The PI proposes to 1) use computer simulations and galaxy formation models to identify the properties of early progenitors of our Milky Way galaxy, 2) perform spectroscopy to measure the physical properties of early galaxies called Lyman Alpha Emitters and to compare them with those expected for Milky Way progenitors, and 3) identify the progenitors of various types of present-day galaxies by analyzing the spatial clustering of 800,000 Lyman Alpha Emitters discovered by the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX). Integrating this research with education presents an opportunity to explain galaxy formation to undergraduate students. These students are motivated to learn about current research but require hands-on interaction to visualize challenging concepts such as dark matter 'halos' and galaxy 'merger trees'. To this end, the PI will develop a new version of Rutgers University's introductory astronomy course, replacing half of the lectures with interactive computer visualization laboratories to improve students' conceptual understanding. The PI will teach this class each year, using standard assessment methods to measure effectiveness.This integrated program of research and education will have several broader impacts. It promises to improve understanding of galaxy formation by connecting the observable universe of galaxies to the invisible halos of dark matter that host them. Several undergraduates, two Ph.D. thesis students, a postdoctoral researcher, and an educational researcher supervised by the PI will be trained for their own careers in research and education. Results of the educational experiment will be published to allow successful techniques to be implemented at other institutions. The PI will disseminate computer visualization laboratories and education research results online and at AAS and AAPT meetings. The PI's research will reduce systematic uncertainties to assist HETDEX and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in determining the nature of the mysterious dark energy that fills the cosmos.
|Effective start/end date||9/1/11 → 8/31/16|
- National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))