Eugene Chiang


Eugene Chiang


Astronomy & Earth and Planetary Science

UC Berkeley Astronomy Department
501 Campbell Hall #3411,
Berkeley CA 94720-3411

Email address


Specialty areas

Planet Formation, Planetary Dynamics, Planetary Winds, Protoplanetary Disks.


Born in New York 1973.

Married to Inn H. Yuk. Son Noah B. Chiang, born in Berkeley 2007.

The Berkeley Astronomy Department has a longstanding tradition of putting together an “Annual Play” every December to celebrate the holiday season. What makes our tradition unusual is that the faculty are held responsible for putting it together every three years (responsibility rotates between the faculty, students, and postdocs in a three-year cycle). I have been involved in writing and acting, and in several years directing, since 2003. I co-wrote and acted in the 2006 play. In 2009, I wrote a scene in which the arXiv server “cron” achieved sentience (“cron” became a recurring character in later years). I wrote, directed, cast, acted, and created the special effects for the 2003 Faculty Play, the 2012 Faculty Play, and the 2015 Faculty Play (the 2015 play was co-written with Aaron Parsons). I especially liked the video clip that I subtitled for the 2015 play .

On the occasion of receiving Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award with the most excellent Astro 7B class of Spring 2014:

Eugene’s Chiang CV


Teaching Statement

Astro 250: Order-of-Magnitude Physics (3 units)

Fall 14, Spring 06/09: For graduate students. Learn the art of estimating everyday quantities to within a factor of 10. Material properties, fluid mechanics, waves and sound, human physical performance, pop culture (e.g., Lady Gaga and Proposition 13).

Astro 7B: Introduction to Astrophysics (4 units)

Spring 13/14/15/16/17: For undergraduates, geared toward those seeking to double major in physics and astronomy. Continues the survey of modern astrophysics begun in 7A, applying elementary physics to the understanding of astronomical objects. Tides, accretion disks, black holes, gravitational lensing, superluminal motion, galaxies, cosmology.

Astro 7A: Introduction to Astrophysics (4 units)

Fall 09/10/11/12: For undergraduates, geared toward those seeking to double major in physics and astronomy. An introduction to modern astrophysics, applying elementary physics to the understanding of astronomical objects. Orbital motion; interaction of radiation with matter; stellar evolution; compact objects. Companion course to Astro 7B.

Astro 202: Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics (4 units)

Spring 07/08: For graduate students and prepared undergraduates. Hydrodynamics and magneto-hydrodynamics, with emphasis on developing intuition, order-of-magnitude problem-solving skills, and the ability to interpret the astrophysical literature. Applications include stellar winds, accretion disks, and galactic sub-structure.

Astro 201: Radiative Processes (4 units)

Fall 03/04/05/06/10: Fundamental principles underlying why we see what we see in astronomy, geared towards graduate students.

Astro 250: Special Topics in Astronomy: Planetary Dynamics (3 units)

Fall 02/11: Graduate seminar on the gravitational dynamics of planetary bodies. For a full course description, including readings and problem sets, click on the link.

Astro 162: Planetary Astrophysics (4 units)

Spring 03/04/05: Planetary astronomy/astrophysics at a level geared towards focussed undergraduate majors. Click on the link for a full course description, including links to presentation topics and problem sets.

Astro 250: Galactic Dynamics (3 units)

Fall 07: Wiki-based graduate reading seminar on galaxies. Orbit theory, spiral structure, bars, numerical algorithms (linear programming and tree codes), relaxation, black hole dynamics, and formation.

Astro 250: Physics of Super-Earths (3 units)

Fall 05: Graduate reading seminar to review the discovery of extra-solar super-Earths.

EPS 290: Classic Papers in Earth and Planetary Science (3 units)

Fall 03: Graduate reading seminar to review seminal, pedagogical papers in earth science, co-taught with Raymond Jeanloz.


Theoretical astrophysics, with emphasis on understanding the origin and evolution of planetary systems, both extra-solar and solar.

Interested students should talk to me or the students with whom I collaborate.

Topics of interest include:

(1) Protoplanetary Disks.

Disks of gas and dust surrounding young stars provide the reservoirs from which planets ultimately coalesce. Spectra and images of these systems from ultraviolet to millimeter wavelengths are modelled to understand their thermodynamic states and accretion profiles.

(2) Extra-solar Planetary Dynamics.

Extra-solar planets evince surprisingly small orbits, remarkably large eccentricities, and/or strongly resonant behavior due to mutual gravitational perturbations. We seek to understand the dynamical processes that shape these orbits.

(3) Extra-solar Debris Disks.

A number of optically thin disks of dust have been stunningly resolved around stars 10–1000 times younger than the Sun. Debris disks offer clues regarding the endgame of planet formation. Imprinted in their structures may be signs of active gravitational sculpting by nascent planets.

(4) The Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt.

Pluto has only recently been discovered to be one of at least tens of thousands of asteroid-sized bodies (Kuiper Belt Objects, or KBOs) orbiting the outer Solar System. This ring contains the most pristine, unprocessed material in our planetary system and holds clues to its early evolution.

(5) Planetary Rings.

Rings furnish the most accessible laboratories for disk dynamics; they showcase a rich interplay of forces due to interparticle collisions, self-gravity, the gravity of shepherd moons, and electromagnetic fields.


Talks and Lectures

In Summer 2011, I delivered a 6-hour lecture series (“crash course”) on planet formation theory for the International Summer Institute for Modeling in Astrophysics program hosted by the Kavli Institute in Beijing, China. The lectures were half blackboard and half slides. PDFs of the slides are below.

Subsets of these lectures were given for other international schools, including the Jerusalem Winter School on “Low-Mass Stars and Their Planets” in 2006 at Hebrew University, and the International Planetary School in 2005 at Kobe University, Japan.

Order-of-Magnitude Estimation and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (“BP”) Oil Spill