University of Virginia, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Exploding Stars and Time Domain Astronomy


Exploding stars in form of Supernovae (SNe), Gamma-ray Bursts (GRBs), and newly discovered mysterious transients are the most powerful explosions in the Universe and their Supernova remnants (SNR) are still seen in our Milky Way. They act as both cosmic engines and cosmic factories of elements vital for life. The most common explosion type from massive stars gives birth to fascinating objects, such as black holes, neutron stars, and pulsars. Because SNe and GRBs are so luminous and are seen over cosmological distances, they have been used as powerful tools for cosmology and as probes of the early Universe. Despite their importance, however, many questions about them, including which kinds of stellar systems give rise to them, remain outstanding.

                                                                                      NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University) 

                                           Tycho Supernova                                    Gamma Ray Burst                                        Crab Nebula


Here at UVa, a complimentary set of faculty and their teams are approaching these questions from many angles:

  • Poonam Chandra (NRAO and visiting faculty at UVa) works on radio and X-ray aspects
  • Roger Chevalier (UVa) works on theoretical aspects 
    • grad student Nick James  works on Superluminous SNe and interacting SNe
  • Maryam Modjaz (UVa), via a Stellar Forensics investigation, works on optical & near-infrared aspects as well as the host galaxies of these explosions
    • grad student Marc Williamson (still located at NYU) works on spectral synthesis modeling, machine-learning and young spectra of SNe Ic
    • grad student Noshin Yesmin works on exotic and transition SNe
    • grad student Adrian Crawford works on LSST, machine learning, and CCSNe



Poonam Chandra                       Roger Chevalier                         Maryam Modjaz

Graduate Students


Nick James                                Noshin Yesmin                        Adrian Crawford                    Marc Williamson (NYU)



Astrophysics is entering the Golden Age of innovative time-domain surveys that stand to revolutionize our understanding of the transient sky, and now is a great time to be involved. Members have access to the Las Cumbres Observatory through the Global SN project as well as UVa's access to large- and medium-sized- aperture telescopes: APO, LBT, Magellan and MMT. Other national, international and competitive facilities that we have used include, among others: ALMA, Chandra, GMRT, HST, JWST, Swift, TESS, UVA's Rivanna computing cluster, VLA, XMM-Newton - and of course in the near future: the Vera Rubin Observatory+LSST.


Job Opportunities


  • 2 Postdoc positions with Prof Modjaz  - deadline: Dec 15, 2022 - they will be posted to the AAS Job Regstier shortly, but here is the text for now:

    TITLE: Research Associates in SN and Time-Domain at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville

    The Department of Astronomy at the University of Virginia (UVa) invites applications for two Research Associate positions in Supernova (SN) and time-domain science, both with Prof. Maryam Modjaz, who is now at UVa.

    One position is to work with Prof. Maryam Modjaz, in collaboration with Dr. Tyler Pritchard (NASA Goddard), on multi-wavelength (UV to NIR) NASA archival photometry data SN and transients with emphasis on statistical analysis (including generating template light curves and bolometric corrections) and modeling (including physical parameter inference from consensus models). 

    The second position is to work with Prof. Maryam Modjaz and her group on photometry and spectroscopy of new SNe and transients, using UVa access to large-aperture telescopes, such as LBT, MMT, and Magellan, as well as the Las Cumbres observatory. 

    In addition, members of the UVa SN group benefit from interaction with other SN researchers at UVa & NRAO, such as Prof. Roger Chevalier and Dr. Poonam Chandra, with the new UVa School for Data Science, and with nearby NRAO, which is located on the grounds of the University.

    The successful applicants can also propose their own topics and will have access to their own research and travel funds.

    QUALIFICATIONS: A Ph.D. degree in astronomy, physics, or a related field by the start date is required. 

    Candidates should meet one of the following criteria:

  • Archival multi-wavelength transient science, and a background in any form of time-domain astronomy and experience in statistical modeling/data science, machine learning, and software carpentry are preferred. 
  • Real-time SN science, applicants with previous experience in observational SN science (spectroscopy & photometry) are preferred


  • APPLICATION PROCEDURE: Apply online at XXXX (to be updated soon!) and attach the following:
  • a 1-page cover letter (mentioning for which position, or both, to be considered)
  • curriculum vitae
  • 2-3 pages of statement of research interest
  • contact information for three references. Reference letters will be requested during the long list stage. 
  • Please note that multiple documents can be uploaded in the link referenced above. 



    APPLICATION DEADLINE: Review of applications will begin on Dec. 15, 2022, and the posting will remain open until filled. The University will perform background checks on all new hires prior to employment.

    This position is initially a one-year appointment, with renewal for an additional two one-year increments contingent upon satisfactory performance.

    For questions regarding the positions, contact Maryam Modjaz, Professor, at

    For more information on the benefits available to postdoctoral fellows at UVA, visit and


    The University of Virginia, including the UVA Health System and the University Physicians Group are fundamentally committed to the diversity of our faculty and staff. We believe diversity is excellence expressing itself through every person's perspectives and lived experiences. We are equal opportunity and affirmative action employers. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to age, color, disability, gender identity, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status, and family medical or genetic information.