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Arend J. Poelarends, Ph.D. - Wheaton College. Wheaton, IL, US

Arend J. Poelarends, Ph.D. Arend J. Poelarends, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy | Wheaton College


Dr. Poelarends studies the lives of stars & supernovae through large computer simulations. He also directs the Wheaton College Observatory.



Dr. Poelarends’ primary research interest is in computational astrophysics. He grew up in the Netherlands, and holds a Ph.D. from Utrecht University, as well as an M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. As an astrophysicist, he is uniquely qualified to help people answer the significant existential and philosophical questions that modern astronomy presents.

Education (4)

Covenant Theological Seminary: M.Div., Theology 2011

Utrecht University: Ph.D., Astrophysics 2007

Thesis: “Stellar Evolution at the Borderline of White Dwarf and Neutron Star Formation.”

Utrecht University: M.Sc., Physics and Astronomy 2002

University of Twente: B.Sc., Applied Physics 1998

Areas of Expertise and Research Interests (19)

Worldview Stories Astrophysics Outreach Stellar Astronomy Religion Physics Physics and Engineering Thermal Physics Optics Particle Physics Cosmology Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics Astronomy Stars Relativity Supernovae Exoplanets Asteroids Science and Faith in Dialogue

Professional Affiliations (5)

  • Dutch Astronomical Society (NAC) : Member
  • American Astrophysics Society : Member
  • American Scientific Affiliation : Member
  • American Association of Physics Teachers : Member
  • Sigma Pi Sigma : Member

Languages (2)

  • English
  • Dutch

Media Appearances (1)

Wheaton College Celebrates Year of "Light"

WDCB  online


The United Nations declared 2015 the international year of “light”. The organization is supporting programs all over the world to raise awareness of light-based technologies as well as celebrate noteworthy scientific achievements related to light. Wheaton College is hosting its own light celebration tomorrow afternoon. Dr. AJ Poelarends is a professor of physics and astronomy at Wheaton College. He tells WDCB News Reporter Gary Zidek many people don’t realize the important role light plays in everyday life...

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Academics and Published Research (2)

Courses Taught

- ASTR 302 - Stellar Astronomy
- PHYS 231 - Introductory Physics I
- PHYS 232 - Introductory Physics II
- PHYS 233 - Introduction to Relativity
- PHYS 234 - Introduction to Quantum Physics
- PHYS 294 - Physics and Engineering Seminar
- PHYS 333 - Thermal Physics and Fluids
- PHYS 353 - Introductory Optics
- PHYS 366 - Particle Physics and Cosmology
- PHYS 367 - Introduction to Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics


Dr. Poelarends research focuses on the evolution of stars, specifically those between 8 and 10 times as massive as the sun, i.e. the transition zone between stars that evolve into a white dwarf and stars that explode as a supernova and form a neutron star. He is particularly interested in the later stages of their evolution, and uses computational modeling to study their pre-supernova evolution and chemical makeup. These stars could possibly be the birthplace of a significant fraction of the chemical elements in our galaxy (r-process elements), of which we don’t know their origin of yet.

In addition to numerical/theoretical research, Dr. Poelarends also uses the new Wheaton telescope to carry out meaningful astronomical observations of objects that are out of reach of amateur telescopes and not important enough for professional telescopes. Currently he focuses his efforts on the detection of exoplanets. This resulted in a very fruitful observing campaign during the summer of 2012, in which one of his undergraduate students detected several exoplanets. Possible future areas of research might also be variable stars and asteroids.

The last area of interest is the intersection of science and faith. Dr. Poelarends is particularly interested in the role of worldview stories, and how these shape our identity, our view of God and this reality, and our ethics.

Select Articles, Chapters, Reviews, and Other Publications (8)

(Refereed) White dwarf spins from low-mass stellar evolution models Astronomy & Astrophysics

M. P. L. Suijs, N. Langer, A. J. T. Poelarends, S. Yoon, A. Heger, and F. Herwig


(Refereed) The Supernova Channel of Super-AGB Stars The Astrophysical Journal

A. J. T. Poelarends, F. Herwig, N. Langer, and A. Heger


N. Langer, A. J. van Marle, A. J. T. Poelarends, and S. Yoon. "Massive Stars, Supernovae and long GRBs" Mass Loss from Stars and the Evolution of Stellar Clusters

A. de Koter, L. J. Smith, & L. B. F. M. Waters, editor

volume 388 of Astronomical Society of the Pacific Conference Series, pages 37, June 2008.

N. Langer, A. J. van Marle, A. J. T. Poelarends, and S. C. Yoon. "Massive Stars as Progenitors of Supernovae and GRBs" From Stars to Galaxies: Building the Pieces to Build Up the Universe

A. Vallenari, R. Tantalo, L. Portinari, & A. Moretti, editor

volume 374 of Astronomical Society of the Pacific Conference Series, pages 61, Dec. 2007

M. Cantiello, H. Hoekstra, N. Langer, and A. J. T. Poelarends. “Thermohaline Mixing in Low-mass Giants: RGB and Beyond.” Unsolved Problems in Stellar Physics: A Conference in Honor of Douglas Gough

R. J. Stancliffe, G. Houdek, R. G. Martin, & C. A. Tout, editor

volume 948 of American Institute of Physics Conference Series, pages 73–77, Nov. 2007.

A. J. T. Poelarends, R. G. Izzard, F. Herwig, N. Langer, and A. Heger. “Supernovae from massive AGB stars.” Memorie della Societa Astronomica Italiana

77:846, 2006.

(Refereed) The Effects of Binary Evolution on the Dynamics of Core Collapse and Neutron Star Kicks The Astrophysical Journal

P. Podsiadlowski, N. Langer, A. J. T. Poelarends, S. Rappaport, A. Heger, and E. Pfahl


R. G. Izzard and A. J. T. Poelarends. “Synthetic super-AGB stars.” Memorie della Societa Astronomica Italiana

77:840, 2006.