What does Brian do?

Mostly Brian sits at a desk and stares at a computer like everyone else these days. What he stares at includes very nice pictures of galaxies and things (probably mostly stars) that explode, like supernovae and gamma ray bursts. (Well, that and a lot of code. Mostly code.) Brian is an astrophysicist at LBL working on supernova cosmology. You can click here to get to his LBL work page. Not long ago he was working with the Experimental Astrophysics Group at Fermilab on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey which is a project to produce a 3D map of a very large chunk of the universe by taking pictures of and getting distances (redshifts) for the largest sample of galaxies ever. Of course, in doing this, a lot of interesting things pop up, like the most distant quasars ever seen, entirely new kinds of stars, and lots of those really great pictures of galaxies that Brian stares at. His current project along these lines involves the study of compact groups of galaxies.

Brian did his graduate work in experimental astrophysics at The University of Michigan's Department of Physics. He worked to build and operate the first generation of the Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment and before that worked on its predecessor, the Gamma Ray Optical Counterpart Search Experiment. These experiments searched for optical flashes associated with gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) using real time data from BATSE received via GCN (the system formerly known as BACODINE). The ROTSE team managed to detect the first flash of this type ever seen, and it was also the brightest object ever observed. This explosion was at a redshift of z = 1.6 (most of the way across the universe) yet slightly brighter than 9th magnitude, which would have been visible in binoculars to anyone who had known where to look for the few seconds before it dimmed. At its brightest, this single explosion was as bright as a million galaxies, or a thousand quasars, which made for quite a nice ending to Brian's dissertation. Closer to home, ROTSE-I also happened to catch the very spectacular breakup of a Leonid Meteor during the 1998 shower. The ROTSE collaboration includes members from Lawrence Livermore National Lab's Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Los Alamos National Lab's NIS-2, The University Of Michigan's Department of Physics and now Fermilab thanks to Brian.

In addition to all of the above experimental astrophysics (with a touch of astronomy) that Brian has concentrated on so far, he's also interested in (but doesn't necessarily claim any special knowledge about) large scale structure and mass distributions, and, on a smaller scale, stellar physics and neutron stars (in all the fun and amusing situations they find themselves in). He will also always have a soft spot for planetary physics and geophysics, and a continuing interest in high energy astrophysics in general. As for more earthbound pursuits, Brian spends some amount of free time studying and photographing archaic North American rock art. He has a B.S. in Physics and Psychology (with a neuroscience bent) from Kansas State University and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Michigan. At various times he also explored majors in computer science and computer engineering, but he's gotten over that now.

Amusing graphics for this page provided by The Rocket Shop

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Brian C. Lee / bclee@umich.edu