Andrew Wetzel, assistant professor of physics at the University of California, Davis

I am an assistant professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy and in the Astrophysics & Cosmology Group at the University of California, Davis.

I am a theoretical/computational astrophysicist and cosmologist. Using the world’s most powerful supercomputers, I generate cosmological simulations to model the formation of cosmic structures, including galaxies and their stars. I use these simulations as theoretical laboratories to develop and test models of galaxy formation, stellar dynamics, and the nature of dark matter, with emphasis on our own Milky Way galaxy. The movie above flies through one of my Latte simulations of a galaxy like the Milky Way, showing its evolution over the last billion years.

My group at UC Davis pursues research in following areas:

cosmological structure formation

We model the formation of dark-matter + gaseous halos and the galaxies that form inside of them, including the physics of dark matter, gas dynamics, star formation, stellar evolution, and stellar feedback.

galactic archeology

We model the formation history of the Milky Way, Andromeda, and the Local Group across all of their components: dark matter halos, stellar and gaseous disks, giant molecular clouds, star clusters, stellar halos, and low-mass (dwarf) galaxies.

near-field cosmology

We use stellar and gas dynamics to measure the spatial and velocity distribution, and test the particle nature, of dark matter around us.

FIRE simulation project

I am a member and developer of the Feedback In Realistic Environments (FIRE) simulation project. FIRE is pushing the resolution frontier in cosmological zoom-in simulations of galaxies, in order to pursue a new ‘bottom-up’ approach of directly resolving the multi-phase interstellar medium while directly implementing stellar evolution models in galaxy simulations. Thus, we seek to improve the predictive power of galaxy formation models and connect them to underlying stellar populations.

Latte simulations of Milky Way-like galaxies

Within with FIRE collaboration, I am leading the Latte suite of simulations of Milky Way-like galaxies, in order to understand the formation history of our own Milky Way galaxy in a cosmological context. The movie above flies through a Latte simulation, showing its evolution over the last 1 billion years.

connections with observations

While my group’s research is primarily theoretical, we also emphasize close connections with astronomical observations. I am co-leading the MW-6D and M31-6D surveys, two Treasury Programs using the Hubble Space Telescope to measure full 6-D orbital phase-space and star-formation histories for all of the dwarf galaxies around the Milky Way and Andromeda (M31).

More about my group and our research:
news, publicationspresentationsmedia & press
My contact information and curriculum vitae
Resources for students and postdocs
My musical life: carillon