Andrew Wetzel

2019 Hellman Fellow

Assistant Professor, Physics
UC Davis

Project Title: Using Stars as Gravitational Antennae to Measure Dark Matter

Project Description: Andrew Wetzel is a theoretical/computational astrophysicist and cosmologist.  Using the world’s most powerful supercomputers, he generates cosmological simulations to model the formation of cosmic structures, including galaxies and their stars.  He then uses these simulations as theoretical laboratories to develop and test models of galaxy formation, stellar dynamics, and the nature of dark matter, with emphasis on understanding our own Milky Way galaxy.

Despite nearly a hundred years of effort, the nature of dark matter remains as one of the greatest mysteries in physics.  This compels us to develop innovative new strategies to measure the properties of dark matter via astrophysical probes.  Motivated by revolutionary new ultra-high-precision measurements of stars across our Milky Way galaxy, we will use our state-of-the-art cosmological galaxy simulations of Milky Way-like galaxies to develop a new dynamical modeling framework to measure the nature of dark matter, by using streams of stars as “gravitational antennae” for interactions with dark-matter structures, thus translating dark-matter theories directly into measurable predictions for stellar dynamics.