My name is Noah. I am currently a Lederman Fellow at Fermilab, and an associate Fellow at the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics. I got my PhD in particle astrophysics at Stanford University in the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology. Welcome to my personal site, which contains descriptions of my current and past research and teaching activities, and samples of personal work of which I'm particularly proud. For code, papers, and other detailed information, see the links above, and for more about me, continue down on this page.
Twentieth century physics was largely shaped by the sharp divergence from strictly Newtonian, deterministic physics by the swift introduction of the relativistic and quantum theories, and further shaken by the work that followed, as particles more complex and varied than the known subatomic particles were discovered, created, and studied. For the last few decades, we have sought to confirm, with wide success, the standard model of particle physics, which encompasses the weak, strong, and electromagnetic forces, and with the discovery of the Higgs in 2012, the last element of this theory has been confirmed. On larger scales, various effects of general relativity have been confirmed, making it one of most successful theories in physics, and observational cosmology has become a productive means by which to study not only galaxy evolution but also the effect of the standard model on the formation history of the universe.
Despite the wide success of these theories in many regimes, we also know that, at the smallest scales, the standard model is incompatible with general relativity, and that neither can fully explain some of the more puzzling mysteries of our universe. Over the last half century, evidence has mounted that an additional massive particle is needed to explain the properties and evolutionary history of the galaxies in our universe, and there are no particles from the standard model to accomodate such a mass. What's more, it seems to be the dominant form of matter in our universe, at 78% of the total energy content stored in mass. We have dubbed this matter "Dark Matter", and it increasingly seems the most promising avenue by which to extend our current physical models. Dark Matter and Dark Energy constitute all by 4% of the total energy in the univese, and the fact that we have no explanation for them means our physical knowledge is, by percentage, largely incomplete. My research interests lie in studying departures from the standard model and General relativity, by attempting to detect particulate dark matter and looking for short distance gravitation which departs from classical expectations.
I attended Tufts University for my undergraduate work, where I majored in Astrophysics and Engineering Physics, with a concentration in Electrical Engineering. My engineering classes were mainly focused on semiconductor devices, and I studied microprocessor architectures, VLSI and CMOS logic, and semiconuctor devices, as well as plasma engineering. The physics department at Tufts was fairly small, and after completing most of the undergraduate classes in Physics and Astronomy, I went on to take the Astronomy graduate courses as part of my Astrophysics degree, and undertook research for credit in particle physics, learning about standard model processes and QED through active research activities. I worked for the physics deparment throughout my time as an undergraduate except for a brief stint as a resident assistant, first as a grader and TA, and later working to help update and revitalize various undergraduate lab activities. During my time as an undergraduate, I was awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, Tufts Victor Prather Prize and Benjamin Brown Scholarship, an AAPT Outstanding Learning Assistant Award, and recieved an honorable mention for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. I was inducted into Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, and HKN, the honor society of IEEE. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with my B.S. in Engineering Physics and Astrophysics in Spring 2014, and began my PhD in Physics at Stanford in Fall 2015.
I began my research as an undergraduate in the summer before my sophomore year for Prof Anna Sajina, reducing observations of bright radio galaxies taken with the Janksy Very Large Array (JVLA) and comparing these measurements to those taken by the Planck satellite, both to measure the calibration accuracy of Planck and study the inherent variability of the brightest quasars. While an undergraduate member of the Planck Collaboration, I assisted in estimating the galactic contribution to the early release point source catalogs, and helped confirm a calibration error in the low frequency instrument. After writing the paper on the calibration comparison, I obtained an undergraduate research grant to begin work on a long term project to simulate large photometric galaxy surveys, with the goal of contraining the evolutionary parameters of the galaxy luminosity function and testing spectral energy distribution templates out to high redshift. This project became the subject of my senior honors thesis in physics, and entailed much work over the past few years, including the development of a Markov Chain Monte Carlo simulator, and careful insertion of experimental noise into flux generation. This project is nearing completion, and we intend to publish an article in ApJ late this year detailing its capabilities and test cases with Herschel and Wise. Most recently, I presented a preliminary version of this code at IAU Symposium 306, Statistical Challenges in 21st Century Cosmology, and again at the AAS Conference in Boston.
In the Spring of my Junior year, I began to realize that my long-term interests lay closer to particle physics, and I began to conduct research in the ATLAS collaboration with Professor Krzysztof Sliwa, studying top-antitop decays. We attempted to employ simulation-trained Support Vector Machines (SVMs) to measure the interaction cross section first for ttbar and then Higgs events, competing with groups using other machine learning methods, to see if we could attain better signal-to-noise with a more pure machine learning approach. I spent much of my senior year applying the SVM techniques to the study of vector-boson-fusion production of the Higgs and developing a reconstuction framework for the top group to use with LHC run 2 data, utilizing a new ROOT framework. I traveled with the Tufts group to CERN twice during and after my senior year, working more closely with members of the collaboration on reconstruction development.
In addition to my long-term research, I had many other resarch opportunities before graduate school which enriched my undergraduate experience. I spent the summer after my junior year in a Caltech NSF REU program in Hanford, WA, working on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), where I built a system to simulate the effect of solid earth tides on the length of the interferometer arms, and studied the ability of the feedback system to filter out their effects, reccomending several improvements to better enable the system to handle the wide range of tidal movement. I was also able to accompany a group from Tufts on an observing trip to Kitt Peak National Observatory, where we used the 3.5 meter WIYN telescope to observe galaxy clusters, searching for high-redshift strongly lensed galaxies.
I enjoy teaching at least as much as research, and I have had the pleasure of teaching many students in a variety of contexts and with a wide range of tools in my short time as a scientist. I was most involved with Tufts' small radio telescope, which I helped repair and maintain for my last 3 years at Tufts, and I was able to lead a class of undergrads in an observing project to measure the rotation curve of the Milky Way in Fall 2013. In the Spring of 2014, I helped modernize the Modern Physics laboratory equipment, redesigning our particle physics experiments to utilize modern techniques and helping to make some of the more complex experiments more straightforward and transparent for the students. I am currently looking into obtaining a radio telescope for Stanford, and hope to draw on my experience to build a telescope with more advanced capabilities that might be used for a wider array of projects in an advanced undergraduate observing class.
I currently live in Mountain View, and enjoy cooking, good drinks, physics, football, and spending time with my fiancee Caitlyn, whom I met on my first day as an undergraduate at Tufts. She is currently studying to become an Osteopathic Physician at the University of New England in Maine, and we enjoy traveling with the little free time we have in graduate school. For more info, see our wedding website.