About Me

I am currently an assistant adjunct professor in the Astronomy Department at the University of California, Berkeley, chair of the Astrophysics Working Group in the NANOGrav Pulsar Timing Array, and a full member and project lead of the LISA Consortium.

I completed undergraduate degrees in Physics and Biology at UC Santa Cruz, before earning my PhD at Harvard University in 2018. Afterwards, I was a Lindheimer prize postdoctoral fellow, and then a Cottrell Fellow, in CIERA at Northwestern University, before starting at UC Berkeley in January of 2023.

My research is in theoretical and computational astrophysics at the intersection of high-energy transients and cosmological environments, with my primary focus is on gravitational waves and multi-messenger astrophysics. My goal is to understand the formation and evolution of the most energetic objects in the universe.

Most of my work centers on low-frequency gravitational waves: those produced by binaries of massive black holes (MBHs). This new class of gravitational waves has recently been detected by pulsar timing arrays like NANOGrav. Continued observations will revolutionize our understanding of MBH and galaxy coevolution within the next decade. Pulsar timing arrays are also a crucial testbed in preparing for the space-based LISA mission, which will observe MBH mergers across the entire Universe.

In addition to MBH binaries, I also study stellar tidal disruption events, the detailed structure of active galactic nuclei, LIGO sources, and the relationship between explosive transients and galactic environments.

students / research group

Any undergraduates interested in research projects should reach out via e-mail. All potential graduate students must apply through the UC Berkeley Department of Astronomy or Department of Physics.

For some background materials on my research topics, see the recommended readings.

  • Emiko Gardiner Headshot
    Emiko Gardiner: 2nd year graduate student (UC Berkeley, Astronomy). Emiko studies anisotropy and continuous wave sources in the low-frequency gravitational wave sky.

  • Sophie Willis Headshot
    Sophie Willis: 3rd year undergraduate (UC Berkeley, Astrophysics & Applied Mathematics). Sophie is studying X-Ray spectroscopic signatures of massive black hole binaries.

  • Magdalena Siwek 5th year grad student (Harvard Astronomy; PI: Hernquist). Magda works on circumbinary hydrodynamics and the gravitational wave and electromagnetic signatures of accreting binaries.

  • Aneesh Sivasankaran 5th year grad student (UF; PI: Blecha). Aneesh is exploring the dynamics of MBHs in simulations of merging galaxies.

  • Bence Bécsy (Montana State; PI: Cornish) → Postdoc, Oregon State

  • Michael Zevin (Northwestern; PI: Kalogera) → Astrophysicist, Adler Planetarium

  • Michael Katz (Northwestern; PI: Larson) → Postdoc, NASA Marshall

  • Mohammad Sayeb (UF; PI: Blecha) → Industry

  • Katherine Cella: undergraduate (Vanderbilt; PI: Taylor) → Industry

  • Megan Tillman: undergraduate (Texas A&M; PI: Faucher-Giguere) → Rutgers

  • Estephani TorresVillanueva: undergraduate (Northwestern REU) → UW Madison

  • Sophia Taylor: undergradute (Northwestern REU) → Industry

  • Tenley Hutchinson: undergraduate (Harvard Banneker Institute) → UC Santa Cruz