Astronomer Alexie Leauthaud wins DOE Early Career Award

Alexie Leauthaud
Alexie Leauthaud

Alexie Leauthaud, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, is among 84 scientists selected by the Department of Energy (DOE) to receive funding through DOE's Early Career Research Program.

The award provides $750,000 over five years to support Leauthaud's research on dark energy. Pinning down the nature of dark energy is one of the most pressing questions in modern physics. Several large missions that will address dark energy are currently under way or will begin in the next 6 years, including the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Survey (DESI), the Hyper Suprime Cam (HSC) survey, and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST).

Leauthaud is among the few scientists with joint membership in DESI, LSST, and HSC, giving her access to key data sets for her research. These missions aim to measure the properties of dark energy in different but complementary ways. DESI will measure the distances to tens of millions of galaxies. LSST and HSC are imaging surveys (large maps of the sky that reveal millions of galaxies) and are designed to measure gravitational lensing, the distortion of galaxy shapes due to the bending of space-time by intervening dark matter.

Leauthaud plans to take advantage of the synergies between these different approaches and data sets in order to increase their scientific payoff. Her research will advance our understanding of dark energy as well as the theory of gravity, and will provide robust constraints on the parameters of the standard cosmological model.

The DOE Early Career Research Program is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.

“Supporting talented researchers early in their career is key to building and maintaining a skilled and effective scientific workforce for the nation. By investing in the next generation of scientific researchers, we are supporting lifelong discovery science to fuel the nation’s innovation system,” said energy secretary Rick Perry. “We are proud of the accomplishments these young scientists have already made, and look forward to following their achievements in years to come.”

Leauthaud was awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship earlier this year and received a Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering in 2017. She earned her M.S. at the Institute of Astrophysics in Paris and her Ph.D. at the Laboratory of Astrophysics in Marseille, both in astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology. Before coming to UC Santa Cruz in 2016, she was a researcher at the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe in Tokyo.