I was born in California and grew up mostly in the U.S.A. with a few early years spent in India. My father is Indian and my mother is American. I received my bachelor’s in Physics from Berkeley, a Master’s in Physics from Caltech, and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from U.C. Santa Cruz. I was awarded a Lyman Spitzer postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton, followed by a Hubble Fellowship that I took to the University of Arizona. After three years I was demoted to faculty at Arizona, where I remained for 9 years until moving to Cape Town in January. I am now the South African Research Chair in Cosmology with Multi-wavelength Data, which I split between AIMS, the University of the Western Cape, and the South African Astronomical Observatories. I am in the process of trying to build a group here in computational galaxy formation, an area that is fast-developing worldwide but had almost no representation in South Africa prior to my arrival. I am enjoying the new challenge!
What inspired you to study science, and astrophysics?
My father was always passionate about science research, even though he was an electrical engineer. I went into physics partly because it was difficult and therefore a fun challenge, but also because I liked the idea that the world could be understood at a fundamental level. Throughout my undergrad and starting grad school, I worked towards being a theoretical particle physicist. At Caltech, this changed, partly because I saw a wide disconnect between the theoreticians who were working on things like strings in eleven dimensions, and the experimentalists who were trying to precisely measure properties of particles already predicted decades earlier. But also, I felt that particle physics was stale, that while the fundamental questions were very interesting, the paths to answering them were either unclear or non-viable; its future looked bleak to me. On a lark I took a course in cosmology and began doing research on the Cosmic Microwave Background, and this seemed like a field that was much more vibrant and ripe for discovery. I always had a great interest in computing growing up, so I decided I wanted to be a computational cosmologist. I transferred to Santa Cruz which was a centre for such research, and have loved it ever since.
Do you have a role model in science?
I’m not sure I have a role model per se, but some of the astronomers that I particularly admire include Sandra Faber, Lars Hernquist, David Spergel, and Daniel Eisenstein.
A quote that inspires you?
“To be is to do – Socrates.
To do is to be – Jean-Paul Satre.
Do be do be do -Frank Sinatra.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Deadeye Dick
I am a numerical cosmologist who uses large-scale hydrodynamic simulations to understand how the observable Universe evolves from the Big Bang until today. Interests include:
Galaxy Formation & Evolution
Intergalactic Gas & the Baryon Cycle
Reionization & First Light
Cosmology, Dark Matter, & Dark Energy
Favourite reference papers:
Some cool astronomy blogs I’ve run across are:
Also check out the documentary we’re making about the 2012 solar eclipses: http://Blacksunmovie.com