Simulating High Redshift Galaxies for JWST
The JWST is the next class of space telescope, built to see further out than humanity has ever seen before to study the earliest galaxies in the universe. JWST has already taken beautiful images, but how is meaningful science extracted from these images? One way is to create a theoretical model of what we should see and compare it to real data to test if our underlying understanding is correct. That is exactly what I have done in my project: I used the Sérsic model, which is commonly used to model current galaxies, to simulate the earliest galaxies and how JWST would see them. This would be a test of how well our current models of galaxy light profiles are consistent across time.
Some of the more difficult parts of this project were thinking less like a physicist and more like a computational astrophysicist. I was generating such large images that, while the science was sound, the code would run for hours. So I had to put a lot of work into optimizing my code and even had to test how small I could shrink the image without losing any information. Still, it was one of my favorite research projects I've worked on because of how applicable it will be to my future work and because it was the first time I was able to create simulations.
I will be graduating from Sonoma State University this semester with a Bachelors of Science in Physics with Concentration in Astrophysics. Afterwards, I will be going to graduate school, and after a long and difficult application process, I have decided to pursue my PhD in Astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. There are a lot of amazing research opportunities at UC Santa Cruz, from transients to cosmology, but I hope to study similar topics to my project, creating simulations to study the high redshift universe with JWST.