Gary Ferland

  • Professor
  • Physics & Astronomy
Other Affiliations:
  • American Astronomical Society
  • International Astronomical Union
  • Royal Astronomical Society
Research Interests:
Education and Employment
  • B.S. (Physics) University of Texas (1973)
  • Ph.D., University of Texas (1978)
  • Research Associate, Cambridge University (1978 - 1980)
  • Assistant, Associate Professor, University of Kentucky (1980 - 1985)
  • Associate, Full Professor, Ohio State (1985-1992)
  • Professor, University of Kentucky, (1992 - present)
Honors and Visiting Positions
  • 2017-2018, Visiting Research Professor, School of Mathematics and Physics, Queen’s University Belfast
  • 2016-2017 Catedratico de Excelencia Guillermo Haro,  INAOE, Tonantzintla, Puebla, Mexico
  • 2016 Festschrift UNAM Mexico City
  • 2016 Kirwan Memorial Prize, University of Kentucky
  • 2015 Visiting Astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center CAMK, Warsaw, Poland
  • 2015 Visitor, Durham University, England
  • 2014-2015 Leverhulme Visiting Professor, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • 2014 Netherlands Nova Lecturer
  • 1987, 1992, 2007-2008 Senior Visiting Fellow, Cambridge University
  • 2007-2008, Visiting Associate, Darwin College, Cambridge University
  • 2007 Sackler Visiting Fellow, Cambridge University
  • 2002-2005, Distinguished Visiting Fellowship, Centre for Experimental Physics, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • 2002-2003, University Research Professor, University of Kentucky
  • 1998-1999, Visiting Professor, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, Toronto
  • 1992-1993, Visiting Astronomer, Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory, La Serena, Chile
  • 1990 Visiting Fellow, Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, University of Colorado, Boulder
Core Research Areas
  • Theoretical Astrophysics
  • Atomic & molecular physics
  • Quantitative spectroscopy, quasars, emission lines.
  • Numerical simulations of non-equilibrium plasmas
  • Origin of the chemical elements
Reading the Message in the Starlight

Nearly all of the quantitative information we have about the cosmos is the result of spectroscopy, the science of using spectra to make physical measurements. We can directly measure the temperature, density, pressure, or composition of a cloud of gas or a star, using a telescope and a spectrometer.  The spectrum forms in highly non-equilibrium gas and dust. Analytical theory cannot be used to understand the conditions so numerical simulations are required. The computer program Cloudy does this - it calculates the ionization, chemistry, radiation transport, and dynamics simultaneously and self consistently, building from a foundation of atomic and molecular processes.

Some time ago I wrote a non-technical article on quantitative spectroscopy, Cloudy, and my research into the evolution of the universe.  Although the article is getting old, the introduction in it is still good.

The Cloudy Project

I began developing Cloudy at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, in August 1978.  It is named after the famed East Anglian weather.  Some links:

  • Information about Cloudy
  •, the project website, where you can download the source, data, and documentation
  • Cloudy Workshops, where participants can learn about spectroscopy and Cloudy.  The workshop began a world tour in Lexington in 2012, visited Belfast (NI), Durham (UK), Leiden (Netherlands), Warsaw )Poland), Pune (India), Shangdong (China), and ended in July of 2017 in Tonantzintla (Mexico).  A world tour map is here.
Selected Publications: 
  • Author or co-author of well over 600 publications.
  • The NASA Astrophysics Data System list of publications is here, and a list sorted by citations is here.
  • The Google Scholar list of publications and citations.
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