Simulations of Accretion Mechanisms and Observational Signatures of Black Hole Accretion Disks

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Black holes have been a subject of fascination since they were first theorized about over a century ago. There are many questions about them left unanswered. One of these questions is how matter is accreted onto these objects when the plasma around them is rotating in an accretion disk. An answer to this question is likely to be found in the magnetohydrodynamic processes that occur in the plasma, which require highly sophisticated numerical simulations to explore. In this thesis, I describe an analysis of one magnetohydrodynamic instability found in these simulations as well as the observational signatures it produces, which might be recognized in observations of these systems.

For the remainder of this thesis, I will discuss the formation and evolution of a formal near-peer mentoring program for women in the University of Maryland physics department. Mentoring programs have been shown to have a number of benefits for both mentors and mentees. Primary among them is an increased sense of belonging and science identity, which is linked to increased retention. Given the so-called "leaky pipeline" problem of women leaving physics, a field where they are already underrepresented, efforts to improve retention are vital and peer mentoring is one way to do this.