Two new professors at UC Riverside have given its astronomy department an even bigger bang.
The school hired Brian Siana and Naveen Reddy this summer, bringing the total number of astronomy professors on campus to five.
“A nice critical mass,” joked Jory Yarmoff, acting chairman of physics and astronomy and acting divisional dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences.
Cosmology, a new science about the origin of the universe, has generated even more excitement since three astronomers won this year’s Nobel Prize in physics for their observations of very distant exploding stars, Yarmoff said.
The trio is sharing the award for their discovery of dark energy, an enigmatic phenomenon that is pushing on the fabric of space itself, causing the universe to expand faster.
For almost a century, the universe has been known to be getting bigger as a result of the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago. However, the three Nobel Laureates’ findings that this expansion is speeding up surprised even them.
With cosmology a “high-priority area, hiring the two young astronomers in this area rounds out the program, Yarmoff said. They join the school’s three senior astronomers: Bahram Mobasher, Gillian Wilson and Gabriella Canalizo.
The two junior members of the team have been involved in several international research projects.
For their part, Siana, 34, of Rancho Cucamonga, and Reddy, 33, of Austin, Texas, said they’re thrilled to have access to the University of California’s powerful Lick telescope near San Jose and the Keck telescope in Hawaii.
Both scientists fell in love with astronomy as boys after receiving their first telescope. They’ll begin teaching next semester.
“It’s easy to get students excited about astronomy,” Siana said. “What we really look at is hundreds of billions of galaxies with hundreds of billions of stars.”
He’s conversant in topics that include the Big Bang, the evolution of the early universe, what it’s made of, the formation of galaxies and stars, dark matter and dark energy.
Trained in observational cosmology, Siana was a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech in Pasadena before coming to UCR. He’s already laid down roots by buying a house in Riverside.
Reddy soon plans to do the same. He specializes in distant galaxies, their evolution time and the intergalactic medium, the nature of heavy element production, black holes and star formation. He’s working on several projects aimed at understanding the history of star formation and the buildup of stellar mass in the universe.
“Studying the universe in an investment in our future,” Reddy said. “We want to get the younger generation interested in math, science and engineering and understand where we came from.”These new UCR professors demonstrate that Riverside is a destination of choice for its distinguished universities and innovation.