Nowak named Associate Director of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences

The McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences has named Michael Nowak as the new associate director.

Michael Nowak, research professor of physics and fellow of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences (MCSS), researches high energy phenomena related to the physics of black holes - stellar mass black holes in our own galaxy, as well as supermassive black holes in the centers of our own and other galaxies - and neutron stars.


Nowak's work encompasses both observation and theory of astrophysical compact object (black hole and neutron star) systems. His early theoretical work focused on the hydrodynamics of accretion flows in these systems, and later evolved into theories describing the implications of X-ray spectra and variability for models of astrophysical jets relativistically speeding away from and hot (billions of degrees) coronae surrounding compact object systems.

He performs observational studies with a variety of High Energy Astrophysics observatories, including the Chandra, Swift, NICER, and NuSTAR (NASA), and XMM-Newton (ESA) satellites.  He currently is a science collaborator, assisting with coordinated X-ray and gamma-ray observations, with the Event Horizon Telescope team who have used radio interferometry to image accretion flows around the supermassive black holes Sgr A* and M87*. Nowak is also a Co-Investigator on Arcus, a recently submitted proposal to the NASA Probe program, to fly a $1B class mission to use high resolution X-ray spectroscopy to explore the formation and evolution of clusters, galaxies, and stars.

“The McDonnell Center has been an incredibly unique resource for Washington University for nearly 50 years," said Nowak. "It has supported everything from popular lectures about space science for the Saint Louis community, to undergraduate and graduate research and education, to new research initiatives by WUSTL faculty in Physics and Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences.  The McDonnell Center has been the foundation for many new ideas from the WUSTL faculty that have become full-fledged programs supported by NASA and other agencies. I look forward to helping Brad Jolliff in any way I can to make sure that the start of the next 50 years of the McDonnell Center is as exciting and successful as the first 50 years.”

The McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences was formally established in 1975 through a munificent endowment by James S. McDonnell (1899-1980) and the McDonnell Foundation. Robert Walker served as the inaugural Director from its inception until 1999. Roger Phillips succeeded Walker as Center Director in 1999 and served until 2007. Ramanath Cowsik served as the third director. Brad Jolliff became the fourth director in 2019. As the Center has grown, the decision was made to add an Associate Director, with Michael Nowak named to the new position.

"I am very pleased that Mike will be coming on as the associate director and I thank him for taking on this additional responsibility," said Jolliff, Director of MCSS. "The Mac Center has grown to such an extent that it is about time - and Mike is the ideal fellow for the job. In addition to his tremendous expertise in astrophysics, Mike is an absolutely wonderful person to work with. Please join me in welcoming Mike to this new role."