The National Institute for Computational Sciences

The Origins of Home

Addressing One of the Most Intriguing Questions of All Time

The research interests of Wladimir Lyra revolve around the theory of planet formation and a very ancient question: How was planet Earth formed?

Lyra is an assistant professor at California State University at Northridge, Department of Physics and Astronomy. He is also a research associate at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a visitor at Caltech’s Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences. A native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he received his Ph.D. in February 2009 from Uppsala University, Sweden. Lyra is a recipient of the Sagan Fellowship, the prestigious postdoctoral research grant named after the famous astronomer and science communicator Carl Sagan.

As Lyra says via telephone in this podcast, virtually every society in recorded history, every culture known to anthropology, has attempted at some point to find the answer. In modern times, the quest has been stirred by the discovery of the roughly 2,000 planets around other stars known as extrasolar planets or exoplanets.

The vast majority of these exoplanets lie in planetary systems remarkably different from our own. But despite those dissimilarities, the same approach to research and the results it yields also apply to the origin of our planet. Thus, a major goal of Lyra’s research is to understand the diversity of the planetary systems while simultaneously tracing the origins of Earth.

The National Science Foundation’s eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) is instrumental in Lyra’s research. XSEDE is a single virtual system that scientists can use to interactively share computing resources, data, and expertise. People around the world use these resources and services—things like supercomputers, collections of data and new tools—to improve our planet.

Also, see the Question and Answer article with Lyra here.

Scott Gibson, science writer, NICS, JICS

Article posting date: 14 December 2015

About JICS and NICS: The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences (JICS) was established by the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to advance scientific discovery and leading-edge engineering, and to further knowledge of computational modeling and simulation. JICS realizes its vision by taking full advantage of petascale-and-beyond computers housed at ORNL and by educating a new generation of scientists and engineers to be well versed in the application of computational modeling and simulation for solving the most challenging scientific and engineering problems. JICS operates the National Institute for Computational Sciences, NICS, one of the nation's leading advanced computing centers. NICS is co-located on the UT Knoxville campus and ORNL, home of the world's most powerful computing complex. The center's mission is to expand the boundaries of human understanding while ensuring the United States' continued leadership in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. NICS is a major partner in the National Science Foundation's eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE).