Matthew Kunz is an Associate Professor of Astrophysical Sciences, jointly appointed by Princeton University and PPPL. He obtained his undergraduate degrees, graduating with honors, from the University of Virginia in Astronomy-Physics and Music. He subsequently earned a PhD in Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, specializing in the non-ideal magnetohydrodynamics of partially ionized astrophysical plasma such as protostellar cores and protoplanetary disks. Following a postdoctoral research position at the Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford and four years at the Department of Astrophysical Sciences of Princeton University as a NASA Einstein Postdoctoral Fellow and a Lyman Spitzer, Jr. Postdoctoral Fellow, he became an Assistant Professor of Astrophysical Sciences in 2015.
Prof. Kunz uses analytical and numerical tools to investigate magnetic fields and multi-scale plasma dynamics in a wide variety of astrophysical and space systems, including star-forming molecular clouds, protostellar cores, the intracluster medium (ICM) of galaxy clusters, black-hole accretion flows, protoplanetary disks, and the solar wind. His research addresses the interplay between microscale plasma physics, mesoscale fluid dynamics, and macroscale evolution. In doing so, it aims to provide a greater understanding of: how angular momentum is transported in differentially rotating astrophysical accretion disks; how kinetic turbulence in collisionless plasma is cascaded to small scale in phase space; how the solar wind is launched from the solar cores and accelerated through interplanetary space; how efficiently protostars inherit magnetic fields from their natal molecular clouds, and whether this process influences their initial mass distribution; and how turbulence is dissipated and heat is transported in the ICM, and what this implies for convective and thermal stability. The common theme of this research is instability and turbulence in non-ideal system, i.e., those that are either so hot and diffuse that they are fully ionized but weakly collisional, or so cold and dense that they are poorly ionized and strongly collisional.