Dr. David Graham Whelan

Dr. David WhelanVisiting Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Gilmer Hall, 010
(434) 223-6710


B.A., Ithaca College, 2005; M.S., University of Virginia, 2009; Ph.D., University of Virginia, 2013.

Teaching Schedule, Spring 2014:

  • PHYS 132 (Fundamentals of Physics II), Section 2: 10.30-11.20 MWF, Gilmer 025
  • ASTR 110 (Introductory Astronomy), Section 2: 11.30-12.20 MWF, Gilmer 005
  • ASTR 151 (Astronomy Lab), Section 2: 13.30-16.00 W, Gilmer 005
  • PHYS 342 (Thermodynamics/Stat. Mech.), Section 1: 14.00-15.20, TR, Gilmer 012

Research Projects:

This is a list of current research that I am pursuing, but you should also check out my Publications link for more information.

  • Emission-line B-type stars: They were serendipitously discovered by this guy during this survey (which is ongoing), so we proposed to observe a whole bunch more and try to learn something about them. Our work represents the only high-resolution H-band spectroscopic survey of emission-line B-type stars to date. Two publications currently in the works.
  • What drove the re-ionization of the Universe? Massive, low-metallicity stars are the ``prime suspect'' but so far searches for nearby analogues are producing ambiguous results. We hope to model some systems and prove that the ionizing radiation escape fractions can be due to stars, not just interstellar supersonic shocks (probably from supernovae). Such a result would have a significant impact on the interpretation of dust optical depths in low-metallicity, low-mass starburst galaxies (a.k.a. blue compact dwarf galaxies or BCDs), and on the cosmological importance of massive stars in the early Universe.
  • Build a spectrograph: Professors McDermott and Thurman and I are building a spectrograph for the college observatory. First light...soon?
  • Model embedded super star clusters (SSCs): I have a history with this subject, and would like to begin answering some more fundamental questions:
    1. How long do SSCs take to form out of their natal cloud?
    2. Is the mass function of stars formed in SSCs top-heavy, meaning that there are many massive stars formed? And what does this say about the percentage of the natal cloud that is made into stars?
    3. Can we model ``realistic'' distributions of gas and dust in these systems? For instance, filaments from gas inflow and other structure that has previously been modeled with fractals.