What is your position or role in the DESI project?
I am the Co-Chair of the Time Domain and Low Redshift Cosmology Working Group. My research group at Boston University ties together cosmological distance and velocity measurements of the universe with the fundamental physical properties such as dark energy, dark matter, ordinary matter, and Einstein’s general relativity. I have mostly specialized in using Type Ia supernovae as distance indicators and am leading the supernova teams in Pantheon+, SH0ES, DES, and DESI, and DEBASS.
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I am originally from North Carolina (USA) where I grew up. I studied Physics at Johns Hopkins University, did my PhD at University of Pennsylvania, and took a NASA Einstein Postdoctoral Fellowship to The Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. I’m excited to have recently moved to an assistant professor position in the Astronomy and Physics departments at Boston University, just down the road, where we are building out a new and exciting cosmology initiative.
What is the most interesting or exciting thing about your job? What excites/interests you most about DESI?
Now that our big Pantheon+ and SH0ES results have come out, when I’m not tending to keeping those datasets up-to-date and usable for the community, I’m focusing on low-redshift peculiar-velocity cosmology with distance indicators. Low-redshift peculiar-velocity cosmology is the most exciting thing to me going on in supernova cosmology right now. At low redshifts, the peculiar velocities dominate over the cosmic expansion, making them easier to measure accurately. This is because the cosmic expansion itself becomes less significant compared to the gravitational interactions within the local environment of galaxies. Consequently, the peculiar velocities provide a more precise probe of the gravitational pull exerted by nearby structures. By focusing on the low-redshift regime, scientists can effectively study the growth of structures and test general relativity with enhanced accuracy and sensitivity. This approach allows for a more detailed understanding of the large-scale structure formation in the universe and provides valuable insights into the nature of gravity on cosmological scales. DESI + Distance Indicators is uniquely positioned to make the best constraints in this regime.
Any advice for an aspiring scientist?
If you want to push the field of cosmology forward within a collaboration like DESI, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty on projects in the critical path. These kinds of projects force you to be a versatile scientist and will snowball into greater and greater involvement in the central components of an analysis and people will rely on you which is good for getting the next job and also for becoming a leader!
What do you do for fun?
I like to play jazz saxophone. Back in undergrad I pursued a double degree with Jazz Saxophone at the Peabody Conservatory. I’ve been able to keep it going, playing and touring with a few bands over the last decade.
If you weren’t a scientist, what would be your dream job?
Musician (see above).