Toomre received B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in aeronautics and astronautics in 1963, and then went to England as a Marshall Scholar to receive a Ph.D. from Trinity College, University of Cambridge in applied mathematics and theoretical physics in 1967. He joined the New York University mathematics faculty in 1969, and then in 1972 came to the University of Colorado as an associate professor. Since 1975 Toomre has been a professor of astrophysics in APS (Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences) and a fellow of JILA (formerly the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics), University of Colorado, Boulder.
Research and Teaching Emphasis
Toomre's research and teaching centers on astrophysical fluid dynamics (AFD), with particular emphasis on nonlinear theories for compressible convection in stars, and in studying nonlinear dynamical systems exhibiting multiple bifurcations and chaos. He is particularly interested in topics where theoretical work related to fluid dynamics can be challenged and tested by observation and experiment. He is active in turbulence theory and simulation, with extensive experience in the use of vector supercomputers, massively parallel machines, high-speed networks, archival storage systems, and major visualization systems. Toomre's teaching spans graduate courses in basic fluid dynamics, waves and instabilities, nonlinear dynamical systems, geophysical and astrophysical fluid turbulence, magnetohydrodynamics, mathematical methods, computational mathematics and simulations, and a variety of courses in general astronomy. Toomre in Spring 2014 taught the undergraduate course ASTR 1040-010 Accelerated Intro Astronomy 2: Stars & Galaxies, and in Spring 2015 he is teaching the graduate course ASTR 5540 Intro to Fluid Dynamics.
Toomre is PI (with other Co-Is) on the NASA Heliophysics Theory Program (HTP) effort to study turbulent solar convection coupled to rotation and magnetic fields, and thus the sun's dynamo processes. Toomre has sustained interests in helioseismology, using observations of the frequency-splitting of five-minute oscillations of the sun to search for subphotospheric flows, large-scale structures and differential rotation in the convection zone; inverse theory has been developed to interpret the data. The Global Oscillations Network Project (GONG) is using six ground-based Doppler imaging instruments to obtain nearly uninterrupted observations of solar oscillations. These are complemented by major observations from space. Toomre has been a Co-I on the helioseismology SOI-MDI Doppler imaging experiment onboard the SOHO spacecraft, still positioned at the L1 Lagrangian point (SOI-MDI Project on SOHO) , and is a Co-I on the Helioseismic Magnetic Imager (HMI) with four-fold higher resolution onboard the (launched in Feb 2010) Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in tilted geosynchronous orbit (HMI Project on SDO).
Other theoretical work includes nonlinear instabilities of shear flows; double-diffusive convection exhibiting traveling waves and chaos; internal gravity waves both in the solar atmosphere and in its deep core; penetrative convection in the nuclear-burning cores of rotating A and B-type stars and in the outer convective envelope of the sun; core dynamos building super-equipartition magnetic fields in the cores of B-type stars; and early work on the modeling of interacting galaxies that yield a rich assembly of bridges and tails.
Toomre has served on the central committee of Astro2010, the most recent decadal survey of astronomy and astrophysics ("New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics''). He has served on the NSF Astronomy Portfolio Review that completed its work in Aug 2012 ("Advancing Astronomy in the Coming Decade: Opportunities and Challenges"). He has chaired the AURA Decadal Steering committee to provide commentary on investments and thrusts to be made in UVOIR astronomy. Toomre has been chair of the scientific advisory committee to GONG (Global Oscillation Network Group), the major ground-based observational project in helioseismology. He has served on the Solar and Heliospheric Physics panel for the NAS (2001-2002) decadal study of Solar and Space Physics ("The Sun to the Earth - and Beyond"). Toomre has been vice-chair of the Solar Observatory Council (SOC) of AURA with oversight for the National Solar Observatory, and has been member and chair of the Space Telescope Institute Council (STIC, which has oversight for STScI) for three intensive years following the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope.