Texas A&M University Institute of Advanced Studies

Michael Smitka

Michael Smitka

The work I've done with Faculty Fellow Dr. David Arnett has been a major part of my doctoral thesis.  My research is observationally measuring how bright Type Ia supernovae are (a specific type of exploding star).  Dr. Arnett’s work focuses on using theoretical physics to predict how bright we expect these supernovae to be.  This fellowship has allowed us to meet in the middle, and use my observations to refine details of his theory and to explain the physics at work in the stellar explosions.  This is important because we use Type Ia supernovae as cosmic yardsticks for measuring distances across the universe, and forming a clear theoretical picture of the physics behind these events will help us better measure how the universe evolves with time and answer questions like 'How old is the universe?', 'How will the universe end?'  The TIAS fellowship has benefited me immensely because Texas A&M has no faculty which focus on theoretical supernova astrophysics, and the TIAS program has given me access to someone who does.  After collaborating with Dr. Arnett, I presented my work in a talk at the 6th Mitchell Institute Workshop on Cosmology and Supernovae in April of 2016 at Cook's Branch Nature Conservancy in Montgomery, TX.  This talk focused on my observations and Dr. Arnett’s theoretical interpretation.  This small conference was attended by many of the leading astrophysicists in the supernovae field.  


Physics and Astronomy

Graduation Year

August 2016

Degree Type


Fellowship Year(s)

'15 - '16

Previous Education

M.S. in Physics - Bowling Green State University - '07
B.S. in Physics - Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania - '05


N. Suntzeff

Journal Articles

1. ‘The 1999aa-like Type Ia Supernova iPTF14bdn in the Ultraviolet and Optical,’ Smitka, M.T., Brown, P. J., Suntzef, N. B., et al., ApJ, 813, 30S (2015).              

2. ‘Decontaminating Swift UVOT Grism Observations of Transient Sources,’ Smitka, M.T., Brown, P. J., Kuin, P., et al., PASP, 128, 961 (2016).          

3. ‘Swift Ultraviolet Observations of Supernova 2014J in M82: Large Extinction from Interstellar Dust,’ Brown, P.J., Smitka, M.T., et al., ApJ, 805,74 (2015).                    

4. ‘Ultraviolet Observations of Super-Chandrasekhar Mass Type Ia Supernova Candidates with Swift UVOT,’ Brown, P.J., et al., ApJ, 787,29 (2014).


1. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1538-3873/128/961/034501/meta

2. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/0004-637X/813/1/30/meta


1. Smitka, M. T., 'Type Ia Supernovae: UV, Optical, NIR Spectral Series and the Integrated Bolometric Lightcurves'. American Astronomical Society, 2016 Winter Meeting.  


2. Smitka, M. T., 'Ultraviolet-Optical Spectra and Photometry of the 1999aa-like Supernova iPTF14bdn.'


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