Dr Daniel Whalen
I am a Senior Lecturer in Cosmology at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation (ICG),which I joined in 2016. My research group and I develop supercomputer models of the formation of the first stars, supernovae, and supermassive black holes in the Universe. Our simulations have laid the groundwork for hunting for primeval transients and quasars with the next generation of telescopes in the coming decade, such as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), Euclid and the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). I am a member of the Euclid Consortium and the Royal Astronomical Society. I am also a Higgs Affiliate at the Higgs Centre for Theory at the University of Edinburgh.
I graduated from Brigham Young University with a BSc in Physics and obtained my Ph.D. in physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I was then a Postdoctoral Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory before being being awarded the McWilliams Fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University. I returned to LANL as a Research Scientist before being appointed as deputy group leader at the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics at Heidelberg University in 2014. Most recently, I was the Ida Pfeiffer Professor at the University of Vienna in 2019.
My main research interests are the evolution of primordial quasars and the birth and evolution of the first supermassive black holes. Over 300 quasars powered by billion solar-mass black holes have now been discovered at redshifts z > 6, less than a billion years after the Big Bang. How such massive black holes form by such early epochs has severely challenged current theories of cosmological structure formation. My research group and I are modelling all stages of the evolution of primordial quasars: the formation of supermassive primordial stars soon after cosmic dawn 100 - 200 million years after the Big Bang, their collapse into 100,000 solar-mass black holes, and their subsequent growth into Billion solar-mass black holes by z ~ 7. We are also deriving synthetic observables for these quasars in the near infrared (NIR) and radio to evaluate their prospects for detection by JWST, Euclid, WFIRST and the Square Kilometer Array (SKA).
I am the unit coordinator and developer of Advanced Computational Techniques, a level 7 module for fourth year Master students. I also co-developed the Computational Physics II module and am a lecturer in Modern Astrophysics. I currently supervise three PhD students and one Master student on a variety of computational projects.