Faculty Directory

Department Chair: Jonathan Fortney Department Manager: Alyssa Danielli
Vice Chair: Brant Robertson Graduate Advisor: Brandon Day
Graduate Program Director: Andrew Skemer Department Assistant: Kali Lucas
Undergraduate Program Director: Connie Rockosi Astronomy Program Coordinator: Lani Skelton
C. Martin Gaskell
  • Title
    • Research Associate
    • Lecturer
  • Division Physical & Biological Sciences Division, Arts Division
  • Department
    • Astronomy & Astrophysics Department
    • Music Department
  • Affiliations Music Department
  • Phone
    831-459-5078 (Office)
  • Email
  • Office Location
    • Thimann Laboratories, 325 Thimann
  • Office Hours By appointment
  • Mail Stop UCO / Lick Observatory
  • Mailing Address
    • University of California at Santa Cruz
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064

Research Interests


MUSIC  My main interest in music is in composing orchestral and choral music.  I am also interested in the physics and psychophysics of music.

ASTROPHYSICS  My primary research interests are in theoretical and observational studies of what happens around the most bizarre objects in the universe: supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies.  As matter spirals into these black holes, it produces a tremendous release of energy as what is called an "active galactic nucleus" or AGN for short.  AGNs are the most powerful energy sources in the universe (more powerful than an entire galaxy of stars).  Because they are so luminous they can be seen far away back in the early days of the formation of galaxies when the universe was young.

I am particularly interested in what the structure of AGNs is like, how the matter moves close to the black hole, and what the physical processes are which cause the matter to be accreted by the black holes and produce the intense radiation seen.  The aim is to understand how AGNs work in order to understand how black holes grow and the relationship to the galaxies they are in.

I like to work at the interface of theory and observation.  My research involves observations with giant telescopes on the ground, satellites in space, computer simulations, and sometimes just good old fashioned pencil and paper.  A lot of my work involves collaborations with astronomers around the world.

Biography, Education and Training

Ph.D., 1981, University of California, Santa Cruz
Postdoctoral fellow (1981-1983), University of Cambridge

Honors, Awards and Grants

Finalist for The American Prize, professional choral composers division, 2021 and 2023

Semi-finalist for The American Prize, professional orchestral and chamber music composers divisions, 2023.

Five-time finalist (1999 - 2003) for the the University of Nebraska Association of Students "Outstanding Educator" award.

Nine-time recipient of the "Certificate of Recognition for Contributions to Students" from the Parents Association and Teaching Council of the University of Nebraska (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006). 

Five-Year Recognition for Contributions to Students at the University of Nebraska (2001). 

Two-time recipient of the Mortar Board "Professor of the Month" award (October 1999 and October 2004). 

Kappa Delta "Educator of the month" (March 2002). 

Listed in "Who’s Who of American Educators", 1999 and 2005 editions.


Selected Publications

For a chronological list of my research publications on the NASA ADS see https://tinyurl.com/y95p8llm.  (Most publications can be accessed by clicking on the links provided.)

Teaching Interests

I enjoy teaching at all levels from introductory courses for non-scientists to advanced graduate courses.  I also greatly enjoy working one on one with students on individual research projects, theses, etc.

I teach "Physics and Psychophysics of Music", an inter-disciplinary course in Music (MUSC 80U) and Physics (PHYS  80U) at UCSC.