Research scientist with 4 years experience as a professional theoretical astrophysicist. Skilled at independent research involving novel lines of inquiry and technical writing.
Institute for Advanced Study – Princeton, NJ
September 2014 – September 2015
Wrote and published peer-reviewed scientific papers on independent scientific research
Presented research talks throughout the USA
National Radio Astronomy Observatory – Princeton, NJ
September 2011 – August 2014
Wrote and published peer-reviewed scientific papers on independent scientific research
Presented research talks at international scientific conferences in the USA, Europe, and Japan
Cosmic rays in star-forming galaxies
Cosmic rays and magnetic fields shape space weather. My primary work in astronomy is understanding the “space climate” of galaxies: how cosmic rays and magnetic fields interact with matter and starlight in the space between stars and regulate star formation. I constrained the properties of cosmic rays in other galaxies and in distant regions of the Milky Way from radio and gamma-ray emission. I concluded that interstellar plasma turbulence controls their magnetic fields.
“The Physics of the FIR-Radio Correlation: I. Calorimetry, Conspiracy, and Implications” (2011) by Lacki et al. in The Astrophysical Journal volume 717, pg. 1-28
“The Star-Forming Galaxy Contribution to the Cosmic MeV and GeV Gamma-Ray Background” (2014) by Lacki et al. in The Astrophysical Journal volume 786, article 40
“The Fermi Bubbles as Starburst Wind Termination Shocks” (2014) by Lacki in The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters volume 444, pg. L39-L43
“Sturm und Drang: Supernova-Driven Turbulence, Magnetic Fields, and Cosmic Rays in the Chaotic Starburst Interstellar Medium” (2013) by Lacki at arXiv:1308.5232
Cherenkov telescopes for visible light remote sensing
The highest energy gamma-rays are observed using Cherenkov telescopes stationed on the ground. These are giant telescopes (up to 10 meters in aperture) that detect the <1 ms long flash of light emitted when gamma-rays hit the upper atmosphere. They collect enormous amounts of light – comparable to the largest normal telescopes – but have poor angular resolution. I showed that these instruments are excellent for making measurements of bright astronomical sources, and calculated signal-to-noise ratios for photometric, spectroscopic, and polarimetric observations. I also demonstrated how they could be used for remote sensing of objects in the Kuiper Belt, using Fisher matrices and Bayesian models. The use of Cherenkov telescopes as receivers for optical laser communications has been proposed.
“Cherenkov Telescopes as Optical Telescopes for Bright Sources: Today's Specialised Thirty Metre Telescopes?” (2011) by Lacki in The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society volume 416, pg. 3075-3082
“On the Use of Cherenkov Telescopes for Outer Solar System Body Occultations” (2014) by Lacki in The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society volume 445, pg. 1858-1877
Standard interferometry applies the Fourier transform of electric field measurements to reconstruct the direction that radio waves are coming from. I have shown how interferometry could be generalized with other transforms. The entire class of Linear Canonical Transforms allows one to instantiate a linear optical system digitally. Of special importance is the Fractional Fourier Transform, which allows an interferometer to focus on nearby sources rather than at infinity, an important consideration for satellites in low Earth orbit. I also noted that the signal can be decomposed in time with non-Fourier transforms, which could prove useful for brief radio pulses.
“Arbitrary Transform Telescopes: The Generalization of Interferometry” (2015) by Lacki at arXiv:1501.07309
New methods in SETI
The viability of space travel is directly related to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) by Fermi’s Paradox. As an independent researcher, I have explored the feasibility of “cosmic engineering” enabled by interstellar travel. I demonstrated that it is possible to collect starlight very efficiently on planetary, stellar, and galactic scales using smart dust fashioned into resonant dipole antennas. The lack of such engineering strengthens Fermi’s Paradox. Other work includes the feasibility of cosmic-scale particle accelerators, Bayesian estimates for the rate that intelligence evolves on planets, and the commonality of the mysterious “Boyajian’s Star” phenomenon.
“SETI at Planck Energy: When Particle Physicists Become Cosmic Engineers” (2015) by Lacki at arXiv:1503.01509
“Type III Societies (Apparently) Do Not Exist” (2016) by Lacki at arXiv:1604.07844
“The Log-Log Prior for the Frequency of Extraterrestrial Intelligences” (2016) by Lacki at arXiv:1609.05931
“The High Rate of the Boyajian's Star Anomaly as a Phenomenon” (2016) by Lacki at arXiv:1610.03219
Programming languages: C (including GNU Scientific Library), Perl, Bourne shell scripts
Operating systems: Windows, Linux
Additional software: Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; LaTeX typesetting; gnuplot
Photometric and spectroscopic data reduction
Ph. D. in Astronomy from Ohio State University (July 2011)
Thesis: “Cosmic Rays in Star-Forming Galaxies” (adviser: Professor Todd A. Thompson)
B. S. in Astronomy & Astrophysics and in Physics from Pennsylvania State University (June 2006)
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