Patricia Burchat

The Gabilan Professor and Professor of Physics
(650) 725-5771
Faculty Research Interests
Observational Cosmology, LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration, Gravitational Lensing

Pat and her research group are currently working hard as part of the exciting Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Dark Energy Science Collaboration in the general area of gravitational lensing. Her group is using analytic calculations, simulations and existing astronomical images to thoroughly understand potential systematic biases and challenges in extracting accurate and precise measurements of cosmic shear from gravitational lensing with current and future surveys. Current projects include the study of chromatic effects and blended objects.


NASA/ESA image of strong lensing due to the galaxy cluster Abell 2218.

Professor Burchat's research interests focus on fundamental questions in physics: What is the Universe made of? What are the laws of physics that govern the constituents of the Universe? She studies the Universe at both the smallest and the largest scales, using accelerators to probe the elementary particles and the fundamental interactions, and telescopes to investigate the cosmological evolution of the Universe.Prof. Burchat is a member of an international collaboration developing a telescope that will provide the most complete census of the Universe to date -- the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. The LSST design corresponds to an 8.4-meter ground-based telescope with a 10-square-degree field of view that will survey the Universe with an unprecedented combination of breadth (coverage of the entire night-sky approximately every three nights) and depth (sensitivity to matter densities up to seven billion light-years away). The baseline design for the LSST camera is a 3.2 Gigapixel CCD array, which will be read out in approximately 2 seconds, every 15 seconds, generating tens of terabytes of data each night. The telescope will be located on Cerro Pachon, an 8,800-foot mountain peak in northern Chile. The telescope is scheduled to see “first light” around 2019.Prof. Burchat's group works within the LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration to prepare to fully optimize the use of the gravitational bending of light by "dark matter" to study the evolution of "dark energy" -- shedding light on the identity of these components that make up the majority of the energy density of the Universe. She worked with colleagues at Stanford to measure the masses of giant clusters of galaxies using images from the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii.Professor Burchat has been a key player in a number of accelerator-based particle physics experiments: Mark II at the SLAC Linear Collider, E791 at Fermilab, and BABAR at SLAC. Each of these experiments probed the fundamental interactions, especially the “weak” interaction. The research of Burchat's group in these experiments included pioneering studies of the neutral carrrier of the weak interaction (the Z0), searches for heavy neutral leptons, precision studies of semileptonic decays of charm mesons, searches for and discovery of charm mixing, and detailed studies of differences in the way matter and antimatter evolve in time (CP violation in B meson decays).Prof. Burchat grew up in a very large family in a very small town in Canada. She is passionate about teaching and instilling enthusiasm for science in her students. At Stanford, she has received the Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Walter J. Gores Award for excellence in teaching. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and has received a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is past-Chair of the National Organizing Committee for the APS Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics.