Brandt named Fellow of American Physical Society

University Park, Pa. -- Niel Brandt, distinguished professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Brandt's election to the society is based on his leadership and numerous contributions to research involving deep extragalactic X-ray surveys and active-galaxy studies, which have advanced understanding of the physics and evolution of accreting supermassive black holes and other cosmic X-ray sources.

Brandt said he uses the X-rays emitted by the gas swirling around a black hole as a "flashlight" to "X-ray" material in the galaxy's nucleus. By analyzing the spectra and variability of the X-rays, he hopes to determine the mechanisms by which X-rays are emitted and to measure the rates at which supermassive black holes are swallowing the matter that surrounds them. He also is using X-ray data to discover new active galactic nuclei. His most recent research includes work on the two Chandra Deep Fields. These "pencil-beam" surveys are the most sensitive X-ray observations to date of the distant universe. The observations have found more than a thousand accreting supermassive black holes, many of which are obscured by dusty gas and, thus, are difficult to find with other approaches.

Brandt's previous honors include a Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowship in 1996, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in 1999, a National Science Foundation CAREER award in 2000 and the Newton Lacy Pierce Prize in Astronomy from the American Astronomical Society in 2004.

Brandt earned his bachelor's degree in physics at the California Institute of Technology in 1992 and his doctoral degree in X-ray astrophysics at Cambridge University in 1996. He was a Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics from 1996 to 1997.

Last Updated November 18, 2010