Who Am I
I am an astronomer/astrophysicist working at Leiden Observatory, Leiden University. More specifically, I am a postdoctoral research fellow at Leiden.
What is my job mainly about
I study the dynamical evolution of planetary systems and star clusters. One of the oldest and most fundamental questions asked by humankind is "where are we from". During the entire period of human civilization, scientists in every nation are trying to answer this question. Modern astronomers have state-of-the-art telescopes and computers at their disposal to better investigate this question. To our best knowledge, we now understand that the answer to this question involves various spatial and temporal scales. My research focuses on small-scale systems (as compared with cosmological and galactic scales), particularly on the formation and dynamical evolution of planets in star clusters. I use (super)-computers to carry out numerical simulations of these systems.
Why have I chosen this job
I am fortunate enough to be able to choose my career according to my interests. Since I was in in elementary school, I have been excessively fascinated in the unimaginable scales of the Universe. Even for the distanced traveled by the Voyager 1 & 2, it is totally amazing to me. Staring at those beautiful pictures of planets, nebulae, and galaxies, I began to wonder what makes them look like that. I received my first computer when I was in junior high school. Using a 56 kbps modem connection, I launched and maintained a website for amateur astronomers to share news and pictures about the space (unfortunately, this website is no longer online). I studied computer science as an undergraduate, and subsequently study computational astrophysics during my Ph.D. For me, computational astrophysics is an interdisciplinary study offering a perfect combination of my two major interests: astrophysics and computer science. I feel it a huge blessing to be able to work in this particular field.
Where am I from
I am originally from Guangdong (aka Canton), China. My Chinese name is 蔡栩. I use the name Maxwell Xu Cai for publications. In unofficial occasions (e.g. Facebook), I also sometimes spell my name as Maxwell Tsai, because Tsai is the correct pronunciation of my last name Cai.