Erika Nesvold
Postdoctoral Fellow

Erika Nesvold

Research Interests

Debris disk morphology; planet-disk interactions; planetary system dynamics; planetesimal collisions


B.S., Mathematics, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), 2009
M.S., Applied Physics, UMBC, 2011
Ph.D., Physics, UMBC, 2015

Contact & Links

  • (202) 478-8813 | fax: (202) 478-8821
  • enesvold at
  • Department of Terrestrial Magnetism
    Carnegie Institution of Washington
    5241 Broad Branch Road, NW
    Washington, DC 20015-1305
  • curriculum vitae
  • Publications
  • Personal Website


SMACK simulation of the β Pictoris debris disk. The planet’s eccentricity and inclination create a complex 3D structure.

Erika Nesvold is interested in the interaction between a debris disk and any planets orbiting in or near the disk. She models this interaction to determine how asymmetries and features observed in a disk can indicate the presence of an unseen exoplanet and even constrain its mass and orbit.

Nesvold has developed a debris disk model named SMACK to study this interaction. SMACK is the first debris disk model to simultaneously model the dynamical and collisional evolution of the planetesimals in a disk in 3D. Nesvold has used SMACK to demonstrate how catastrophic collisions between planetesimals can change the morphology of a disk and affect our predictions about the exoplanets in the system.