Tom Shafer

Hi, I'm Tom—a husband, musician, physicist, programmer, and now a data scientist working for Elder Research in Raleigh, NC. Previously, I completed a Ph.D. studying theoretical nuclear physics at the University of North Carolina. My wife and I are members of the The Summit Church in Durham, NC.


My research focused on radioactive properties of the very heaviest atomic nuclei, whose half-lives are an important puzzle piece in the search for the astrophysical origin of the elements heavier than iron. To calculate these half-lives, our group developed a program—a proton-neutron extension of the finite amplitude method—that significantly reduces the computational cost of certain half-life calculations [Phys. Rev. C, preprint]. Some in our group applied the program to calculate the properties of thousands of nuclei [Phys. Rev. C, preprint], and I extended the method to compute the half-lives of nuclei with odd numbers of protons and/or neutrons, investigating the properties of two important sets of nuclei [Phys. Rev. C, preprint]. This research ties nicely into LIGO's 2017 detection of a neutron star merger (a scenario hypothesized to form heavy elements) and subsequent electromagnetic observations attempting to determine if this merger event produced heavy elements.


Programming and analysis comprised a large fraction of my research effort; our group's application of the finite amplitude method to beta decay was written in Fortan (≥90) and parallelized across both cores (OpenMP) and nodes (MPI). Besides Fortran, I also became proficient in Python, which I used for post-processing, analysis, and plotting (using Numpy, Scipy, and Matplotlib).

Since joining Elder Research, I have dived into R programming and love some of the things that can be done with, e.g., the tidyverse set of packages—dplyr, tidyr, and purrr, especially.


I play guitars and have been fortunate to work with The Summit Church, Port City Community Church, Scotts Hill Baptist Church, Lee Hester, and others. I am tremendously blessed to be actively involved with The Summit Church and Summit Worship.

Selected Discography

Selected Videos


You can find me on Twitter at @tomshafer.

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