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Paul Wiita

Wonders of the Unknown

Paul WiitaDr. Paul Wiita has always been interested in astrophysics, and what he calls “the wonders of the unknown.” He has interests in astrophysical fluid dynamics, plasma astrophysics, and relativistic astrophysics.

Wiita completed his undergraduate degree at The Cooper Union in New York City.  He went to Princeton University for graduate school where he completed his doctoral research with John Wheeler, who is most famous for coining the term “black hole” and revitalizing the field of general relativity.  Wiita participates in research across the globe using telescopes stationed all over the world, observing galaxies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He collaborates with colleagues in China, India, Bulgaria, Russia, and Germany, helping make round-the-clock observation possible. While on sabbatical during the 2016-2017 year, Wiita spent a considerable amount of time at Stanford University and conducted research in China and India.

Wiita believes that the students at TCNJ are “smart and fun,” and that the state-of-the-art instrumentation available on campus for him and his students enables them to make precise calculations.  He enjoys helping students, whether for class or in life, and has co-authored eight published papers with TCNJ undergraduate research collaborators. One student, Terry Schuh ‘19, recalls: “I have had several long conversations in his office with him regarding various topics spanning from my future all the way to him sharing anecdotes about his undergraduate days.  One of my favorite characteristics about Dr. Wiita is that he always gives students a chance to impress him.”

Paul Wiita
Dr. Wiita with colleague Dr. Wickramasinghe and physics students in the observatory.

Originally from the Bronx, NY, Wiita has two children and two grandchildren who live in California, so he travels there to spend time with them often. His students and colleagues admire him for being a family man and a regular inspiration to the people he encounters. Schuh adds, “Dr. Wiita is clearly one of the most distinguished professors at TCNJ, but he is so much more than just that. He is a great mentor, husband, father, grandfather, friend, and so much more.”

When he’s not studying within his field, guiding a mentee to success, or teaching classes that range from introductory astronomy to advanced astrophysics, Wiita used to love to play squash.  For much of his life, squash was his absolute favorite hobby, but he’s in search of a new hobby as a foot issue has prevented him from playing.

Overall, Dr. Wiita is an asset of the Department of Physics, School of Science, and the College. Alumnus Mitchell Revalski ‘14 recalls, “When Dr. Wiita joined the Department of Physics at TCNJ, he brought with him decades of experience that shaped his impact on the department and students.” Geena Elghossain ’19 adds, “His [Wiita’s] quick wit and willingness to help, make working with him an experience that is not only very educational but also quite enjoyable.  Doing astrophysics research with Dr. Wiita has been a challenging, motivating experience that could not have been obtained anywhere else.”


– Lindsey Harris ‘20



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