University of Pittsburgh
110C Old Engineering Hall (OEH)
(412) 624-9163 (fax)
My research focuses on discovering the nature of the dark energy currently accelerating the expansion rate of the Universe. I use the tools of observational astronomy to address this question of fundamental physics. The currently most successful probe of the kinematics of the Universe over the past 10 billion years has involved the use of Type Ia supernovae (SNeIa) to measure the evolution of luminosity distance vs. redshift (Riess98, Perlmutter99). I have been involved in the effort to constrain the nature of dark energy through measurements of the equation-of-state parameter of the dark energy, w=P/rho. This is a field where the observations are clearly far out in front of theory and thus call for investigation by multiple pathways to confirm the observational results and explore new areas to provide further guidance for the hope of an eventually theoretical explanation for dark energy that quantitative predicts its observed behavior today.
I am currently involved in the new Pan-STARRS-1 survey telescope in Hawai'i. This project is discovering thousands of supernovae and other interesting transient events over a 3-year survey. Members of my research group study advanced statistical techniques to optimally extract information from SNIa surveys (Anja Weyant), as well as the origin of elements and galaxy evolution through studies of metal-line absorption systems backlit by distant quasars (Shailendra Vikas as part of the SDSS-III BOSS project).
My graduate student Melanie Good started an exoplanet transit search group, Search for Transiting Extrasolar Planets at the University of Pittsburgh (STEPUP), to study planets around other stars and, in particular, complement the radial-velocity searches of the SDSS-III MARVELSproject.
The general technical theme of my research work is moving into the next generation of time-domain astronomy where we will be analyzing large data sets using sophisticated databases and to ask new kinds of questions as we continue our exploration of the Universe.