Center for Computational Astrophysics: Team

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.

Lauren Anderson

Lauren Anderson, Ph.D.

Research Fellow, CCA

Lauren Anderson joined the foundation in 2016 as a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Computational Astrophysics. She recently graduated from the University of Washington with a Ph.D. in Astronomy, and prior to that, she earned a B.A. in Physics and Astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. She currently works on analyzing large cosmological simulations to understand the formation of galaxies in the early universe and the effect these galaxies had on their local environments. Her thesis work was on the contribution of little galaxies to reionization, an epoch in early cosmological history that is still not well understood.

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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.

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Greg Bryan, Ph.D.

Galaxy Formation Group Leader, CCA

Greg L. Bryan is a professor of astronomy at Columbia University and a co-leader of the galaxy formation group at the Simons Center for Computational Astrophysics. He received a Ph.D. in astrophysics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1996 and held positions at Princeton, MIT, and Oxford before joining the faculty at Columbia in 2004 and the Simons Foundation in 2016. He is a recipient of a Princeton Lyman Spitzer Fellowship, a Hubble Fellowship, an NSF CAREER award and the Leverhulme Trust Prize. His primary research focus involves the use of large-scale computational hydrodynamics and computational models to better understand astrophysical systems in a cosmological framework. He has applied such techniques to study the generation of large-scale structure in the universe, the formation of X-ray clusters, the evolution of galaxies and the birth of the first stars in universe. He has also carried out numerical simulations used to generate visualizations for the Oscar-nominated IMAX film Cosmic Voyage, as well as planetarium shows at the American Museum of Natural History.

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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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Shy Genel, Ph.D.

Associate Research Scientist, CCA

Shy Genel joined the foundation in 2016 as an associate research scientist at the Center for Computational Astrophysics. His research interests lie in the field of galaxy formation, as well as in numerical methods. To study how galaxies evolve, Genel runs and analyzes large computer simulations that generate ‘mock universes’ and develops codes for these purposes. Since completing his Ph.D. at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, Genel has held several postdoctoral fellowships, including the Hubble fellowship at Columbia University and a fellowship at the Institute for Theory and Computation at Harvard University.

Melanie Habouzit, Ph.D.

Research Fellow, CCA

Melanie Habouzit joined the foundation in October 2016 as a research fellow in the Center for Computational Astrophysics after completing her Ph.D. at the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris. Her research interests lie in the field of galaxy formation and evolution, with a particular focus on supermassive black holes that reside at the center of galaxies. Habouzit implements, runs and analyzes large-scale cosmological hydrodynamical simulations to study the evolution of black holes and their host galaxies and to make theoretical predictions on the number of observable black holes in the universe.

Chris Hayward

Chris Hayward, Ph.D.

Associate Research Scientist, CCA

Chris Hayward joined the foundation in 2016 as an associate research scientist at the Center for Computational Astrophysics. He uses a variety of tools, ranging from analytic calculations to simulations to observations, to advance our understanding of how galaxies form. A particular emphasis of Hayward’s research is on combining hydrodynamic simulations of galaxy formation with radiative transfer calculations to create ‘forward models’ of observable quantities, such as images and spectra, that can be directly compared with data from telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope. Hayward earned his Ph.D. at Harvard University. Before joining the CCA, he was a postdoctoral scholar at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies in Germany and a Moore Prize postdoctoral scholar in theoretical astrophysics at the California Institute of Technology.

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.

Chia-Yu Hu, Ph.D.

Research Fellow, CCA

Chia-Yu Hu joined the foundation in 2016 as a research fellow at the Center for Computational Astrophysics. His research focuses on the physics of the interstellar medium and its connection to galaxy evolution. To this end, Chia-Yu develops accurate numerical methods and conducts high-resolution numerical simulations to follow the complex interplay between different physical processes at multiple scales. Before joining the foundation, Chia-Yu was a graduate student at the Max-Planck-Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany, where he completed his Ph.D. in astrophysics. He holds an M.S. in astrophysics and a B.S. in materials engineering from National Taiwan University.

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.

Rachel Somerville

Rachel Somerville, Ph.D.

Consultant, Galaxy Formation

Rachel Somerville is the George A. and Margaret M. Downsbrough Chair in astrophysics at Rutgers University and a consultant with the galaxy formation group of CCA. She co-leads the galaxy formation group, along with Greg Bryan. Somerville uses semi-analytic modeling, simulations and observations to probe the formation and evolution of galaxies, work that earned her the 2013 Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics. The main goal of her research is to understand how galaxies and supermassive black holes form and evolve within a cosmological context. She has served on the faculty at the University of Michigan and headed the theory group at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany and was formerly a member of the science staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute and a research professor at Johns Hopkins University, both in Baltimore, Maryland. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz and did postdoctoral work at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physics and music from Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

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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.

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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.

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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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Elijah Visbal, Ph.D.

Research Fellow, CCA

Elijah (Eli) Visbal joined the foundation in 2016 as a research fellow at the Center for Computational Astrophysics. He has worked on a range of topics in theoretical astrophysics and cosmology, focusing recently on modeling the formation of the first stars and supermassive black holes within the first billion years after the Big Bang. Prior to joining the foundation, Visbal was a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University. He holds a B.S. in physics from Carnegie Mellon University and a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University.

Amanda Weltman

Amanda Weltman, Ph.D.

Consultant, Galaxy Formation

Amanda Weltman is an associate professor in the department of mathematics and applied mathematics at the University of Cape Town, a NRF/DST South African Research Chair in Physical Cosmology and a consultant in the galaxy formation group of CCA. Her research focuses on the fundamental physics that underlies the nature of the universe. The goals of her research are to study the universe as a whole, while gaining insight into its origin, composition, structure, evolution and ultimately its fate. Weltman has won several prestigious awards, including a Next Einstein Fellow award, the South African Institute of Physics Silver Jubilee Medal, the Elsevier Young Scientist Award and many others. She is a member of the Cape Town Science Centre Scientific Advisory Board, the South African Royal Society and on the executive of the South African Young Academy of Sciences. Weltman earned a B.S. in applied mathematics and physics at the University of Cape Town and a Ph.D. in physics from Columbia University. She then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Cambridge University’s Center for Theoretical Cosmology before returning to the University of Cape Town.