Prize Recipient

Recipient Picture

Joseph A. Barranco
University of California, Berkeley



For the development of computational techniques to handle 3D compact vortices in rotating shear flows, and for the application of these techniques to solve longstanding problems in the theory of planet and star formation.



Dr. Joseph A. Barranco earned his B.A. in Physics, Astronomy & Astrophysics, Magna Cum Laude, in 1993 from Harvard University. He attended the University of California, Berkeley for graduate studies in the Department of Astronomy, where he won a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. Combining his interests in astrophysics and fluid dynamics, he worked with Professor Philip Marcus in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in developing a new spectral code to study compact, three-dimensional vortices in rotating, shearing, stratified systems such as protoplanetary disks (disks of gas and dust in orbit around newly-formed protostars). He graduated from Berkeley in May 2004 with a Ph.D. in Astrophysics. He won a National Science Foundation Astronomy & Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowship, which he split between spending a year and a half at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, CA, and two years at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Currently in his first year at Harvard, he is applying his new code to problems in planet formation, including dust transport and trapping by vortices in protoplanetary disks, Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities between gas and dust layers, and magnetorotational instabilities in weakly ionized disks. Joseph is a member of the American Astronomical Society, the American Physical Society, and the American Geophysical Union.

Selection Committee:

Estela Blaisten-Barojas (Chair), Frank Alexander, Mark Robbins, Ann Orel, Saul Teukolsky