Dr Tamara Davis, University of Queensland/University of Copenhagen

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01 September 2011

On the hunt for dark energy

In 1998 astronomers made an astonishing discovery-the expansion of the Universe is not happening at a steady rate, nor is it slowing down toward eventual collapse. Instead, it is accelerating. The discovery required a complete rethink of the standard model used to explain how the Universe works.

Tamara is on the hunt for this dark energy. By using the Australian National University’s new telescope SkyMapper to measure the movement of supernovae, she hopes to gain a better understanding of dark energy.

It a complicated study like this requires a lot of scientists with expertise in various areas from observational analysis to theoretical physics. Tamara used her L’Oréal For Women in Science Fellowship to pull together an international team of scientists to work on this project.


2004      PhD (Astrophysics), University of New South Wales
(winner of best Science PhD from UNSW that year)

1999      Bachelor of Science, First Class Honours (Physics and Astronomy), University of New South Wales

1999       Bachelor of Arts (Philosophy), University of New South Wales

Career highlights, awards, fellowships and grants

2008-      Research Fellow, School of Mathematics and Physics,
University of Queensland

2008-      Associate Professor, Dark Cosmology Centre
Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

2006-2007     Postdoctoral Fellow, Dark Cosmology Centre,
Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

2005-2009     SuperNova Acceleration Probe team to develop a new space telescope for US Department of Energy/NASA

2004-2005 Postdoctoral Fellow, Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Australian National University

Research highlights

  • 24 journal articles and reviews, including six as first author, and two book chapters that in total have over 1,000 citations
  • Frequent visits to international laboratories to collaborate and learn new techniques (incl. Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, NASA Goddard Spaceflight Ctr, U. Chicago, Princeton, U. British Columbia, U. Copenhagen, U. Oslo, Imperial College London, Cambridge)
  • Participated in the ESSENCE supernova survey which discovered over two hundred supernovae and used these to measure the changing expansion rate of the Universe. Used this data to rule out two of the leading alternative cosmological models based on quantum theories of gravity
  • Jointly made the first unambiguous detection of time dilation due to the expanding Universe. This was cited amongst the journal Nature’s research highlights for August 2008
  • With the Australian team WiggleZ’ making the largest ever three-dimensional map of the distribution of galaxies in the Universe, in order to test new cosmological theories that explain dark energy

Tamara Davis, University of Queensland / University of Copenhagen (photo credit: timothyburgess.net)

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