Juna Kollmeier is an astronomer at Carnegie Institution for Science. Her research is an unusual combination—she is as observationally-oriented theorist making predictions that can be compared to current and future observations. Her primary focus is on the emergence of structure in the universe. She combines cosmological hydrodynamic simulations and analytic theory to figure out how the tiny fluctuations in density that were present when the universe was only 300 thousand years old, become the galaxies and black holes that we see now, after 14 billion years of cosmic evolution.
She has a three-pronged approach to unravelling the mysteries of the universe. On the largest scales, she studies the intergalactic medium (IGM)—the tenuous material of gas and dust in intergalactic space. This is where most of the elementary particles in the universe reside and is the basis from which galaxies and stars form. It is both the source of star formation and the sink of the biproducts of star formation. Since it is mostly hydrogen, it is also the part of cosmological simulations that is understood best, which makes the IGM a very powerful tool to study galaxy growth and evolution.
On the intermediate scale, Kollmeier studies our Milky Way galaxy, which provides a laboratory for understanding the phenomena nearby that also exists in the distant universe. On the smallest scale, she studies supermassive black holes. These energy spewing entities lie at the heart of all galaxies wreaking havoc on their galactic hosts. She is interested in how they grow, what the distribution of fundamental properties is, and how do they interact with their environments.
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