Our astronomy faculty members carry out exciting research on the frontiers of astronomy, cosmology and astrophysics. We work on the nature of dark matter, the large scale structure and expansion rate of the Universe, the relation of galaxies to their dark matter halos, the energetics of galaxy clusters, the history of the Milky Way and nearby galaxies, the demographics of massive black holes, the Milky Way’s interstellar medium, the astrophysics of compact objects, the sources of the highest energy photons, and the formation of planetary systems.
The University of Utah is a key contributor to cutting-edge survey science. Faculty play leadership roles in the DESI survey and the SDSS-IV and -V surveys, with the University being a full institutional member and data repository of SDSS. Our faculty, postdocs, and students also use a wide range of world-class facilities in their research, including ALMA, HST, Gemini, VLT, Chandra, NuSTAR, and XMM. Analysis and simulations are performed at the University’s Center for High Performance Computing. We also run a high impact astronomy outreach program and participate in efforts to preserve Utah's unparalleled dark skies. Our faculty are committed to training a talented and diverse group of students and postdocs.
Astro Group Faculty
Yao studies the formation of galaxies, the nature of dark matter, and the connection between them by comparing the galaxies we observe in astronomical surveys with the dark matter structures that form in cosmological simulations. Combining multiple surveys, Yao looks for dwarf galaxies in the nearby universe to measure their dark matter components, and to answer whether our galactic home is representative of how galaxies form, or if it is one-of-a-kind in the universe.
Tanmoy focuses on relativistic explosions including gravitational Wve Events, Gamma-ray Bursts, and tidal disruption events, wherein stars are pulled apart by the strong gravity near massive black holes. Tanmoy's work in time domain astronomy and high-energy astrophysics also includes galaxy evolution and takes advantage of multi-wavelength observations, advanced modeling techniques, and machine learning.
Gail is a "Galactic archeologist," using the stars and interstellar medium of our home Milky Way Galaxy to understand how it formed and has evolved over the lifetime of the Universe. She works to bridge the gap between how we study the Milky Way and the billions of more distant galaxies. She is also the spokesperson for the international Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-V) collaboration.
Zheng is an observationally oriented theorist and his main research interests are in galaxy formation and cosmology. He studies the large-scale structure in the universe probed by galaxies from large galaxy surveys to learn about the relationship between galaxies and dark matter, galaxy formation and evolution, and cosmology. He works on using the Lyman-alpha emissions from high-redshift star-forming galaxies to probe galaxy environment and cosmic deionization. He also has broad interests in other fields of astronomy and astrophysics.
Dan's research includes investigations of inverse Compton scattering in galaxy clusters and starburst galaxies, the effects of cluster mergers on intracluster gas and their cosmological implications, the X-ray binary populations of galaxies, and the X-ray background. He is an observational X-ray astronomer with extensive experience carrying out observatory data calibration and analysis tool development, who also has some background in computer simulations and instrumentation.
Anil studies how galaxies form by focusing on the nearest galaxies where we can see individual stars and star clusters. His current focus is understanding the massive star clusters and black holes that form at the centers of galaxies. His work uses the Hubble Space Telescope large ground-based optical infrared telescopes.
Kyle studies the origins of cosmic acceleration and the cosmological model by observing how galaxies cluster together over scales of hundreds of millions of light years. He currently uses spectroscopic observations from the Extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (eBOSS) and will soon use the spectroscopic observations from the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI).
Ben's research is on planet formation, with recent emphasis on planets in our solar system. He also has interest in the fastest stars in our Galaxy, their enigmatic origin, and what they can tell us about the overall structure of the Milky Way. Ben works in these and other areas of astrophysics with the help of parallel supercomputers for dynamical simulation and data mining.
Research Experiences for Undergrads
The Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah offers a research experience program in physics and astronomy that allows undergraduate students to work closely with a faculty mentor and their research group on an individual project.
All interested students are invited to apply for this 10-week summer program.