Jamie Alexander Powell Law-Smith


Dept. of Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of California Santa Cruz
1156 High St, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA
Office: ISB 157

Research interests

High energy astrophysics theory, tidal disruption events, compact objects (black holes, neutron stars, white dwarfs), common envelope episodes, stellar evolution, stellar mergers, gravitational-wave progenitor formation, host galaxies, accretion disks, active galactic nuclei, changing-look quasars, vacuum decay, de Sitter space in string theory


UC Santa Cruz, Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics, 2015-2021 (expected)
Harvard University, A.B. in Physics, Astrophysics, 2010-2014


I am a PhD student in Astronomy & Astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. I am interested in a wide variety of problems in high energy astrophysics theory. I am currently working on (1) tidal disruptions of stars by black holes, (2) common envelope episodes and stellar mergers, especially in the context of gravitational wave sources, (3) accretion onto neutron stars in a dense medium, and (4) the structure of AGN accretion disks with embedded stars. I have also worked on vacuum decay and de Sitter space in string theory.

I did my undergraduate at Harvard in Physics and Astrophysics. There I did work in experimental particle physics on the Higgs to WW decay channel for ATLAS, and in cosmology on custering-mass/color relationships in SDSS galaxies and on resolving excess large-scale power and North/South differences in the SDSS.


Up-to-date list available on ADS, on INSPIRE, or on Google Scholar.


The STARS_library (v1.0.5 on Zenodo, 10.5281/zenodo.4062018; available on GitHub at, an interpolated grid of fallback rates to the black hole (dM/dt) from 3D hydrodynamical simulations of tidal disruption events (TDEs) using realistic stellar models.


Here is the PDF.


Videos from recent simulations papers are available at this URL. Please email if you would like a particular video I have shown in a talk.

PDFs of talks (selected)

Tidal Disruptions in Kyoto: Confronting Theory with Observations, Kyoto, Japan, 2020, "Composition and Stellar Structure in TDEs using FLASH+MESA" (PDF)

Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, 2018, "Tidal Disruptions of Stars by Massive Black Holes" (PDF)

Using Tidal Disruption Events to Study Super-Massive Black Holes, Aspen, CO, 2018, "Tidal Disruptions of Real Stars" (PDF)

TDE17: Piercing the sphere of influence, Cambridge, UK, 2017, "TDE Host Galaxies in the Context of the Local Galaxy Population" (PDF)

UC Santa Cruz FLASH Seminar, Santa Cruz, CA, 2017, "Tidal Disruptions: Fingerprints of Quiescent Massive Black Holes" (PDF)

Jerusalem Tidal Disruption Event Workshop, Jerusalem, Israel, 2015, "Helium-core Hydrogen-envelope WDs as a Missing Link in TDE Demographics" (PDF)


I feel very lucky to work with so many amazing people. As a small step toward giving them the credit they deserve, below is a list of my advisors and recent collaborators:
Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz (advisor)
Michael Dine (advisor)
Douglas N.C. Lin (advisor)
Ryan J. Foley (advisor)
Selma E. de Mink
Sara L. Ellison
Katie Auchettl
Tiara Hung
Jane L. Dai
Monica Gallegos-Garcia
David A. Coulter
Morgan MacLeod
James Guillochon
Philip Macias
Brenna Mockler
Tenley Hutchinson-Smith
Yan Yu
Shijun Sun
Duncan Wood
K. Decker French
Elena M. Rossi
Nicholas C. Stone
Daniel J. Eisenstein (undergraduate advisor)
Joao Guimaraes da Costa (undergraduate advisor)
David Schlegel (undergraduate advisor)


Chang Liu, undergraduate (Peking University). 2020-present
Monica Gallegos-Garcia, undergraduate (UCSC); on to PhD at Northwestern. 2015-2018
Priscilla Camacho Olachea, “post-bac” student (UCSC). 2016-2017


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  3. Within academia and particularly in physics and astronomy, there are far fewer people from underrepresented groups in undergraduate majors, phd positions, postdoctoral positions, and professorships than are reflected in the demographic makeup of the US (and the world). The field needs to do something about this---this includes developing equitable and inclusive hiring, admissions, and grant and telescope proposal reviewal practices, as well as recruiting and retaining students from diverse groups in undergraduate and graduate education. Regarding this aim in astronomy graduate education, the AAS recently put out a report on the status of diversity and inclusion as well as their recommendations:
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