Astrophysics and Cosmology  

The newly-created Institute of Multi-messenger Astrophysics and Cosmology (IMAC) at Missouri S&T is at the forefront or modern research in multi-messenger astrophysics, theoretical and observational cosmology, and experimental and theoretical gravitational physics.

Research in multi-messenger astrophysics at S&T focuses on investigating celestial phenomena through electromagnetic waves, gravitational waves, and cosmic rays. Multi-messenger astrophysics is a new branch of science born with the historic detection of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) and the first, far-reaching observation of a merger of two neutron stars. Missouri S&T is an institutional member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and actively participates to the LIGO experiment.

Research in theoretical and observational cosmology focuses on studying the large-scale structure of the Universe to reveal its origin and fate. Precise measurements of the physical properties of the universe can now be obtained thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope, large new ground-based telescopes, and the finest observations of the cosmic microwave background radiation. Missouri S&T researchers are part of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX) and the Subaru Prime Focus Spectrograph (PFS) experiments.

Research in gravitational physics deals with the theoretical and experimental aspects of gravitational-wave detection, the understanding of the nature of space time, and the mathematical properties of Einstein’s general relativity and alternative theories of gravity.

Faculty members pursuing research in astrophysics are Dr. Marco Cavaglia and Dr. Shun Saito.

A native of Italy, Dr. Marco Cavaglia earned a Ph.D. in Astrophysics at the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste in 1996. Before joining S&T, he was faculty at the University of Mississippi (2004-18), lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, UK (2003), and held post-doctoral positions at Tufts University, the Albert Einstein Institute in Germany, the University of Beira Interior in Portugal and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cavaglia has been a member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration since 2007, where he served as Assistant Spokesperson from 2012 to 2017. He currently serves as the Principal Investigator of the Missouri S&T LIGO group.

Cavaglia's group contributes toward a better understanding of the fundamental nature of gravity and extreme phenomena in the Universe through the study of multi-messenger astrophysics and gravitational physics. The group is the first and only research team in Missouri to be part of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, an international organization of over 1200 scientists from over 100 institutions across 18 countries. Investigations at S&T range from theoretical astrophysics and gravitational physics to detector science and development of computer algorithms for the interpretation of the LIGO data.

The LIGO Scientific Collaboration made the first direct observation of gravitational waves from a pair of coalescing black holes in 2015. Three LIGO key players, Rainer Weiss, Kip S. Thorne and Barry C. Barish, were awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics for their contributions to the development of the LIGO detector and this observation. For over a decade, Cavaglia has been working with his LSC colleagues in the areas of LIGO detector characterization, gravitational-wave data analysis and multi-messenger astrophysics that were critical for the LIGO detections of the gravitational wave signals.

Dr. Shun Saito grew up in Japan and received a Ph.D. in Physics at the University of Tokyo in Japan in 2010. Before joining S&T as a faculty, he experienced three postdoc positions worldwide: University of California at Berkeley in CA (2010-2013), Kavli Institute for Physics and Mathematics of the Universe in Japan (2013-2016) and Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany (2016-2018). In the past, he contributed to the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey in Sloan Digital Sky Survey-III (2009-2014) through his development of theoretical models and data interpretation. Currently he is an active member of two forthcoming galaxy redshift surveys; Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX) and Subaru Prime Focus Spectrograph (PFS).

Saito’s group also contributes to a better understanding of the fundamental physics by making use of large cosmological datasets. In particular, his group focuses on the large-scale structure of the Universe in order to unveil the nature of dark energy, to weigh the neutrino masses, and to understand formation and evolution of galaxies. His group has an official data access in HETDEX which provides a unique research opportunity in Missouri. In addition, Saito’s group investigates a synergy in cosmology between aforementioned galaxy surveys and gravitational wave astronomy in Cavaglia’s group.