Rukmani Vijayaraghavan

Contact information:
530 McCormick Road
Department of Astronomy
Charlottesville, VA 22904
Fellowship status:
Starting year: 2015
Research Interests:

My research interests are in understanding the evolution of galaxies in dense cluster environments. Here, galaxies lose their gas, stars, and dark matter through a variety of physical processes. These massive regions have deep potential wells, where galaxies can be tidally stripped of weakly bound material, and galaxies can interact and collide with other galaxies. The dominant baryonic component in clusters is the hot, diffuse, X-ray emitting intracluster medium. Galaxies' gas is removed by drag forces when moving through the ICM, a process termed ram pressure stripping; this loss of gas results in the eventual suppression of new star formation. Heat conduction between the ICM and ISM can result in the evaporation of gas. The ICM and galaxies' gas are threaded with magnetic fields; these magnetic fields can shield galaxies from heat flows and can be amplified by moving galaxies.

Clusters of galaxies grow by accreting smaller galaxies and groups of galaxies. During this process, galaxies are transformed in their prior environments, and the merger process between groups and clusters can accelerate galaxy transformation. The dynamics of cluster galaxies, combined with their physical properties, can help us understand the formation and assembly of clusters, and their effectiveness in transforming their galaxies.

My research involves using mumerical simulations on large computers to understand the effects of these processes on galaxy evolution and cluster evolution. I primarily use the astrophysical simulation code, FLASH. I have use NSF XSEDE Supercomputers, the Pleiades supercomputer, and the Rivanna cluster at U.Va to run my simulations.

Education and Outreach Interests:

My education and outreach work is based on inspiring young girls to see themselves as scientists and astronomers. I run the "Girls Exploring the Universe" camp at the University of Virginia. This is an astronomy camp for middle school girls at the historic McCormick Observatory. The camp consists of a series of inquiry-based, curiosity-driven, and hands-on activities on a range of areas in astronomy -- ranging from the formation of the Solar System to the expansion of the Universe. The camp website is here: