In my research I use simulations of galaxies that are meant to closely match our own galaxy, the Milky Way. The particular simulations that I use (the Latte simulations) are part of the FIRE (Feedback In Realistic Environments) project, which is a suite of fully cosmological hydrodynamic zoom-in simulations. These simulations start out at high redshift (early times) with only low resolution dark matter particles which are perturbed according to Cosmic Microwave Background constraints. The simulation is evolved to redshift 0 (today), at which point a Milky Way-like dark matter halo is chosen for re-simulation at higher resolution (“zoom-in” simulation) with dark matter, star particles, and hydrodynamical gas particles.
I am currently working on a paper that explores the radial distribution of satellite galaxies around both isolated Milky Way-like galaxies and paired Local Group-like systems in cosmological simulations. Radial distributions are important because they allow us to test our models of galaxy formation against observations in our cosmological neighborhood. The radial concentration, or how clustered satellites are towards their host galaxy, is also important in studies of spatial and kinematic coherence of satellites, such as the satellite plane problem.
Another of my projects is aimed at investigating the problem of satellite planes in simulations. The satellite plane problem is the apparent spatial and kinematic coherence of the Milky Way’s satellites in a rotating plane or disk structure. Previous studies that have looked for such planes in simulations have largely come up empty handed, implying that maybe what we observe around the Milky Way is exceedingly rare. My work on the subject seeks to disentangle the prevalence of a planar structure from other biasing characteristics of the satellite distribution such as radial concentration.
In the future, I will be working on a project that ties the dynamics of satellites to their formation history. Specifically, I want to disentangle the roles of internal stellar feedback (supernovae, stellar winds, and photoionization pressure and heating) and external halo environment (hot, pressure-supported gas in the Milky Way’s halo exerting ram pressure stripping) in regulating the gas content and star formation of satellites.
In the past I have done research on accreting supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies, called active galactic nuclei (AGN). For this research I used the technique of reverberation mapping (RM), measuring the time lag in variability coming from an AGN at different wavelengths/energies. In particular, I used broad line RM where the time lag was measured between V band continuum luminosity and H-beta broad line emission. As an undergraduate, my first research experience was at Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory through the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program. I worked to characterize the properties of multi-anode photomultiplier tubes that were to be used in a ring-imaging Cherenkov detector.