Marissa B. P. Adams

PhD Candidate

University of Rochester
Department of Physics & Astronomy

Marissa Adams

Marissa Adams

PhD Candidate

University of Rochester
Department of Physics & Astronomy

Marissa Adams

(Photo Credit: Ellen Harder)

👋 Welcome to my tiny corner of the internet. Enjoy your stay!

I am a computational plasma physicist, currently a PhD candidate at the University of Rochester. I work jointly in the Extreme State Physics Laboratory (XSPL) run by Professor Pierre-Alexandre Gourdain, and the Flash Center for Computational Science, led by Professor Petros Tzeferacos.

My research may be summarized as a general questioning of how things that operate at smallest scales impact macro-scale physics. I prefer to work within a hydrodynamic or fluid-based framework, with a larger interest on harnessing transport in plasmas. Some general examples include:

  • how does turbulence, injected at the smallest scales, impact macroscopic transport quantities in a magnetized plasma?
  • to what extent might validation of hydrodynamic plasma properties aid us in understanding the microphysics that facilitate astrophysical collisionless shocks?
  • how might the generation of seed magnetic fields provide feedback to large scale, cosmic magnetic fields through the dynamo action?
Feel free to read more about how I try to play a role in answering these questions on my research page.

Research Interests

keywords: magnetohydrodynamics (MHD), turbulence, transport, mix, instabilities, magneto-inertial fusion, laboratory astrophysics, FLASH

MHD Transport Dependence on Microscale Processes

I am interested in the microphysical impacts on macroscopic, or meso-scale, transport quantities in collisional magnetized plasmas* [Braginskii, 1965]. Effectively I care how concepts such as resistivity, heat conductivity, and viscosity, might be dependent on phenomena such as turbulence in a magnetized collisional plasma. One such regime where you would encounter such plasmas are in Z-pinches, where the Lorentz force law is utilized to employ inertial implosions mediated by magnetic fields.

The premise of my work is quite simple in that I perform what I refer to as "numerical experiments." Such examples are listed here:

From slides provided to the Center for Matter Under Extreme Conditions (CMEC)** Site Review (July 2020); adapted from qualifying examination (Sept. 10th, 2019).

Some potential applications or outcomes of this work:

  • Tabulated transport coefficients; potential improved simulation run time; another regime of verification
  • Interdisciplinary interest outside of my interests; star formation, mixing, rheology, geophysics
  • Publicly providing these databases for scientific use and study
  • Development of Z-pinch capabilities in FLASH [see below]
* Magnetized implies that typically both electron and ion species in a plasma have a gyroradii smaller than a characteristic length scale. This characteristic length scale could pertain to that of a gradient, for example. Comparably collisional plasmas have a mean free path much smaller than our scale length of interest.

Magnetic field generation from laser-target illumination*

The Ion-Weibel instability is a leading candidate mechanism that mediates shocks in astrophysical plasmas and aids in the generation of magnetic fields. These structures originally form within an initially unmagnetized, collisionless, interpenetrating plasma; one can think of them as two colliding flows. Experiments performed at the OMEGA laser facility at the LLE visualized Weibel-driven magnetic field structures with 15-MeV fusion protons at the midplane between two CH foils separated by 5mm [Huntington+2015, Park+2015, Huntington+2017]. Additional experiments were performed by our Project Lead and colleagues for varied foil materials. Thomson scattering data was used to benchmark modeling for full temporal evolution of the plasma.

My contributions to this project may be summarized as a validation of the latter experiment's results. My single-flow overlapped FLASH simulations compared well with data for the 8-mm separation cases of CH and Al. The plasma conditions (density and velocities) provided from my FLASH results then aided in a fastest-growing-mode analysis. The outcome suggesting minor variation in magnetic field strength and saturation.

Project Lead: (General Atomics) M. J.-E. Manuel
Collaboration: (UCSD) S. Ghosh, R. Jonnalagadda, F. Beg; (LLNL) C. Huntington, J. S. Ross, D. D. Ryutov, G. F. Swadling, H.-S. Park; (UR) M. B. P. Adams, P. Tzeferacos; (Osaka U) Y. Sakawa; (MIT) H. Sio

Magnetic fields are omnipresent in our universe and a key astrophysical process behind their origin is the Biermann battery mechanism [Biermann, 1950]. This mechanism generates magnetic fields due to misaligned density and temperature gradients, also encountered in terrestrial laser-driven plasma experiments [Haines, 1986]. The latter are therefore ideal for validating the theory and simulation tools used to model magnetic field generation in astrophysical and laboratory environments. Recent high repetition-rate laser experiments performed by the HEDP Group at UCLA [Pilgram et al., in prep.] on the PEENING laser are furnishing large datasets of Biermann battery magnetic field measurements in expanding plasma plumes via B-dot probes, centimeters away from the laser-target interaction. I am leading a suite of numerical simulations that model these experiments, using the multi-physics radiation-magnetohydrodynamics code FLASH. The simulations allow us to explore a variety of questions regarding the plasma properties of the expanding plasma plumes and the strength and spatial distribution of the Biermann battery magnetic fields.

GIF. Magnetic fields
GIF. Mass density

Collaboration: (UCLA) J. J. Pilgram, C. G. Constantin, C. Niemann; (CSUCI) S. Feister; (UR) M. B. P. Adams, P. Tzeferacos, P.-A. Gourdain

* These two projects in concert form the foundations of my dissertation on understanding cosmic magnetic fields through field generation resultant of laser-target illumination

Contributions to the FLASH code

Z-pinches are a naturally occuring phenomena. For example the mechanism is utilized in the collimation of astrophysical jets, and atmospherically during a lightening strike. However Z-pinches are notoriously used in artificial settings, in particular, pulsed power devices (PPD), so as to deliver large amounts of energy (upwards to 1 MJ) in a short amount of time (nanoseconds) to a centimeter-scale target. Effectively what happens both within nature, as well as PPD, is that an axial current is generated, which is then furnished by an azimuthal magnetic field via the Lorentz force law. The magnetic energy may supercede the gas pressure, resulting in an implosion.

I have been leading the initiative to develop this capability within the high-performance computing adaptive mesh refinement code, FLASH. Once convergence testing has been completed the capability will be publicly available.

GIF. Above is an animation of the CurrentDrive UNIT in action for a solid liner Z-pinch with a peak current of 20 MA. Plotted is the mass density in units of grams per centimeter-cubed. Note the background pseudo-vacuum density. This animation is purely for show and not physically significant for experimental modelling; it is simply proof of concept.

physics > sourceTerms > CurrentDrive
  • FLASH's modularity allows for the implementation of a UNIT that calculates the current and timing for a variety of pulsed power devices (named CurrentDrive)
  • Calculation via analytic forms as well as file I/O based on user preference
  • Allows for multiple drives
  • The only runtime parameters needed from a user are the peak current, rise time, and associated shape of the drive
  • Natural organization for implementation of a circuit model

Simulation > SimulationMain > magnetoHD > zPinch
  • Different flavors of Z-pinches require different methods of handling numerically, so multiple problem modules are provided (SolidLiner, GasPuff (TBD), and WireArray (TBD))
  • A unit test is provided for the implosion of an ambient material; does the amount of magnetic energy put in, equate to the amount of energy put out?

This work is currently under development and not suitable for public use.
Once it is converged, tested, and prepared for publication it will be publicly available in the following release.
Your patience is appreciated.

**This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. DOE NNSA under Award Number DE-NA0003842.
The Flash Center for Computational Science also acknowledges support from the U.S. DOE NNSA under Subcontracts 536203 and 630138 with LANL and B632670 with LLNL.

Teaching Experience & Materials

TL;DR Taught mostly E&M in under/graduate at UR, mostly in a mastery/self-paced format. Also implemented and taught the PREP Program. Enjoys mentoring. Teaching philosophy is simple: (1) be helpful (2) anyone can do and enjoy physics (3) make it fun and (4) analogies are crucial.


  • E-mails to a Young Computationalist; a compilation of emails I wrote on how to make and run FLASH executables on HPC machines at UR (no longer maintained)
  • Click here to learn how to become involved in PASSAGE mentoring (for PAS graduate students only)
  • Click here to access resources on mentoring compiled by PASSAGE (relevant for PAS graduate students)

Past and current mentees:

Year(s) Name Overseer Miscellaneous
2018-2021 Hannah R. Hasson P.-A. Gourdain PhD student, UR Department of Physics & Astronomy
2018-2019 Nitish Achyara Hussein Aluie PhD Student, UR Department of Mechanical Engineering
2018-2019 Shira Katz Hussein Aluie B.S. Mechanical Engineering UR (2019), NVH Vehicle Performance Engineer for Honda R&D Americas, Inc. as of 2019
2018-2019 Carter A. Ball P.-A. Gourdain B.S. Physics (2020), graduate student in the Department of Physics at UMD as of 2021
2017-2021 Imani West-Abdallah P.-A. Gourdain M.S. student, UR Department of Physics & Astronomy
2016-2017 Nathan Wies P.-A. Gourdain B.S. Physics UR (2020), software engineer at Akkio as of 2021
2016-2017 Chiamaka Alozie Pierre-Alexandre Gourdain B.S. Chemical Engineering, iirc she now works for the EPA!

During the Fall semesters of 2015 and 2016 I was Head TA for the Mastery-Self-Paced (MSP) version of Introductory Electricity and Magnetism for engineers. This involves the overseeing and management of upwards of 10-12 graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants and interns to ensure the course runs smoothly. I performed a significant amount of course development during those semesters to streamline the position of Head TA and the course in general. You may find my materials for Head TAs and the course in this git-repo. If you've used the repository, please become a contributor! I was first introduced to the MSP concept at its inception in the department. You can find more information on MSP courses below on this webpage.

This course was led by Professors Arie Bodek, Steven Manly, with consultation from Dan Watson. I worked closely with Nicholas Valentino from the College Center for Advising Services to assist struggling students in the course.

* For my work contributing to this course administratively and within the classroom, I was awarded the University's Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching by a graduate student from the Office of the Provost in 2017.

(below) Comparison with how a student may procrastinate on module completion in an MSP course to drinking too much champagne too fast. (top right) An illustration of how current, voltage and resistance play a role in wire... but with cats! Can you guess which one is which? (bottom right) similar extrapolation to solving circuits problems. Huge thank you to my colleague Jeffrey Kleykamp for designing the images with cats at my request, and to David Munson for printing them for the MSP classroom!

Spring 2014, PHY121P, Mastery/self-paced mechanics for engineering majors
Professors Arie Bodek and Steven Manly

For more information on MSP courses...

  • Professor Dan Watson's Two flavors of Physics write-up on the spirit and ethos of MSP learning
  • A ted talk by Sal Khan on teaching with the purpose of achieving mastery, not high test scores
  • Masi, B., & Watson, D. M., & Bodek, A., & Khaitan, D. A., & Garcell, E. (2015, June), Comparison of Mastery Learning and Traditional Lecture–Exam Models in a Large Enrollment Physics Course. Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23719
Fall 2013, PHY142, Electricity and magnetism for physics majors
Professor Lynne Orr

Professor Orr gave us free-reign in our workshop sessions. I took the liberty to write up my own workshop modules using problems from D. J. Griffiths, Giancoli, and Halliday, Resnick, and Walker. I wrote these up as an undergraduate so please be kind in your judgement!

** For my performance as a Teaching Intern, I was awarded the Department's Undergraduate Teaching Award (2014), which is presented at commencement to honor the best undergraduate teaching interns of the graduating class.

PREP: Pre-college experience for women in physics

For more information, visit the department's program listing.

I had the privilege to be exposed to teaching opportunities early on as an undergraduate student. My first experience was in the summer of 2012. I had implemented and instructed the PREP Program at the University of Rochester's Department of Physics and Astronomy. The program invites women high school students from Rochester and the Greater Rochester Area onto the UR campus to be exposed to the collegiate atmosphere in the context of a physics summer school. Introduction to basic concepts (mechanics, electricity and magnetism, among other things) and topical research are provided through engaging activities, laboratory tours, visiting speakers and workshops.


APS Member for units: DPP, FOEP, NYSS, FGSA, DCOMP
  • (2020) Women in Plasma Physics Allies training via APS DPP
  • (2020) Co-facilitated and organized (with Carla Watson) a Day of Action for PAS; see the TailoredDoc; resulted in new committee for faculty and inspired UR's "STEM Recharge" Day
  • (2020) Member of CMEC Inclusivity sub-committee
  • (2020) Nominated by PAS for the University of Rochester's eleventh annual Presidential Diversity Award
  • (2019) Sunday Student Day at APS DPP
  • (2018) Panelist at annual NE CUWiP, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
  • (2017) Participant in the APS Skills Development Workshop (facilitated by Dr. Kerstin Nordstrom)
  • (2016) Graduate student recruitment table at annual NE CUWiP, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
  • (2015) Aided in the facilitation of Janet Fogg's retirement celebration from PAS (co-created a retirement fund, collected memories from alumni and turned them into a scrapbook)
  • (2015) Light Weekends for the IYL2015 at the Rochester Museum and Science Center via UR SPIE
  • (2015) Pre-College Experience Open House Day at the University of Rochester, advertising the PREP Program
  • (2015) Founder of University of Rochester, Women in Physics & Astronomy group (UR-WiPAS), now affectionately renamed, WoPAS (read: "whoop-ass")
  • (2013) Presentation on PREP/Women Into The Natural Sciences (WINS) at the North Eastern (NE) Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP), Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
  • (2013) Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Entrepreneurship (WiSTEE) member
  • (2012-2013) Society of Physics Student Vice President
  • (2012) Co-founder and secretary (2012-2013) of the University of Rochester, Astronomy Club
  • (2010-2014) Creator and maintainer of the Society of Physics Students Laser Harp Project (SLasH); this project was funded by the SPS Undergraduate Research Award

  • (2020) Organized the eXtreme State Physics Laboratory Research Experience for High School Students, find more information here
  • (2017) Ongoing graduate student/worker unionization effort (URGSU), partnered with AFTA
  • (2015) Girl Scouts of Western New York STEM-a-Palooza
  • (2014-2015) Warner School of Education Enrichment Horizons Program for RCSD students; co-facilitated the Astrophysics section
  • (2014) Outreach talk, "Your Computer: An unexpected frontier in star formation" to that year's PREP Program, and the Pre-College Admissions Program at the University of Rochester
  • (2012) Planned and facilitated Pre-College Experience in Physics (PREP) for girls
  • (2012) SLasH at the annual Rochester ArtAwake festival

Get involved!

LPS Logo

  • Are you a scientist or STEM Professional? You can register to volunteer and become a STEM pen pal here. Registration opens in the summer to sign up for the program, after there is some training, and then you wait to get matched! After becoming matched with your pre-scientist approximately every other month you'll receive and write a reply letter to your pre-scientist.
  • Are you a teacher and want to join LPS? You can find more information here and start bringing letters from scientists straight to your classroom!
Compassionate Connections Award to Marissa from LPS

Check Out

Curriculum Vitae

Click here for full PDF

Marissa B. P. Adams
500 Joseph C. Wilson Blvd.
Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of Rochester
Rochester, NY 14627
(2021) (tentative) PhD Physics, University of Rochester (Advisor: Pierre-Alexandre Gourdain)
(2018) M. A. Physics, University of Rochester
(2014) B.S. Physics, University of Rochester
(2014) B. A. Mathematics, University of Rochester

  1. P.-A. Gourdain, M. B. Adams, M. Evans, H. R. Hasson, R. V. Shapovalov, R. B. Spielman, J. R. Young, and I. West-Abdallah, "Current adding transmission lines for compact MA-class linear transformer drivers", Phys. Rev. Accel. Beams 23, 030401 (2020)
  2. H. R. Hasson, M. B. Adams et al., "Design of a 3-D Printed Experimental Platform for Studying the Formation and Magnetization of Turbulent Plasma Jets," in IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, vol. 48, no. 11, pp. 4056-4067, Nov. 2020, doi: 10.1109/TPS.2020.3020000
  3. R. Shapovalov, M. B. Adams et al., "Low-Inductance Load Test of a New 250-Ka, 150-Ns Pulser for Fast X-Pinch Sources," 2019 IEEE Pulsed Power & Plasma Science (PPPS), 2019, pp. 1-4, doi: 10.1109/PPPS34859.2019.9009748
  4. P.-A. Gourdain, M. B. Adams, M. Evans, H. R. Hasson, R. V. Shapovalov, J. R. Young, and I. West-Abdallah , "Enhancing cylindrical compression by reducing plasma ablation in pulsed-power drivers", Physics of Plasmas 26, 042706 (2019)
  5. M. Evans, M. B. Adams, P. C. Campbell, N. M. Jordan, S. M. Miller, N. B. Ramey, R. V. Shapovalov, J. Young, I. West-Abdallah, J. M. Woolstrum, R. D. McBride, and P.-A. Gourdain , "Reduction of ablated surface expansion in pulsed-power-driven experiments using an aerosol dielectric coating", Physics of Plasmas 26, 070704 (2019)
  6. P.-A. Gourdain, M. B. Adams, J. R. Davies, and C. E. Seyler , "Axial magnetic field injection in magnetized liner inertial fusion", Physics of Plasmas 24, 102712 (2017)
  7. E. Fogerty, A. Frank, F. Heitsch, J. Carroll-Nellenback, C. Haig, M. Adams, "Molecular cloud formation in high-shear, magnetized colliding flows", Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 460, Issue 2, 01 August 2016, Pages 2110–2128,
  8. P.-A. Gourdain, M. Adams et al., "High field assisted X-ray source," 2016 IEEE International Conference on Plasma Science (ICOPS), 2016, pp. 1-1, doi: 10.1109/PLASMA.2016.7534280
  1. (2020) Astronomy Journal Club, Rochester, New York/Virtual; Talk/Seminar
  2. (2020) CMEC AC Meeting, San Diego, California/Virtual; Talk
  3. (2020) First Annual ZNetUS Workshop, San Diego, California; Poster
  4. (2019) Center for Matter Under Extreme Conditions (CMEC) Advisory Committee Meeting, San Diego, California; Poster
  5. (2019) 61st Annual Meeting of the APS DPP, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Talk
  6. (2019) APS DPP Student Day, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Talk
  7. (2019) 46th Annual IEEE ICOPS / Pulsed Power and Plasma Science Conference (PPPS), Orlando, Florida; Talk
  8. (2019) Flash Center Visit, Chicago, Illinois; Group Seminar/Talk
  9. (2018) 45th Annual IEEE International Conference on Plasma Science (ICOPS), Denver, Colorado; Talk
  10. (2018) Astronomy Journal Club, Rochester, New York; Talk/Seminar
  11. (2018) 3MT, Rochester, NY; Lightening Talk
  12. (2017) 59th Annual Meeting of the APS DPP, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Poster
  13. (2017) Flash Center Visit, Chicago, Illinois; Group Seminar/Talk
  14. (2016) 58th Annual Meeting of the APS DPP, San Jose, California; Poster
  15. (2016) PiTP, Princeton, NJ; Lightening Talk
  16. (2016) Summer Student Review @ Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Talk
  17. (2016) Astronomy Journal Club, Rochester, New York; Talk/Seminar