Center for Computational Astrophysics: Statistical Astronomy

Astronomy is entering a new era. With ground- and space-based telescopes equipped with increasingly more sensitive cameras and instruments, enabling surveys, such as Kepler, Gaia and DES, that are discovering thousands of planets and millions of stars and galaxies, we are able to seek answers to fundamental questions about the origin and evolution of the universe. But answering those questions requires new tools and approaches to analyzing the astronomical amount of data being collected. Similarly, analyses of our precision maps of the microwave sky from experiments such as the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, the Simons Array and the Simons Observatory are demanding new tools and approaches to help us understand the nature of dark matter, dark energy and the structure of the universe. The statistical astronomy group develops novel algorithms and ways of thinking to apply to these and other datasets to answer fundamental questions about the cosmos.

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Jo Bovy, Ph.D.

Consultant, Statistical Astronomy

Jo Bovy is an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in galactic astrophysics in the astronomy and astrophysics department at the University of Toronto and a consultant with CCA’s statistical astronomy group. Currently, his research is mostly focused on understanding the dynamical structure, formation and evolution of the Milky Way. Bovy was a Bahcall fellow and long-term member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., after earning a Ph.D. from New York University and masters degrees in mathematics and physics from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium.

David W. Hogg, Ph.D.

Consultant, Statistical Astronomy

David W. Hogg is an astrophysicist at New York University’s Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics and a consultant in CCA’s statistical astronomy group. His research has ranged from fundamental cosmological measurements to stellar dynamics to exoplanet searches and characterization. His work includes a significant engineering component, in areas of instrument calibration, automated data analysis and statistical inference. He is involved in running the NYU Center for Data Science and also spends a part of each year at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, where he is a visiting member of the faculty. Hogg earned his Ph.D. in physics from Caltech and his bachelor’s in physics from MIT. He was a long-term member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., where he became involved in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Hogg joined New York University in 2001.

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David Spergel, Ph.D.

Director, CCA

David Spergel joined the foundation in 2016 to lead its Center for Computational Astrophysics. He is an astrophysicist with research interests ranging from the search for planets around nearby stars to the shape of the universe. Using microwave background observations from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe and the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, he has measured the age, shape and composition of the universe; these observations have played a significant role in establishing the standard model of cosmology. Prior to joining the foundation, Spergel was chair of the department of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University, and he is currently an associate faculty member in the university’s physics department and in the mechanical and aerospace engineering department. Spergel is a MacArthur fellow, a fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was a recipient of the Gruber Prize in 2012 and the Shaw Prize in 2010 for his work on cosmology.

Sigurd Naess, Ph.D.

Associate Research Scientist, CCA

Sigurd Naess joined the foundation in 2016 as an associate research scientist in the statistical astronomy group of the Center for Computational Astrophysics. His research focuses on analyzing cosmic microwave background data from experiments such as QUIET, ACT, PIXIE and the Simons Observatory. Naess holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Oslo in Norway and was a postdoctoral research fellow in astrophysics at Oxford University prior to joining CCA.

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Stephen Feeney, Ph.D.

Research Fellow, CCA

Stephen Feeney joined the foundation in 2016 as a research fellow at the Center for Computational Astrophysics, having previously worked at Imperial College and University College London. His research interests include observational cosmology, the cosmic microwave background, early-universe physics, machine learning and physical applications of Bayesian probability theory. Feeney obtained his Ph.D. in astrophysics from University College London and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge.

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Francisco Villaescusa-Navarro, Ph.D.

Research Fellow, CCA

Francisco Villaescusa-Navarro joined the foundation in 2016 as a research fellow at the Center for Computational Astrophysics. His research interests range from cosmology to galaxy formation and itswork is focused on understanding the impact of massive neutrinos on the cosmological observables and on the usage of the intensity mapping technique as a cosmological tool to study the large-scale structure of the universe. To conduct his research, Villaescusa-Navarro runs numerical simulations on supercomputers and analyzes the results using numerical tools he develops. He completed his Ph.D. at the Instituto de Fisica Corpuscular in Valencia, Spain and then held a postdoctoral position in Trieste, Italy.

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Tjitske Starkenburg, Ph.D.

Research Fellow, CCA

Tjitske Starkenburg joined the foundation in September 2016 as a research fellow at the Center for Computational Astrophysics. She works on the evolution and dynamics of small galaxies and interacting galaxies. She earned bachelor’s degrees in astronomy and mathematics and a Ph.D. in astronomy at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

Justin Alsing, Ph.D.

Research Fellow, CCA

Justin Alsing joined the Centre for Computational Astrophysics in 2016 as a research fellow in the statistical astronomy group. His broad research interests cover cosmology, theoretical astrophysics and astrostatistics, where he is principally concerned with developing ambitious and sophisticated methods for extracting information from cosmological datasets. Alsing earned a masters degree at the University of Oxford, a Ph.D. at Imperial College London and was a postdoc at the Imperial Centre for Inference and Cosmology prior to joining CCA.