Our lab provides rich, multi-varied scientific training. Students conduct laboratory and numerical experiments and develop theory about planetary processes. We seek students with a strong background in applied, engineering or mathematical physics as well as other creative, innovative thinkers. Graduates of the lab have published high-impact papers and gone on to work in the fields of planetary geophysics, applied mathematics, and governmental technology.

To see the past student researchers of the lab, go to the NoMag Team page.


  • Jonathan Aurnou
  • Arriving at UCLA in 2002, Prof. Jon Aurnou has led the development of a broad array of laboratory, numerical and theoretical models of planetary fluid systems.

Present Team

  • Jewel Abbate
  • Jewel is developing and testing a laser imaging system to perform Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) on Rebecca DeShetler’s convecting Test Tank. The design will also be implemented on NoMag to quantify flow fields in a rapidly rotating, convecting environment.
  • Ashna Aggarwal
  • For her Ph.D. work, Ashna is developing a novel numerical model of fluid instabilities that occur in planets like Earth and Jupiter.
  • Ernest Gomis
  • Ernest is working on a kinematically-reversible Couette flow model using magnetohydrodynamics.
  • Emily Hawkins
  • For her Ph.D. work, Emily Hawkins is investigating the formation of large scale structures from small-scale convective turbulence in both water and metal. She will couple laboratory experiments with numerical models, eventually seeking to determine under what conditions large-scale flows develop in planetary core dynamo systems. At the moment, Emily is implementing a new control and data acquisition system on the NoMag device.
  • Norris Khoo
  • Norris is developing a laboratory model of planetary core convection with the support of the Straus Family Fund for Undergraduate Opportunity over the spring and summer of 2018. He has also worked on the DIYnamics outreach project, generating the design of that project’s LEGO-based rotating table.
  • Yufan Xu
  • For his Ph.D. work, Yufan is doing an experimental study of magnetoconvection on RoMag with liquid gallium. Using laboratory models, he will investigate planetary interiors under the presence of magnetic fields.

Spinlab Associates

  • Jonathan Cheng
  • For his Ph.D. work, Jonathan Cheng has carried out rotating convection experiments in tall tanks of water in order to test asymptotic scaling arguments relevant to planetary core dynamics. In addition, he led the design of our new experimental device NoMag.
  • Alex Grannan
  • For his Ph.D. work, Alex Grannan has acquired the first particle image velocimetry (PIV) measurements of librationally-driven turbulence. This work was carried out in collaboration with Michael Le Bars (Marseilles). Alex has subsequently been awarded a 2014 Chateaubriand Fellowship to work further with Michael. Afterwards, Alex will apply his PIV methods to the NoMag experiment to quantify velocity, vorticity and helicity fields in rapidly rotating turbulent convection.
  • Jerome Noir
  • As a postdoctoral researcher in the lab, Jerome Noir was a key developer of the RoMag and libration experimental devices. Using the libration device, he carried out a series of studies relevant to our understanding of subsurface fluid dynamics on librating planetary bodies. He went on to conduct research in the Geomagnetism group at ETH Zurich.
  • Peter Shimer
  • As an undergraduate, Peter Shimer developed a number of demonstration experiments using Labview for ESS71 (Spring 2012).  His laboratory analog model of a transiting exoplanet was given the 2013 College Engineering Technology Award by the Vernier Corporation.  Peter went on to study structural geology at CSULB.
  • Afshin Yaghmaei
  • Engineer Afshin Yaghmaei did the electromechanical debugging on many of the essential systems on the RoMag device, including the re-design and fabrication of a number of sub-systems.  He now teaches mathematics in Orange County, CA.