NSF Fellowship | Galaxy Clusters | Advisor: Chris Miller

PhD Research: Dan Gifford is working with his advisor, Chris Miller, to make the caustic method a more common tool for measuring the mass of galaxy clusters. A currently underused complement to techniques like weak-lensing and measuring the X-ray temperature of a cluster’s hot gas, the caustic method relies on the position and relative velocities of a cluster’s constituent galaxies. Gifford and Miller are hoping to make the method more accessible to astronomers because of its usefulness in the context of large surveys like the LSST, Dark Energy Survey, and Pan-STARRS. They are aiming to identify a scaling relation between a cluster’s mass and its galaxy count that will help astronomers create mass estimates for clusters too distant for the other techniques to be effective.

Why Michigan Astronomy?

Collegiality: “From the first time I visited, I fell in love with the program. The faculty are warm and welcoming, and there’s a tight bond among the graduate students. By the time I was here a year, I’d had at least one conversation with every faculty member — and when we give talks, faculty approach us afterward and suggest new dimensions to make our results more useful or accepted. With the grad students, we all work on the same floor, and go to happy hours and film festivals. It’s a happy, relaxed department. Grad school is demanding, so that support system is really important.”