrophysics and Space Science

World leader in the field of Numerical Relativity

The Story

Following the completion of his doctoral studies, Choptuik worked first as a Research Associate at Cornell University (1986-88), and then as a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, University of Toronto (1988-91). In 1991, he moved to the University of Texas at Austin where he spent eight years before returning to his alma mater, UBC. He is now building Canada's first research effort in numerical relativity.

Choptuik works on extreme gravitational phenomena such as the formation of black holes, collisions between black holes or neutron stars, and supernovae explosions. He is a world leader in numerical relativity, which is a computer simulation-based branch of theoretical gravitational physics.

Numerical relativity forms an alternate approach to the mathematical complexities of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. Traditionally, studies of extreme gravitational phenomena were complicated by the mathematical difficulties of working with "infinity", which is the theoretical gravitational force inside a black hole. Choptuik has developed new ways of looking at this problem. In addition, his "Choptuik Effect" demonstrated mathematically some startling similarities between common phase transitions, such as the freezing of water and the melting of ice, and the formation of a black hole.

Choptuik continues to work at UBC where he is leading Canada's first research group in numerical relativity. In 1999, Choptuik was appointed as a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIAR)'s Cosmology and Gravity Program at UBC. This appointment, along with funds from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, has allowed his research group to design and assemble a computer system large enough to provide the computation power needed for its work.

Choptuik is a member of the Editorial Board of Classical and Quantum Gravity, and an elected member-at-large of the Executive Council of the Topical Group on Gravitation of the American Physical Society.

Sources: Royal Society of Canada; Dr. Choptuik's website; UBC Cosmology and Gravity Program; Photo: UBC Cosmology and Gravity Program.

Career ideas:

  • research scientist, physics
  • research scientist, electronics
  • research scientist, communications
  • research scientist, aerospace
  • research scientist, remote sensing
  • nuclear physicist
  • optics physicist
  • plasma physicist
  • solid state physicist
  • astrophysicist
  • cosmologist
  • experimental physicist

The Person

Professor of Physics & Astronomy
University of British Columbia
  • BSc Brandon University, Manitoba, 1980
  • MSc (physics) University of British Columbia, 1982
  • PhD (physics) University of British Columbia, 1986
  • Rutherford Memorial Medal in Physics (Royal Society of Canada), 2001
  • Basilis C. Xanthopoulos International Award in General Relativity and Cosmology, 1997
Last Updated
April 8, 2015

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