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Spotlight: Detecting the Inner Workings and Origins of Our Universe With NIST Researcher Tammy Lucas

Two people wearing coveralls in a "clean room" lab look up at a disk-shaped object that one of them is holding.
Credit: NIST

NIST researcher Tammy Lucas is building tools to help astronomers and cosmologists look back in time to the earliest moments of our universe — and see what we can learn about our world now.

One of Tammy’s projects will help researchers study the leftover radiation from the early universe, aka the cosmic microwave background. The detector she’s working on will be used in the skies over the Chilean desert. They’re attempting to see what the universe looked like in its earliest moments.

Tammy is also working on a satellite mission — currently slated to launch in 2035 — that will study supermassive black holes and attempt to answer how black holes are created and how they influence their surroundings. Since nothing can escape the gravitational field of a black hole, there are some challenges in measuring and observing them, and those require engineering solutions. Tammy and her team are hard at work on making these measurements possible.

But for Tammy, it’s all worth it to be a problem-solver and an explorer. She’s ready to learn what these detectors and sensors might bring back to researchers here on Earth.

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Released July 20, 2023, Updated August 1, 2023