Blake Wetherton

  • Program Year: 2
  • Academic Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Field of Study: Plasma Physics
  • Academic Advisor: Jan Egedal
  • Practicum(s):
    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (2017)
  • Degree(s):
    B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University, 2015

Summary of Research

Magnetic reconnection is the process by which magnetic energy is converted to particle energy through a topological rearrangement of magnetic field lines, and it is thought to be involved in a host of plasma phenomena including solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and the generation of terrestrial aurorae. Though a ubiquitous process, the underlying dynamics of magnetic reconnection are not yet well understood. Several fluid models exist to explain reconnection, but are generally insufficient in explaining a process that is innately intertwined with small-scale kinetic physics (which is based on statistical distribution functions).

Computational simulation is vital to understanding magnetic reconnection, as it complements experimental observation with superior data resolution and access to a larger region of parameter space. For magnetic reconnection, the kinetic models required to capture full electron and ion dynamics necessitate the use of high performance computing, as billions of particles regularly cross over domains and constant communication is needed between cores. My research goal is to use VPIC fully-kinetic simulations to model collisionless magnetic reconnection and elucidate its underlying dynamics.


J. Egedal, A. Le, W. Daughton, B. A. Wetherton, P. A. Cassak, L.-J. Chen, B. Lavraud, R. B. Torbert, J. Dorelli, D. J. Gershman, and L. A. Avanov. Spacecraft observations and analytic theory of crescent-shaped electron distributions in asymmetric magnetic reconnection. Physical Review Letters. 2016.

B. A. Geesey, B. A. Wetherton, N. Bajaj, and J. F. Rhoads. A tunable signal interference control topology for sensing and signal processing based upon electromechanical resonators. Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurement and Control. 2017.

J. Egedal, B. A. Wetherton, W. Daughton, and A. Le. Processes setting the structure of the electron distribution function within the exhausts of anti-parallel reconnection. Physics of Plasmas. 2016.

C. Borra, C. S. Pyles, B. A. Wetherton, D. D. Quinn, and J. F. Rhoads. The dynamics of large-scale arrays of coupled resonators. Journal of Sound and Vibration. 2017.

P. Montag, J. Egedal, E. Lichko, and B. A. Wetherton. Impact of compressibility and a guide field on Fermi acceleration during magnetic island coalescence. Physics of Plasmas. 2017.


DOE Computational Science Graduate Fellow
NSF GRFP Honorable Mention (2016)

Van Vleck Fellowship- University of Wisconsin Department of Physics (2015)
Huber Fellowship- University of Wisconsin Department of Physics (2015)
Grant Arrasmith Memorial Scholarship- Purdue University Department of Mechanical Engineering (2014)
James Perrella Scholarship- Purdue University Department of Mechanical Engineering (2013)