Research Interests of KIPAC Senior Members
Tom Abel : Numerical Cosmology
Tom's current research focuses on studying the formation and evolution of galaxies with new numerical techniques, however, he enjoys all areas of non-linear physics which can be addressed using supercomputer calculations! His research interests span dark matter dynamics, the physics of collisionless shocks, investigating the role that cosmic rays and magnetic fields play in the formation and evolution of galaxies, modeling the formation of stars and black holes as well as turbulence, and applications of numerical general relativity.
Visualizations of Dark Matter / Large Scale Structure by R. Kähler and T. Abel. Simulation credit to O. Hahn and T. Abel.
Zeeshan Ahmed : Cosmic Microwave Background
Zeesh is an observational cosmologist who studies the relic blackbody radiation of the early universe, called the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), to understand the origin and composition of the Universe and find answers to some perplexing questions in fundamental physics. With CMB team members at KIPAC, SLAC and Stanford, Zeesh builds CMB cameras and analyzes data generated by them. He is a member of the BICEP/Keck, South Pole Telescope (SPT-3G), Simons Observatory and CMB-S4 scientific collaborations. His current research interests include experimental bounds on cosmic inflation from CMB polarization, searches for dark matter using CMB data, and development of next-generation CMB camera readout technologies. Recent hardware development in SLAC’s CMB lab, with a focus on GHz superconducting microresonators, has cross cutting applications in CMB imaging, X-ray and particle detection, and beyond-SQL measurements.
Daniel Akerib : Dark Matter
Together with Tom Shutt, Dan works on the LUX and LZ dark matter experiments to search for dark matter in the form of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, or WIMPs. The detectors use liquid xenon as a target medium in a time projection chamber, or TPC. The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment is currently operating a 250-kg target in the former Homestake gold mine in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Preparations are underway at SLAC to design and build the 7-ton successor, known as LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ). The group is involved in many aspects of data analysis, detector design, xenon purification, control andreadout systems, and detector performance studies.
Steven Allen : X-ray Astronomy and Observational Cosmology (XOC)
Steve is interested in the physics of the most massive objects in the Universe and how we can use them to probe how the Universe evolved. Steve and his group are currently focused on understanding the astrophysics of galaxies and of galaxy clusters using multi-wavelength observations, and on using large, statistical samples of these objects to probe the natures of dark matter, dark energy and fundamental physics. More information regarding ongoing research and a list of Steve's current group members can be found here.
Roger Blandford : Theoretical Astrophysics
Roger has broad interests in astrophysics, cosmology and physics. His current research interests in high energy astrophysics include interpreting Fast Radio Bursts (FRB) as a consequence of magnetar (neutron stars with up to a 100 Giga Tesla magnetic field), modeling the black hole shadow observed in M87 by the EHT as a ergomagnetosphere that drives away the infalling gas through an ejection disk, explaining the highest energy cosmic rays as being accelerated at accretion shocks surrounding nearby clusters of galaxies and developing “magnetoluminescent
Elliott D. Bloom : Fermi LAT; Indirect Searches for Dark Matter
Elliott spends most of his research time working on the analysis of Fermi-LAT data, the Large Area Telescope on the Fermi Gamma-ray space observatory which was constructed right here at SLAC! He is primarily interested in high energy searches for dark matter and new physics, and in understanding the diffuse gamma-ray background.
Patricia Burchat : Observational Cosmology, LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration, Gravitational Lensing
Pat and her research group are major contributors to the Legacy Survey of Space & Time (LSST) Dark Energy Science Collaboration (DESC). DESC is preparing to explore cosmology and fundamental physics with the massive astronomical data set that will come from Rubin Observatory, which is close to the completion of construction in Chile. Pat’s group is focused on the challenges that need to be overcome to do both precise and accurate measurements of "weak gravitational lensing". Her group is using analytic calculations, simulations, modeling, and analysis of existing astronomical images to thoroughly understand and then correct potential systematic biases. Current projects include detailed understanding and modeling of the correlations in the point spread function across the very large field of view of the Rubin telescope, and the understanding and reducing negative impacts of blended objects.
NASA/ESA image of strong lensing due to the galaxy cluster Abell 2218.
David Burke : Observational Cosmology with Large Surveys: DES and LSST
David's current projects are focusing on the development of scientific analyses for the Dark Energy Survey (DES). The DES is an exciting, broad ground-based optical survey which started taking data in 2013. It is measuring cosmological parameters through the use of gravitational lensing, studies of clusters and large scale structure of galaxy populations. Presently David's work is aimed at optimizing the performance of instrument operations and data reduction, and development of scientific analysis techniques using simulations and the survey data set.
The Blanco 4-meter Dark Energy Survey telescope which holds the Dark Energy Camera at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.
Robert Cameron : Astronomy and Astrophysics, Dark Matter
Rob has a background in astronomy and astrophysics but is also working in particle astrophysics in the subject of dark matter. Rob primarily works on 2 different experiments: the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (Fermi), and the Super Cryogenic Dark Matter Experiment (SuperCDMS or SCDMS). Rob is the Operations Manager for the Large Area Telescope, the primary instrument on Fermi, which was launched into low-earth orbit in 2008 and is primarily operated by NASA is studying a range of topics in high energy astronomy and astrophysics, including indirect searches for dark matter. Rob is also the operations manager for the SuperCDMS SNOLAB experiment, which will perform direct searches for dark matter when the experiment is installed and operating deep underground at SNOLAB in Canada.
Susan Clark : Astrophysical Magnetism and the Interstellar Medium
Susan is broadly interested in astrophysical magnetism and the physics of the interstellar medium (ISM), from diffuse gas to dense, star-forming regions. Susan’s research tackles open questions like the structure of the Milky Way’s magnetic field, the nature of interstellar turbulence, and the role of magnetism in star formation. These big questions demand multiwavelength observations and new data analysis techniques. Susan is particularly interested in deciphering the magnetic ISM using sensitive measurements of synchrotron and polarized dust emission made by cosmic microwave background experiments like the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) and the Simons Observatory (SO).
Frederico Fiuza : Plasma and Laboratory Astrophysics
Frederico's research interests are in the fields of plasma physics and laboratory astrophysics. He uses plasma theory, large-scale kinetic simulations, and laboratory high-energy-density experiments to study particle acceleration, magnetic field dynamics, and radiation emission associated with fundamental plasma processes, such as collisionless shocks, magnetic reconnection, and current-driven instabilities. He is also interested in the development of advanced numerical tools for the simulation of plasmas in extreme electromagnetic field conditions and in novel multiscale algorithms that can connect the kinetic physics of plasmas with astrophysical observations.
Peter Graham : Beyond the Standard Model
Peter is broadly interested in theoretical physics beyond the Standard Model, including cosmology, astrophysics, general relativity, and even atomic physics. The Standard Model leaves many questions unanswered including the nature of dark matter and the origins of the fundamental fermion masses, the weak scale, and the cosmological constant. These and other clues such as the unification of the forces are a guide to building new theories beyond the Standard Model. Peter's group are interested in inventing novel experiments to uncover this new physics.
Courtesy Fermilab Visual Media Services.
Steven Kahn : Rubin Observatory and Legacy Survey of Space & Time
Steve is the Director of Rubin Observatory — a major new facility currently under construction in Chile — which will produce (over ten years) the Legacy Survey of Space & Time (LSST). The LSST will enable a wide array of scientific investigations ranging from studies of moving objects in the solar system to the structure and evolution of the universe as a whole. Steve has played a major role in the construction of the LSST camera. Prior to his engagement with LSST, Steve was an X-ray astrophysicist, concentrating on the design of instrumentation and analysis of data associated with high resolution X-ray spectroscopy of cosmic sources. He maintains an interest in that field, although at a low level, given his commitments to Rubin Observatory.
Chao-Lin Kuo : Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation: Instrumentation and Cosmology
Chao-Lin’s group use the most ancient light, the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation, emitted when the universe was in its infancy to shed light on the question of how the universe began. Currently Chao-Lin's group are involved in a number of experiments such as BICEP/BICEP2/Keck Array and have been working hard on detecting primordial B-mode polarization. His group are involved in both he design and construction of instruments as well as the data analysis and theoretical interpretation.
BICEP2 first detection of B-modes. Credit the BICEP and Keck Array Team.
Noah Kurinsky : Quantum Sensing for Dark Matter Detection
Noah’s current interests are directed toward developing large particle detectors with sensitivity to meV-scale excitations. Noah is the R&D coordinator for the SuperCDMS collaboration, and leads development for the single-electron sensitive HVeV detector program. He also has ongoing programs to use novel quantum materials with meV-scale bandgaps to detect small energy deposits, as well as qubit and KID-based sensors for low-energy phonon and THz photon detection. Noah is also a new PI in the QNEXT quantum institute, where he focuses on mitigating radiation effects in qubits from radioactivity by studying phonon transport in different qubit architectures.
Rebecca Leane : Dark Matter Theory and Astroparticle Physics
Rebecca's research leverages the interplay of theoretical particle physics and astrophysics to investigate the fundamental nature of dark matter, and other Beyond the Standard Model physics. The theory describing dark matter remains completely unknown, and requires new search ideas to resolve its identity. Rebecca identifies novel search strategies for dark matter in astrophysical systems, and executes these searches using new theoretical calculations and the latest astrophysical datasets.
Bruce Macintosh : Adaptive Optics and Extrasolar Planet Imaging
Bruce's main focus is the direct detection and characterization of extrasolar planets and the use of adaptive optics technology to control light. Bruce is Principal Investigator for the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) instrument which was commissioned and saw first light in late 2013. Bruce will lead a 600-star survey to discover and spectroscopically characterize young giant extrasolar planets around nearby stars. A new laboratory will be used for developing exoplanet instrumentation for future ground and space-based telescopes, and applying adaptive optics to other applications such as microscopy. Bruce is also involved in preparations for the proposed exoplanet coronagraph on the WFIRST-AFTA telescope and other approaches to studying extrasolar planets.
Grzegorz M. Madejski : X-ray and Gamma-ray Astronomy and Astrophysics
Greg's research interests are mainly in extragalactic high-energy astrophysics. This includes (1) studies of active galactic nuclei, and an associated formation and evolution of relativistic jets; and (2) studies of clusters of galaxies, and in particular the processes responsible for the heating of the X-ray emitting intra-cluster gas. Besides taking advantage of data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Observatory, Greg is involved in analysing and interpreting observations performed with NuSTAR, a recently-launched NASA satellite, sensitive in the hard X-ray band.
Adam Mantz : Galaxy Clusters and Observational Cosmology
Adam's research centers around the formation and growth of clusters of galaxies, observations of the intracluster medium at X-ray and millimeter wavelengths, and the use of clusters as probes of cosmology. He has ties to a number of existing, planned, and notional surveys and telescopes, including the Dark Energy Survey, South Pole Telescope, Rubin LSST-DESC, ATHENA and Lynx. Adam is also generally interested in the challenge of modeling and analyzing complex data to extract as much useful information as possible.
Phil Marshall : Observational Cosmology
Phil is the SLAC Deputy Director of Operations for Rubin Observatory. Phil's research interests are in observational cosmology, using gravitational lensing and machine learning to weigh galaxies and measure the expansion rate of the Universe. He is a member of the H0LiCOW, TDCOSMO and STRIDES collaborations, modeling time delay lenses in order to measure the Hubble constant, and is active in the LSST DESC Strong Lensing working group, helping design and implement its strong lensing science analysis. LSST presents astronomers with a new scale of Big Data problems, the solutions to which will necessarily involve either innovations in automated inference, or large numbers of people, or both: Phil's research is focused on strong lensing, but the Bayesian inference and AI methods he is investigating with the KIPAC students and postdocs have much wider applicability.
Glenn Morris : X-ray Astronomy, Galaxy Clusters and Observational Cosmology
Glenn's main research interest is the physics of galaxy clusters, and their use as cosmological probes, with an emphasis on observations in the X-ray band. He is also involved in the development of detector hardware for future X-ray satellite missions. He is also interested in high performance computing and the use of Linux systems for scientific research, including for the Rubin Observatory's Legacy Survey of Space and Time.
Nicola Omodei : High-Energy Astrophysics: Gamma-Ray Bursts, Solar Flares; Fermi-LAT; ThreeML
Nicola is broadly interested in high-energy astrophysics, in particular short duration transients, such as solar flares and Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs). His analysis of solar flares at high energies revealed the presence of multiple acceleration components: one impulsive, associated with the fast X-ray emission occurring at the flare site, and one temporally extended, probably associated with acceleration at the Coronal Mass Ejection shock. As the new solar cycle is ramping up, and new flares are detected by Fermi-LAT, Nicola and his team hope to tackle this topics providing new insight on particle acceleration under these extreme circumstances.
As for GRBs, Nicola’s focus is on multi-messenger astronomy with the hope to detect more short GRBs in coincidence with Gravitational Wave signal from merging Neutron Stars. On the other hand, after the surprising detection of the high-energy emission from a Magnetar Giant Flare (MGF) in 2020, he also hopes to detect more events like that, which could point to a different class of short GRBs: the once associated with MGFs.
In general, his main focus is to develop new analysis techniques, performing statistically sound analysis in order to explore the extreme phenomena in the gamma-ray sky. Recently he became the principal investigator of ThreeML, a tool to facilitate data analysis between different instruments in the framework of the Maximum Likelihood. He is also part of the HAWC experiment and Co-Investigator of the recently lunched IXPE mission.
Roger Romani : Neutron Stars and Black Holes: Observations, Modelling and Theory
Roger is interested in a variety of topics in high energy astrophysics and cosmology. Much of Roger's group are currently focused on understanding the cosmic gamma-ray sources discovered by the Fermi Space telescope, principally pulsars and blazars. This inherently multi-wavelength question requires them to use telescopes all over the world and in space in order to assemble data on these objects and then to develop and test theoretical models to explain what we see.
Aaron Roodman : Observational Cosmology
Aaron's current research focus is the study of dark energy using images from the ongoing Dark Energy Survey (DES) and the future Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). He is interested in studying dark energy using both galaxy clusters and weak gravitational lensing. His research group connects instrumental work, in particular active optics and wavefront measurements at DES and a program of camera-wide testing at LSST, with cosmology measurements. For example, they are developing a new method to characterize the telescope+camera point spread function using optical data, to be part of the weak lensing data analysis at both DES and LSST.
Laura Schaefer : Exoplanet Atmospheres
Laura's research focuses on understanding how atmospheres on rocky planets, both exoplanets and those within the solar system, form and evolve over time. Her group investigates topics ranging from tidal heating, asteroidal bombardment, to long-term weathering cycles and how they influence atmospheres and habitability. Other topics of interest include the physics and chemistry of core formation, atmosphere-interior exchange, mantle convection, atmospheric escape, and N-body simulations of planet formation.
Philip Scherrer : Solar Physics
Phil's main research interests are in the structure and dynamics of the interior of the sun, how this affect solar activity and through this its effects on terrestrial systems. Phil's group’s primary emphasis is on the structure and dynamics of the solar interior using techniques of helioseismology. His group are interested in both developing instrumentation for solar observatories and in the data analysis of solar magnetic fields from space and from the ground.
Rafe Schindler : Large Synoptic Survey Telescope
Rafe and his group are working hard on the development and commissioning of the upcoming Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) a next generation ground based optical survey telescope. The LSST group at KIPAC are working both in the lab, developing the state-of-the-art technologies necessary to preserve the LSST camera’s image quality during operation and building computer simulations of the camera and telescope performance -- a novel area being pioneered by LSST.
Dustin Schroeder : Ice Penetrating Radar
The Stanford Radio Glaciology research group is led by Dustin Schroeder and focuses on advancing the scientific and technical foundations of geophysical ice penetrating radar and its use in observing and understanding the interaction of ice and water in the solar system. We are actively engaged with the flow of information through each step of the observational science process; from instrument and experiment design, through data processing and analysis, to modeling and inference. This work contributes to both the observation of Earth's rapidly changing ice sheets and the subsurface exploration of icy moons. Dustin is also a Science Team Member with the REASON instrument and co-leads the Interiors Working Group on NASA’s Europa Clipper Mission.
NASA image of Europa
Thomas Shutt : Dark Matter
Together with Dan Akerib, Tom works on the LUX and LZ dark matter experiments to search for dark matter in the form of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, or WIMPs. The detectors use liquid xenon as a target medium in a time projection chamber, or TPC. The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment is currently operating a 250-kg target in the former Homestake gold mine in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Preparations are underway atSLAC to design and build the 7-ton successor, known as LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ). The group is involved in many aspects of data analysis, detector design, xenon purification, control andreadout systems, and detector performance studies.
The LUX detector situated in its water shield at the 4850' level of the Sanford Underground Research Facility.
Robert V. Wagoner : Theoretical Astrophysics
Bob has wide research interests in the field of gravitational astrophysics. Bob is interested in oscillations of accretion disks around black holes, and other signatures of very strong gravitational fields, sources of gravitational radiation, and their detection by LIGO and other facilities, scalar-tensor theories of gravitation and physics of the early universe.
A black hole accretion disk. Credit C. Perez.
Risa Wechsler : Computational Cosmology and Galaxy Surveys
Risa and her group work on a range of topics in cosmology and astrophysics, with a focus on the formation of cosmological structure in the Universe, its impact on galaxy formation, and its use in determining the nature of dark matter and dark energy. Risa's group builds and analyzes numerical simulations and develops models of galaxy formation for comparison with large observational datasets, and develops new techniques to learn about the dark side of the Universe from these data. Her group is actively involved in the ongoing Dark Energy Survey (DES), as well as the largest future planned surveys including the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST).
Galaxy cluster formation. Visualization: R. Kaehler. Simulation: H. Wu, O. Hahn, R. Wechsler.
Dan Wilkins : How matter spiralling into black holes powers some of the brightest objects in the Universe
Dan Wilkins' research bridges the divide between observational and theoretical studies of black holes, to understand how material spiralling into supermassive black holes powers active galactic nuclei (AGN), some of the brightest objects we see in the Universe. Dan is developing novel data analysis techniques and designing general relativistic ray tracing computer simulations of how light travels around black holes that allow us to interpret observations of black holes we can make with state-of-the-art space telescopes. Specifically, his research uses the X-rays that are emitted just outside a black hole and measurements of how they reflect off of the material in its final moments before it falls in to create a 3D map of the extreme environment just outside the event horizon. He in interested in what happens to material and light just before it is lost into the black hole, the processes happening just outside the event horizon to produce the intense radiation we see, how black holes are able to launch jets at almost the speed of light, and how we can observe the effects of General Relativity in action in the strong gravity regime just outside a black hole.
W.L. Kimmy Wu : Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB)
Kimmy is a cosmologist focusing on using observations of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) to understand the history of the universe—from its earliest moments through the present day. Using data from the South Pole Telescope and from the BICEP/Keck Array telescopes, Kimmy and her collaborators develop methods and algorithms to look for signatures from primordial gravitational waves, to test the standard cosmological model LCDM, and to constrain new physics using both the primary CMB and its lensing signal. To harvest more information from this relic light from the universe, they, along with the broader CMB community, are currently planning the next-generation ground-based CMB experiment, CMB-S4.