Astronomy News

Prof. Yue Shen Selected as a 2016 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow

Barbara Jewett, Managing Editor, NCSA Public Affairs
2/23/2016  8:00 am

Assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Illinois and faculty affiliate at NCSA Yue ShenYue Shen, an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Illinois and a faculty affiliate at the National Center for Computing Applications (NCSA) has been named a Sloan Research Fellow for 2016.

The Sloan Research Fellowships seek to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise.  These two-year fellowships are awarded yearly to 126 researchers in the United States and Canada in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field. The size of the award is $55,000 for the two-year period.

Dr. Shen is an observational astronomer who has built a broad and prolific research program featuring observational and theoretical studies of all aspects of supermassive black holes. His expertise includes the characterization of fundamental black hole properties, particularly their masses, and measurement of the cosmological clustering of supermassive black holes, which probes the formation of structure in the universe. Beyond these focus areas, Dr. Shen’s research portfolio spans a wide range of topics from satellites around the giant planets in the solar system to properties of the interstellar dust.    

Dr. Shen is a leader in the use of large surveys of the sky to probe supermassive black hole properties using information coded in their spectra and the variability of their brightness.  “This grant will allow me to further my research on supermassive black holes,” he said. 

“We are at the dawn of a golden age of discovery for black holes. Professor Shen’s work sheds new light on the largest black holes in the cosmos, their co-evolution with their host galaxies, and their potential as sources as a new class of gravitational waves.  We are very proud!” said Brian Fields, chair of the astronomy department at Illinois.

At NCSA, Dr. Shen utilizes Dark Energy Survey (DES) data to study the variability of quasars (luminous, active supermassive black holes). “I’m eager to develop algorithms and data mining techniques to apply to large survey data sets in preparation for the LSST, “ said Dr. Shen.

The Dark Energy Survey (DES) is designed to probe the origin of the accelerating universe and help uncover the nature of dark energy using an extremely sensitive digital camera mounted on a telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, high in the Chilean Andes. NCSA leads the Dark Energy Survey Data Management (DESDM) project that manages the processing, calibration, and archiving of all images taken for the survey.

NCSA will also be the global central hub for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) project, processing, archiving, and serving the terabytes of data that will be collected every night of the decade-long survey. The LSST project will use a massive 8.4-meter telescope and 3-gigapixel camera to produce a wide-field astronomical survey of the universe beginning in 2020. LSST will collect 15 terabytes of raw image data every night, which will be processed at NCSA in near-real time to produce alert notifications of new and unexpected astronomical events.