Physics graduate student receives Astrid and Bruce McWilliams fellowship-Dept of Physics - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Physics graduate student receives Astrid and Bruce McWilliams fellowship

Graduate students Yu Feng (Physics) and Saumya Saurabh (Chemistry) have been awarded the Astrid and Bruce McWilliams Fellowships in the Mellon College of Science in recognition of their outstanding creativity, dedication and commitment to carrying out leading-edge research. The fellowship provides tuition, stipend and fees for up to one year of graduate study, as well as $1,000 for conference travel or other research expenses.

Yu Feng, a fourth year Ph.D. student in the Department of Physics, works with cosmologists in CMU’s McWilliams Center for Cosmology to develop and analyze large-scale computer simulations of the universe. He has played a key role in creating the tools needed to handle the immense amount of data the center’s cosmological simulations generate. The MassiveBlack simulation, for example, models the first billion years after the Big Bang, and running the simulation generates tens of thousands of gigabytes of data. Feng developed a set of software tools to turn this data into high-resolution images. McWilliams Center cosmologists use Feng’s image-making technique in their research, and the code has been made publicly available.

“Yu is someone that can get anything done. He has off-the-charts programming and problem-solving skills,” said his thesis advisor Rupert Croft, an associate professor of physics. “His coding skill in particular has enabled him to move rapidly in a field where analysis of huge datasets is central to progress.”

Feng also delves into the data generated by the simulations to study the role that supermassive black holes play in the growth of structure in the universe. In related research projects, he is using a technique called Radiative Transfer to determine how stars and black holes have contributed to the reionization of the universe, and is looking for echoes of invisible quasars to learn more about the ionization and matter density of the universe.

The Astrid and Bruce McWilliams Fellowship in the Mellon College of Science was established in 2007 by alumnus Bruce McWilliams, president and CEO of SuVolta and a Carnegie Mellon University trustee, and his wife, Astrid McWilliams, to support graduate students conducting leading-edge research in emerging fields such as nanotechnology, biophysics and cosmology.