I am a physicist and astronomer, interested in understanding the most violent astrophysical
environments in the universe such as black holes, supernovas, and collisions of neutron
stars. I also use those powerful accelerators to understand what the universe is made
of and the nature of the smallest constituents of matter.
To do this, I use telescopes that detect radiation from space. Some radiation arrives
here as cosmic rays, which are atomic nuclei carrying energies up to one hundred million
times higher than we can achieve in the Large Hadron Collider here on Earth. They
are the most energy-dense particles in the universe, but we do not understand how
they gained that energy or even where they came from.
Another particle, the neutrino, has the ability to travel much, much farther than
light or cosmic rays without being absorbed. This could open a completely new window
to the universe. The recent discovery that neutrinos have mass was a huge surprise,
and now we are studying them to answer questions like why there is more matter than
antimatter in the universe. Neutrinos only rarely interact with other matter and make
their presence known, so the larger the telescope, the better. Thats why the telescope
Im currently working on, called ANITA (Antarctic Impulse Transient Antenna), uses
most of the continent of Antarctica to detect them.
Because the neutrinos are so energetic, when they do interact with the Antarctic ice
they set off an enormous shower of particles that, in turn, send out radio waves.
Cosmic rays also produce radio waves as they travel through the Earths atmosphere.
The telescope listens for the radio waves with antennas while flying 90,000 feet over
Antarctica, on a balloon. I work with an international team of scientists on this
project. My role is to build antennas and stations that send short bursts of radio
waves to the instrument for calibration. I will deploy the stations by camping out
on the ice, at various points along the flight path of the balloon.