Ben is co-supervising the DES photo-z working group, and is also active in the star/galaxy/QSO, LSS void, and cluster-clustering working groups.
Photo-z stands for photometric redshift, and means we are trying to estimate the distance to galaxies outside of own, found in photometric images, such as those taken by DES. He is currently trying to understand which photometric objects we can reliably make photo-z predictions for, and how to validate those photo-z predictions. Making predictions is easy, but we need to validate them, so that we can propagate the uncertainty through to the cosmological parameters we care about.
We asked Ben a few more questions — here’s what he had to say:
What is your favorite part about being a scientist?
Trying to understand some aspect of the Universe.
When did you know you wanted to be a scientist?
When I was about 8. When I figured out that manual labour wasn’t for me, and I wanted to know what time and matter are. Sadly I still don’t know about the latter. I do still think that manual labour isn’t for me.
What motivates / inspires you?
The possibility that we may uncover some secret the universe is hiding from us.
Do you have any hobbies or play any sports?
I play many sports, but most recently I’ve been playing a lot of beach volleyball. I’m in a team with my wife and we compete in tournaments.
What is your favorite space-related image, and why?
The static noise on an (old school) television. We’re watching the early-universe show again kids! It’s amazing.
What is your favorite book, movie, and/or TV show?
I don’t really have a favourite book, but I have been submerged in sci-fi and space opera for the best part of 10 years.
If you weren’t a scientist, what would your dream job be?
I’d be a student trying to become a scientist.
What is your secret talent?
My superpower is the ability to be too hot, irrespective of the weather!
Do you have kids? Do they want to be scientists too?
Nope. But I’d hope they would.
What do you think has been the most exciting advance in physics / astronomy in the last 10 years?
Did you see my latest paper ….. 😉
Any other fun fact about yourself that you’d like to share?
I can eat the same food every single day, for years and years, and never get bored.
Any advice for aspiring scientists?
Yes! Make sure you have a broad portfolio of skills, which are useful both inside and outside of science. E.g., incorporate useful programming languages, data analysis and statistical skills, and think about applied mathematics, as part of your education. The competition in academia is tough, and statistically, you probably aren’t gonna make it. But it’s darn fun trying! and through trying, you get to understand the Universe on a deeper level.