Nick Murphy

Building an open source Python software ecosystem for plasma physics

Nick Murphy

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Friday, September 21, 2018



PSFC Seminars

Abstract: In recent years, open source packages such as Astropy and SunPy have fundamentally changed the way scientific research is done in their respective fields.  PlasmaPy is a new openly-developed community Python package that is working to fill this role for plasma physics [1]. This project strives to provide the core functionality that is needed to foster the creation of a fully open source Python ecosystem for heliospheric, laboratory, and astrophysical plasmas that is compatible with Astropy and SunPy.  Our first development release includes the calculation of plasma parameters and transport coefficients, methods for accessing atomic data, and the prototype of a class to describe arbitrary plasmas. Upcoming releases will include numerical simulation and observational/experimental analysis capabilities, as well as tools for plasma theory. In this talk, I will describe modern best practices for scientific computing that we are adopting in PlasmaPy [2], present PlasmaPy’s current and planned capabilities, and discuss how our community can work together to forge an open source software ecosystem in coming years.

[2] G. Wilson et al. (2014), Best Practices for Scientific Computing, doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001745

Bio: Nick Murphy is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He is a member of PlasmaPy’s Coordinating Committee and the Python in Heliophysics steering committee.  His research focuses on asymmetry and partial ionization during magnetic reconnection in the solar atmosphere and laboratory experiments. He served on the organizing committee for the Inclusive Astronomy 2015 conference, and was a founding co-chair of the AAS Working Group on Accessibility and Disability.  Since graduate school he has been working to build bridges between laboratory, heliospheric, and astrophysical plasma physics.