My scientific work has been on theoretical problems in cosmology with ties to observations. Four personae have been diagnosed for my multiple personality syndrome, although my graduate students and postdocs may report (and have induced) more identities:
- The Smooth Side: During the first ten million years or so
after the big bang, the fluctuations in matter and radiation in the
universe remain small enough that they can be viewed as tiny ripples
imprinted on a smooth background. The universe at this stage is well
described by the linear cosmological perturbation theory, which I have
investigated in some depth. This theory is specified by the coupled
Einstein, Boltzmann, and fluid equations and is the foundation for
many calculations in cosmology, e.g., the matter fluctuation power
spectra and the temperature variations imprinted on the cosmic
- The Lumpy Side: A major challenge in theoretical cosmology today
is in understanding how small initial fluctuations in matter and
radiation in the smooth universe grow under gravitational instability
into highly collapsed objects in the lumpy universe. I have been
involved in designing and running large numerical N-body and
hydrodynamical codes to simulate and study the nonlinear growth of
dark matter and galaxies.
My interests are in developing new analytical techniques to better understand and model the nonlinear structure in the universe. The questions I am tackling include the phase-space evolution of galaxy host halos and the origin of their density profiles. This has led me into the deep trenches of the 90-year-old Fokker-Planck and dissipation-fluctuation theories.
- The Dark Side: The nature of dark matter remains one of
the most intriguing unsolved mysteries in astronomy. My interest has
evolved from cold, to hot, to warm, and back to cold (but never
lukewarm) dark matter, and has recently extended to the "dark energy."
Our investigations involve making detailed theoretical predictions for
the impact of dark matter and energy on structure formation. By
comparing these with observational results from, e.g., the high
redshift universe and gravitational lenses, we can obtain constraints
on the nature and abundance of dark matter and energy.
- The Bright Side: I occasionally manage to climb out of the dark and lumpy worlds. During these sunny moments (or rather, moonless nights), I have collaborated with observers on a number of projects using telescopes such as Palomar and Keck. The projects include dynamical studies of superclusters, gravitational lensing studies of quasars and galaxy clusters, properties of distant galaxies, and weighing supermassive black holes. I am currently conducting an exciting survey named MASSIVE to study the most massive galaxies in the nearby universe.