UCL Astrophysics Group


Dr Andrew Pontzen

Reader in Cosmology

Dept of Physics & Astronomy

Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Aug 2013

Research summary

My work focuses on understanding dark matter – a mysterious component of the universe that is hypothesised to drive the formation of galaxies and other structures. While little is known about the nature of dark matter, the basic idea of an invisible sector interacting through gravity with what we can see has been highly predictive. Over the last 20 years, the dark matter hypothesis has generated a huge number of correct predictions about both the present day universe and the ancient "cosmic microwave background" light.

Until the true nature of dark matter is identified, the resulting picture will remain tentative. My team's work focuses largely on using the visible universe to help us to understand better how the invisible sector operates. This is essential if we are to connect our expanding knowledge of the night sky to fundamental physics experiments performed here on Earth. Ultimately this work should point us to a fuller understanding of the basic building blocks of reality.

More specifically, my team use a combination of mathematical and computational tools to make predictions for how dark matter should behave in different circumstances. We work on building more precise, controlled numerical "experiments" using powerful supercomputers. We then interpret the results to make predictions for new observations of the real universe, or to explain existing ones.  In this way we are attempting to understand how the visible and invisible components of our universe interact.

Bibliometric data: 40 refereed publications; 2839 citations; h-index of 22; post-PhD (i.e. not counting citations to thesis publications) m-factor 2.8. Source: NASA ADS, 26 February 2017. Royal Society University Research Fellowship (2013) and recipient of the Royal Astronomical Society’s Fowler Award for early-career research achievement (2016).

Teaching summary

I teach PHASM336, the 4th year master's-level cosmology course (33 hours per year).