A theoretical astrophysicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz is developing the conceptual framework needed to understand the violent and capricious nature of the universe. He uses computer simulations to explore transient phenomena such as collisions, mergers, and disruptions of stars—especially those involving compact objects such as black holes, neutron stars, and white dwarfs.
Much of Ramirez-Ruiz’s effort during the fellowship year is dedicated to understanding the physics of gravitational wave emission and mass transfer in interacting compact binaries. Both black holes and neutron stars can generate copious gravitational waves when they collide and merge. Because of this, simulations of such encounters play an essential role in the ongoing efforts at detections of gravitational waves. In general, all these phenomena, from extreme matter to event horizons and gravitational waves, cannot be created in a laboratory. Instead, we have no choice but to create virtual laboratories on Earth, in order to simulate all the relevant physics in large-scale computational experiments. At Radcliffe, Ramirez-Ruiz has the resources necessary to realize the potential of simulations for this field.
Since joining the UCSC faculty, Ramirez-Ruiz has won a number of awards for his research, including a Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering and the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. In 2010 he was elected a member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences; at 35, he was the youngest scientist ever elected. He earned his PhD in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Cambridge.