Brian O'Shea

Professor of Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering and Physics and Astronomy


  • Joined the laboratory in September 2015
  • Theoretical nuclear astrophysics
  • Contact information

Education and training

  • MS, Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2002
  • PhD, Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2005


My research focuses on the growth and evolution of galaxies over the age of the Universe, as well as understanding the behavior of the hot, diffuse plasmas that constitute much of the baryons in and around galaxies (for example, the interstellar medium). I do this using numerical simulations on some of the world’s biggest supercomputers, and by comparing those simulations to astronomical observations and nuclear and plasma experiments. In relation to FRIB, I am particularly interested in using observations of atomic abundances in stars, along with multi-messenger astrophysical information from black holes, neutron stars, and supernovae, to learn more about how stellar populations grow within galaxies and in turn affect the behavior of those galaxies.


I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and went to the University of Illinois as an undergraduate and graduate student to study physics (BS in Engineering Physics, 2000; PhD in Physics, 2005). I spent most of my PhD in residence in the Laboratory for Computational Astrophysics at the University of California at San Diego. After that, I spent three years as a Director’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory before coming to Michigan State University in 2008. I am one of the co-founders of the Department of Computational Mathematics, Scienceand Engineering and am currently the Director of the Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research. I’m interested in understanding how galaxies form and evolve over the age of the universe (and how nuclear experiments and theory can inform that understanding!), in how plasmas behave in extreme conditions, and how students learn about computational and data science.

How students can contribute as part of my research team

Undergraduate and graduate students are key members of my research group. Our work focuses on using computational models and data science techniques to understand galaxies, and involves software development, running and analyzing simulations, making synthetic observations of those simulations, and comparing to real astronomical observations (from, e.g., the Hubble Space Telescope or the SOAR telescope). I offer projects for students that can range from data analysis suitable for first-year undergraduates through software development and simulation campaigns that would constitute an entire PhD thesis. Much of this work ties to FRIB’s mission of probing matter under extreme conditions, particularly in astrophysical environments.

Scientific publications