Campus Constellations: Astrophysics and Experimental Cosmology at UCSB

There’s not actually an astronomy department at UCSB, but that doesn’t mean our resident research institution isn’t paying attention to the heavens. Indeed, under the banner of the Physics Department, both the Astrophysics and Experimental Cosmology groups are diving deep into outer space, and helping the rest of us better understand what’s out there, how long we’ve been here, and maybe even why.

“Our faculty is absolutely top notch,” said Tommaso Treu of the Astrophysics Group, which uses all of the major NASA observatories, from the Hubble Space Telescope to the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, as well as the 10-meter telescopes atop Mauna Kea in Hawai‘i. “We pursue research spanning from supermassive black holes to planets, to dark matter and dark energy, the first galaxies, etc., etc.” But most importantly is education, said Treu, explaining, “We train and educate some of the best students and postdoctoral scholars in the country.” See

Then there is the intriguingly named Experimental Cosmology-Deepspace Group, which is focused on, among other things, determining how old our universe is and learning more about what it’s made of. It’s a field full of dark matter and dark energy where there are way more unknowns than knowns, and researchers like Professor Philip Lubin find themselves verging on philosophy and theology more often than your typical scientist. “There is really a very profound level of ignorance,” said Lubin, “and that makes everything we find so much more interesting because we can add another piece to the puzzle.” See


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