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Alexander Jonathan van der Horst Faculty Member

Alexander J. van der Horst is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at the George Washington University. He earned an M.Sc. in Theoretical Physics in 2003, M.Sc. in Astronomy in 2003, and PhD in Astrophysics in 2007; all from the University of Amsterdam. Dr. van der Horst was a Research Associate at the University of Alabama (October 2007), NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at Marshall Space Flight Center (November 2007 - October 2010), Visiting Scientist at the Universities Space Research Association in Huntsville, Alabama (November 2010 - October 2011), and Postdoctoral Research at the University of Amsterdam (October 2011 - December 2014). He started as faculty at the George Washington University in January 2015. The research of Dr. van der Horst focuses on the multi-wavelength observations and modeling of a variety of high-energy cosmic transient sources. His observational work mainly covers the two extremes of the electromagnetic spectrum, namely with gamma-ray satellites and radio telescopes, but also involve optical and near-infrared observatories. His modeling efforts are focused on extracting physical parameters of transient sources from broadband observations. Key achievements of his research include: a new classification method for optically dark gamma-ray bursts, now widely used in the gamma-ray burst community; strong involvement in the analysis of the first bright gamma-ray burst at high-energy gamma-rays, the brightest gamma-ray burst afterglow ever observed, and the first gamma-ray bursts detected at very high energy gamma-rays; discovery of a soft gamma repeater which turned out to have an extremely low dipole magnetic field; involved in the radio follow-up of the brightest magnetar giant flare ever detected; involved in the discoveries of the first relativistic tidal disruption event and first thermal tidal disruption flare with radio emission; leading collaborative efforts resulting in radio light curves with very good temporal and spectral coverage for several gamma-ray bursts, two supernovae and an X-ray binary. His research has resulted in 197 publications in refereed journals, including 17 in Nature or Science; 42 publications in conference proceedings; 11 white papers; and 138 GCN Circulars and 26 Astronomer’s Telegrams. All these publications have accumulated more than 15,500 citations, and Dr. van der Horst has an h-index of 57. He has received the IUPAP (International Union of Pure and Applied Physics) Young Scientist Medal and Prize in Astrophysics of 2012, a special mention at the Cefalu 2014 Prize for Astrophysics, and three NASA Group Achievement Awards. He has given seminars at several universities and institutions, and invited oral presentations, contributed talks and poster presentations at many international conferences. Dr. van der Horst is Project Scientist for SCORPIO, a new instrument for the Gemini Observatory, and the co-lead of the Cosmic Explosions and Commensal Searches working groups of the approved MeerKAT Key Project ThunderKAT. He is the PI of approved Fermi Guest Investigator and NuSTAR proposals, and Co-I on several approved Fermi Guest Investigator proposals. To obtain the data necessary for his research, he is and has been PI on many observing proposals at radio observatories around the world (MeerKAT, WSRT, ATCA, VLA, EVN), and Co-I on many observing proposals for other telescopes and satellites, giving him access to world leading facilities at other wavelengths (LOFAR, VLBA, VLT, WHT, HST, CXO, XMM-Newton). He is a member of the Transients, Cosmology and Fundamental Physics Working Group for the New Generation Very Large Array; member of the Transients Science Working Group for the Square Kilometer Array; member of the LOFAR Transients Key Science Project, Multi-Messenger Follow-Up Working Group, and Source Finders Working Group; member of the LOFAR AARTFAAC project; and he was a member of the Fermi/GBM team and the Fermi GRB science group. He was and is science team member for several missions proposed to NASA, ESA, and the Astro2010 and Astro2020 Decadal Surveys. Over the years Dr. van der Horst has taught students at different levels, from first year undergraduate to graduate students, at the University of Amsterdam and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and currently at the George Washington University. His teaching include several active learning elements to engage students, for instance in the SCALE-UP learning environment. He has made several curricular revisions, including the development of a new Astronomy & Astrophysics major, the development of a new astrophysics course for this major, the development of a Capstone course and a Symposium course on research and professional career skills for Physics majors, and the co-development of an applied statistics course for Physics graduate students, all at the George Washington University. Dr. van der Horst has (co-)supervised students at all three aforementioned institutions, about two dozen undergraduate students and a dozen graduate students. All this supervised work has resulted in several refereed publications by these students. Besides a research supervisor, Dr. van der Horst is also the Director of Undergraduate Studies of the Physics Department, an academic advisor for undergraduate students at the George Washington University, and a mentor for several graduate students. Besides research and teaching, Dr. van der Horst also has a great interest in outreach activities, to increase community engagement, stimulate an interest for science in children, and increase diversity in physics and astronomy. He has frequently given presentations for general audiences, amateur astronomy societies, and for middle school, high school and undergraduate students. Several times he has acted as space expert for middle school students at the yearly Christa McAuliffe Remembrance Event in Massachusetts. Dr. van der Horst has also given astronomy classes for underprivileged children in Amsterdam, and has supported Society of Physics Students at George Washington University in giving physics and astronomy classes for underprivileged children in Washington, DC. For the latter, together with his research achievements, he has been elected member of the George Washington University chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma, the National Physics Honor Society. Finally, Dr. van der Horst has performed, and is performing, service to the astrophysics community as a member of the Executive Committee of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society, member of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope Users Group, and member of the Gemini Time-Domain Astronomy Advisory Group. He does peer review of several papers per year, for journals such as Nature, Science, Astrophysical Journal, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Astronomoy & Astrophysics, Astronomy & Computing, Astro- physics & Space Science, Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, and The Physics Teacher. He has been a member and chair of several review panels for NASA and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and a reviewer for proposals of the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India. Furthermore, Dr. van der Horst has been a member of the Scientific Organizing Committee for three conferences, chair of the Local Organizing Committee for a workshop, and member of the Local Organizing Committee for five more conferences.

Research Areas

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