We asked Anson to tell us more about his research:
I am a theoretical astrophysicist/cosmologist. My job is to try to understand how the laws of physics give rise to the phenomena that astronomers observe in the distant Universe, and to develop new ways to learn about these phenomena. As a cosmologist, I am particularly interested in the origins story of our Universe; how, in the span of about 14 billion years, it went from a nearly featureless soup of particles to the rich web of galaxies that we observe today. My work involves creating mathematical models for this process that, more often than not, require large computers to solve.One area of focus for me has been cosmic reionization — the period of time in which the first galaxies formed. We think this occurred when the Universe was between a few hundred million to one billion years old. During this period, starlight from the first galaxies ripped apart hydrogen and helium atoms in the intergalactic gas, and heated it to tens of thousands of Kelvin. I have created computer models of this process and I have thought about ways that we could potentially learn about it through astronomical observations.One of my other areas of interest is gravitational lensing. A massive object, such as a galaxy cluster (which can be up to 10^15 times the mass of our Sun), creates curvature in the space-time around it. As light from distant galaxies passes by the cluster, the curvature causes the light to follow curved trajectories, loosely analogous to when light travels through an optical lens. We can use this lensing effect to constrain the mass of the cluster, and how that mass is distributed, giving us insight into the most massive collapsed objects in our Universe. We can also use the magnifying effects of cluster lenses like a natural telescope to study distant galaxies in more detail. I am interested in simulating gravitational lensing systems, with the goal of finding new ways of exploiting them to learn about our Universe.
Anson is a Highlander (class of 2005), majored in Physics with a minor in Math, and spent a year doing undergraduate research in a condensed matter lab. From there he went to graduate school at Yale, where he was initially interested in pursuing condensed matter physics, but ended up switching directions completely and went into theoretical astrophysics and cosmology instead. After Yale, Anson became a postdoc at the University of Texas at Austin and later at the University of Washington.
On joining UCR, he says:
This is my dream job! It is great to be back home at UC Riverside. I’m very proud of how much the university has grown since I graduated in 2005, and I hope I can do my part in contributing to that growth. The Astronomy and Particle Theory Groups here are fantastic; they are a natural fit for the research program that I want to develop.
Finally, Anson shared a bit of what he does in his spare time:
Music has been a part of my life since I was a young child. I enjoy playing the drums and the guitar. One of my long standing hobbies is to record songs, including some of my own, which has gotten a lot easier as technology improves. When I was younger, my father and I used to record songs on an old eight-track recorder. These were among the happiest days of my life. One of the first songs that we recorded (when I was in third grade) was Black Sabbath’s Iron Man. In the past, I’ve also enjoyed making up my own lyrics to songs, Weird Al Yankovic-style. I’m terrible at memorizing things. When I’m asked to sing lullabies, I often just make up my own lyrics on the spot.
We are very glad he has joined UC Riverside and look forward to all of his very interesting contributions.