Farnik Nikakhtar

Farnik Nikakhtar's picture
YCAA Postdoctoral Fellow
KT 435
Research Areas: 
Cosmology/Astrophysics
Research Type: 
Theorist
Biographical Sketch: 

I received my Ph.D. in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Pennsylvania, along with a dual Master’s degree in Statistics from the Wharton School. While at Penn, I was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow (NSF GRFP). My research centers on ideas that address the observable effects of both dark energy and dark matter. From the theoretical side, I am interested in Optimal Transport Theory and the fundamental connections this theory has with the physical questions from galactic to cosmological scales. Prior to Penn, I completed my B.Sc. in Physics (minor in Computer Science) at Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran.

 

Research: 

The two dominant components of the universe, dark energy (~70%) and dark matter (~30%) remain among the most mysterious concepts in physics today. The effects of these two substances are imprinted in the remaining few percent of the universe that consists of baryonic matter. I have divided my research with a similar proportion into ideas that address the observable effects of both these phenomena. I have spent ~70% of my time studying observational and theoretical aspects of Baryon Acoustic Oscillations (BAO) by which we can measure the expansion rate of the universe and constrain dark energy. The other ~30% of my research focuses on ways to probe the nature of dark matter by studying the dynamics of galaxies and the orbital properties of their stars.

From the theoretical side, I am interested in Optimal Transport Theory and the fundamental connections this theory has with the physical questions from galactic to cosmological scales. Many decisions in science and life are based on the shortest path principle, which states that there should be a minimum amount of effort required to transport an object from one point to another. This intuition is generalized in optimal transport theory when, rather than moving only one item at a time, the problem is to move several items simultaneously (or a continuous distribution) from one configuration to another. I have utilized this general concept to answer a number of questions relevant to both the BAO and Galactic Dynamics fields and this is the thread that unites my research.

Education: 
Ph.D. 2022, University of Pennsylvania
Advisor: 
Nikhil Padmanabhan