Department of Astronomy & Physics
A Good Journey
Bob Deupree held Saint Mary’s University’s first tier I Canadian Research Chair, serving for eleven years as the director of the Institute for Computation Astrophysics. Bob is retiring from academic life and moving with his wife, Jan, to Oregon to be closer to their two sons. We all wish them both the very best in their future journeys. Happy Retirement!
Bob, who earned his Ph.D. from Toronto in 1977, came to Saint Mary's from Los Alamos National Lab in 2003 after a rather protracted world-wide search to fill this senior post. Bob and the department gave each other a very hard look, but it was clear fairly soon into the process that we had each found a good match. One of us (DC) remembers well the trip taken with Bob and Jan to Peggy's Cove during his interview trip where, even though nothing was actually signed, the deal to bring Bob and Jan to Nova Scotia seemed to have been sealed!
Under Bob’s directorship the ICA grew from three to six full time faculty members, appointed eight postdoctoral fellows, graduated numerous students including SMU's first Ph.D., Dr. Catherine Lovekin (recently hired into a tenure-track position at Mount Allison), welcomed many visiting scientists, and hosted two international conferences on computational astrophysics.
Bob's impact has also been felt regionally and nationally. He was one of the co-PIs on the ACEnet proposal (then lead by Mark Whitmore of MUN) which, at the time, was the largest award ever received by an Atlantic Canadian university consortium. Furthermore, the portion of ACEnet allocated to SMU was the largest single research grant ever received by this university. In 2004, Bob became the ACEnet Principal Investigator, a responsibility he held for five years. Bob also served on the CITA board, the HIA Advisory Board, the C3.ca Board, and the National Initiatives Committee.
Bob’s main research interest, initiated early on in graduate school, is the application of numerical hydrodynamics to stellar evolution and pulsation. He attacked what was arguably the most important and difficult unresolved problem in stellar pulsation theory, explaining the cause of the red-edge of the instability strip. By 1977 he had solved it. His three-dimensional hydrodynamical stellar models followed the interaction of turbulent convection and pulsation and showed how the former inhibits the latter as stars move across the red-edge.
His research career did not peak there. In the early 1980s, with postdoc Peter Cole, they produced 2-D hydrodynamical models of the helium flash (an explosive event in the ten billion year life of a star lasting only a few minutes that blows away a significant fraction of the star’s outer envelope) and were the first ever to show how the star’s outer envelope can be blown away without disrupting the remaining star.
And there was yet another peak in his research career. Upon arriving at Saint Mary’s University he began studying one of the most difficult problems in stellar pulsation theory, the interaction of rotation and pulsation. When the time scales of these two processes are comparable, nonlinear interactions lead to an almost chaotic oscillation spectrum. Indeed, in the many decades-long history of collecting observational data on rapidly rotating stars, no significant theoretical progress has been made in analyzing their pulsations. That is until Bob and his Ph.D. students (Catherine Lovekin, Chris Geroux, and Diego Castaneda) began working on the problem. Their multidimensional hydrodynamical models that include rapid rotation and account for the distorted shape of the star have been able to untangle some of the complex structure found in the oscillation spectra of these massive, rapidly rotating stars.
Bob's seminal contributions to astronomy, his devoted support of postdocs and supervision of graduate students, and his expert leadership in our computational research group have inspired all of us. Thank you Bob for your years of service; we speak for the department and the ICA when we say we shall all miss you very much. -Professors David Clarke and David Guenther (founding members of the ICA).