New Faculty – Simeon Bird

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

Prof. Simeon Bird just joined the faculty members at the Physics and Astronomy Department at UC Riverside.

We asked Simeon to tell us more about his research:

As a theoretical cosmologist, I want to understand the history of the Universe, as a whole. Where did it come from? Where is it going? And what is it made of?  These are all questions that I try to answer using computer simulations.Using supercomputers, I’ve helped to produce one of the first big simulations with realistic galaxies evolving over billions of years. In these simulations, I am interested not in the bright, shining stars and galaxies, but instead in the space in between galaxies —the intergalactic medium— where there is nothing except tenuous wisps of hydrogen. The bigger picture (quite literally) is that I am interested in discovering how matter is distributed on large scales (millions of light years across).  By comparing my simulated cosmological structures to those seen in the real universe, I can tell how much stuff surrounds us. Being at UCR is great because there is already a community using real measurements of quasar absorption lines, which are signals from distant galaxies that act as searchlights to illuminate the occasional atoms of gas between galaxies, which we can compare to simulations together.I use computer simulations to study not only the very large in the Universe, but also the very small. In particular, I’m very interested in a specific particle, the neutrino, which is the lightest particle there is. I’m working on measuring how much does the neutrino weigh? This is important because they’re one of the building blocks of the Universe and could help us learn a lot about the matter we see. It’s important to keep using measurements of the world around us to learn more about matter, and lately I’ve been thinking about how LIGO’s detection of gravitational waves might be a sign that dark matter (an invisible type of matter that exerts a force on stars and galaxies, but not small scales like we’re used to) is made of very old black holes.
Simeon was an undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Cambridge in England. After finishing his astronomy PhD, he took a postdoctoral position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and then moved to Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh and finally Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
At UCR, I’ve reached the ocean, and I can understand why the west coast is referred to as the best coast.I was originally a Math major and the only time I used a telescope it broke (but that wasn’t my fault!). Now I stick to computers. My PhD research started out in string theory and I got interested in cosmology when I found out how much new data was constantly coming in.
On joining UCR, he says:
Where you work has everything to do with who you work with.  The people at UCR were the main draw for me – some of my friendliest colleagues were already faculty here before I came. In addition to the talented, collegial faculty in both physics and astrophysics, I’m thrilled to work with our engaged and motivated student body. UCR is a vibrant place to learn, teach, and research. I look forward to being part of this community for years to come.
Finally, Simeon shared a bit of what he does in his spare time:
I enjoy being outside, so I hike and bike whenever I can. I started winter hiking last year, but now I’m ready to enjoy all that the beautiful California weather has to offer. As stereotypical as it sounds, I play a lot of chess and read a lot of sci-fi.
His office is located in the Physics building and you can find his published papers here.

We are very glad he has joined UC Riverside and look forward to all of his very interesting contributions.