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About me

I am a postdoc scholar and Heising-Simons Fellow at MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and MIT Department of Physics, working with Dr. Frederick K. Baganoff and Prof. Kerstin Perez. My research focuses on observational high-energy astrophysics, including supermassive black hole accretion and feedback, origin of Galactic cosmic-rays and dark matter searches. My research has been focusing on studying current flaring activities of the Galactic center supermassive black hole Sgr A*, and also reconstructing its past activities, in order to understand supermassive black holess' activity cycle, particle acceleration mechanism, and physics under strong gravitational field. Recently I have obtained funding for an original particle astrophysics project on probing Galactic cosmic-ray particles at MeV through PeV energy scales using innovative methods. This research has far-reaching implications for a range of fields of study: the origin of Galactic cosmic-rays, particle acceleration mechanisms and dark matter searches. Most recently I have been leading a project on the discovery of a 40 keV hard X-ray source at merely 1 parsec from the Galactic center supermassive black hole. Check out my MIT webpage here.

I obtained my Ph.D. in Physics from Columbia Univeristy in 2016. I did my thesis research on high-energy X-ray obserevations of the Galactic center and the Galactic plane using NuSTAR space telescope, under supervision of Prof. Charles J. Hailey. My research project "Investigating the Physics of Hard X-ray Outbursts from the Galactic Center Supermassive black hole Sgr A*" was selected for funding by NASA headquarters via the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship(NESSF) program. As a key member of the NuSTAR Galactic plane survey team, I conducted observation plannning for ~1 Ms Galactic plane survey campaign during the NuSTAR baseline mission in 2012-2014, and continue to be responsible for target selection and observation planning for the Galactic plane legacy program during 2014-2018. I led the analysis of the Galactic center supermassive black hole, and diffuse emission features like molecular clouds and non-thermal filaments. Besides interpreting the X-ray signals from the deep space, I am also passionate in X-ray optics, a key part of focusing X-ray telescopes enabling X-ray imaging. I conducted ground calibration experiments for the hard X-ray optics onboard the NuSTAR space telescope at Columbia Univeristy Nevis Lab in 2011.

Before joining the Columbia NuSTAR group, I obtained my bachelor's degree from Tsinghua University in Beijing. I conducted my bachelor thesis research at Tsinghua Center for Astrophysics (THCA) under supervision of Prof. Shuang-Nan Zhang and Prof. Hua Feng. I designed and performed optical experiments to prove the solidity of a novel approach to obtain super high angular resolution imaging for coded-mask X-ray telescopes.

Major Research Interests

Supermassive Black Hole

  • Sgr A* Flaring Activities
  • Sgr A* Outburst History
  • Sgr A* radiation in quiescence
  • M31* Outbursts

Large Survey Campaign

  • Survey simulation and observation strategy
  • Point source population and proper motion
  • Origin of diffuse background emission

Galactic Cosmic Ray Origin and Exotic Physics

  • TeV electrons and PeV protons pointing to Galactic PeVatron
  • Constraining MeV-GeV proton/electron population in the central 1 kpc of the Galaxy
  • Supernova Remnant and molecular cloud interaction sites

Webmaster: Shuo Zhang, last updates: Oct. 2018