College of Science

Francisco Mercado

Francisco Mercado

Francisco began his first quarter at Cal Poly Pomona in the Fall of 2013 as a Chemical Engineering major.  During that quarter he realized that his long-time hobby of reading about different areas of physics and watching countless documentaries about the mysteries of the Universe could become more than just a hobby.  Thus, he decided to change his major and join the Department of Physics and Astronomy.  He spent the summer of 2015 in Cambridge, MA at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics as a CAMPARE scholar.  This is his story.

Mercado and Moreno

For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in the big questions.  Although the beauty of the universe had captivated me since I was a child, I had never considered physics and astronomy as a field of study for me.  Changing my major after my first quarter at Cal Poly Pomona was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I applied to the CAMPARE Program as a first year but was not accepted.  I understood that as a first year, I was not yet done with the introductory courses that would most likely be helpful to me as a research student.  Although I was not accepted that year, it was an opportunity for me to express my interest in research in astronomy.  Fortunately enough, I was accepted to participate in the program the following year.


This past summer (2015) I was privileged enough to do research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics under the mentorship of Dr. Jorge Moreno (Assistant Professor at Cal Poly Pomona and Visiting Scholar at Harvard University).  My research consisted of using two suites of galaxy merger simulations based off of two different models to study the evolution of the galaxy sizes throughout their interactions.  Studying size evolution in galaxies can help us better understand the transition we believe galaxies make between the different morphologies that they can take the form of.

My summer consisted of developing a more than basic understanding of Python programing, planning my research project, and using the coding skills I was developing to carry on my project.  Before this experience, I would have never expected that sitting in front of a computer for hours on end, writing, editing, and running code on the Odyssey super computer would be so invigorating.


As of now, (December, 2015) I am still working on the project I started over the summer and have created a poster with my preliminary findings that I will present at the Winter 2016 American Astronomical Society meeting in Kissimmee, Florida.

Interaction Induced Size Evolution in Galaxies: Simulation Videos

This is a galaxy merger from a set of simulation based on the FIRE model (Hopkins et al. 2014). This two-dimensional contour plot shows the gas density centered on one of the galaxies. The red circle represents the half-mass radius of the gaseous component of the galaxy.
Utilizing a galaxy merger from a set of simulations based on the Gadget mode (Springel & Hernquist, 2002), this video shows the profiles of the gaseous, stellar, and star-forming components centered on one of the galaxies (left). The vertical dashed lines are the points in time at which the galaxies are at closest passage. The plot on the right indicates the distance between the two galaxies throughout the video.