|How did the primordial hydrogen that filled the early universe turn into the iron in your blood and the calcium in your bones?
It was processed through the fusion furnaces of many stars. Stars that are eight times more massive than our Sun can fuse all the elements up to iron in their cores, but that matter is trapped in the core’s gravitational well as long as the star burns. It is the violent explosions that occur at the end of massive stars’ lives that resynthesize and cast this matter out into the universe so that it can be incorporated into planets, beings, and other stars. There are still many unanswered questions about how massive stars explode and what conditions produced the observed pattern of elemental abundances in our universe. For this reason our computational astrophysics research focuses on late term stellar evolution. Areas of study include supernova, novae, X-ray bursts, gravitational waves, stellar hydrodynamics, and nuclear reaction networks. Students are guided by scientists from the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Lab.
Graduate students are also developing astrophysics visualization software.