/Research

Research

Research

How did galaxies and supermassive black holes evolve?

Structure in the universe forms in a heirarchical way, from small to large objects, governed primarily by dark matter. Nobody knows what the first seed population of small black holes was like, but thereafter galaxies and their embedded black holes have merged and grown over cosmic time. The nature of this parallel evolution is of great importance in understanding the ubiquity of supermassive black holes in the present day universe and the face that they are mostly inactive.

 

What is the best way to get a complete census of active galaxies?

Active galaxies harbor supermassive black holes powered by accretion, and one of the big issues is how abundant fuel in the surrounding galaxy actually get to within the central parsec. The central “engines” are often shrouded by gas and dust so a
true census of nuclear activity requires observations across the electromagnetic spectrum. X ray data are critical because they provide the best measure of accretion power. As many as 80% of all active galaxies may be missing from current surveys.

 

How are science knowledge and attitudes towards science related?

Science literacy in the United States and in most Western countries is distressingly
low, given that many societal issues involve science and technology and democracy
works poorly when voters are ill-informed on the issues. Research shows that science
knowledge can co-exist with strong pseudo-science beliefs and superstitions, and that
non-scientific modes of thinking are pervasive and largely resistant to traditional modes
of college instruction. Improving public science literacy is an urgent education goal. 

What are the most effective ways of teaching science?

Traditional transmissive modes of teaching still dominate the science classroom in schools and colleges, despite research showing that learner-centered and interactive pedagogies are more effective. Part of the reason is inertia from both students and faculty or teachers, combined with the fact that active engagement is challenging to implement. As online modes of teaching rise, driven primarily by financial considerations, it will be even more important to maintain active student engagement in their learning.