Dan Milisavljevic is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy
at Purdue University.

PhD in Physics and Astronomy, Dartmouth College
MSc in Philosophy and History of Science, London School of Economics
BArtSc in Arts and Science & Physics, McMaster University

Winner of the Commonwealth Fellowship

My passion for astronomy started in grade two when my elementary school teacher asked our class for a report on the solar system. Researching each planet (including Pluto!) I was fascinated by the incredible range of extreme conditions (from very hot to very cold) and sizes (tiny to enormous). I spent days in the library looking through books and encyclopedias for as many facts and photographs I could find. This experience later inspired me to join stargazing clubs, design future space stations with Legos, and read towering stacks of science and science fiction books. It's probably no surprise that my first research in astronomy as an undergraduate at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, was in the field of solar system dynamics. I contributed to the discovery of four new moons of Uranus, and five new moons of Neptune. During this time I also worked part time as an instructor at a musical conservatory, provided research assistance to Dr. Rhoda Howard-Hassmann in areas of human rights, worked on two space observatories—the Microvariability and Oscillation of Stars (MOST) and the Measurement of Pollution in the Troposphere (MOPITT) satellites—and became interested in science education. My undergraduate thesis was titled "Lost in Translation: Defining the Barriers of Language in Undergraduate Education." 

In 2004, I was awarded a Commonwealth Fellowship (top 2% of thousands of applicants) to study the philosophy and history of science at the London School of Economics and Political Science in London, England. My masters thesis was on the philosophical foundations of quantum mechanics. I critically examined and refuted a popular interpretation that quantum mechanics can be best understood as an epistemic theory of information transfer and manipulation. My dissertation titled "Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Information Theory, and the Sirens of Interpretation" focused on the apparent problem of measurement and the “collapse” of the wave function, and the ramifications of non-locality intimated by the Einstein-Podolski-Rosen thought experiments.

I made my way to Dartmouth College in 2005, where I began research on the explosion dynamics and progenitor systems of supernovae that I continue today.  My PhD thesis titled "Kinematic and Chemical Properties of Core-Collapse Supernova Ejecta" was associated with an extensive observing campaign that included over 130 nights at MDM Observatory, from which supernova spectra obtained during late phases were analyzed for valuable information about the debris’ chemical and kinematic properties. I studied many decades-old objects that form a crucial evolutionary link between evolved supernovae and young supernova remnants.

I started my career as a "professional" astrophysicist at Harvard University in 2011, and became a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in 2014.  I am now at Purdue University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

My areas of research have expanded to include:

  • multi-messenger signals of astrophysical transients discovered via time-domain surveys;

  • the explosion mechanisms, progenitor stars, and compact object remnants of supernovae;

  • massive star mass loss;

  • stellar feedback and chemical enrichment of galaxies and the intra-cluster medium;

  • the formation and destruction of dust and molecules and their relation to the origin of organic matter in the universe.

Five Random Facts:

  1. I was a musician in an award-winning comedy troupe named "Some Big Nutz".

  2. I collect old and classic books.

  3. I enjoy re-imagining/re-storing/re-purposing furniture.

  4. I'm convinced our dog Wilbur is from another planet.

  5. I have a deep appreciation for knit patterns, embroidery, and color palettes thanks to my wife Lindsay who owns French Knot, a winter accessories business that works with and empowers thousands of women artisans in underdeveloped countries.