Universe @ UC Davis Initiative

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The Universe@UCDavis initiative is a multi-disciplinary collaboration on the frontier of physics and information, devoted to astronomical probes of Dark Energy and Dark Matter. These topics are regularly singled out for their excitement and promise in national reports, as reflected by Science magazine's #1 question of our time: "What is the Universe Made of?"

This field is currently observationally driven and the ultimate facility for probing this new physics is the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). In August 2010 the NAS "Astro-2010" Decadal Survey ranked LSST as its top priority for the next ground-based facility. NSF and DOE, combined with private gifts, are supporting the project. The expected data volume generated is estimated to reach 10 Petabytes per year.

This Initiative extends the successful buildup in cosmology at UC Davis and extends the reach of that buildup across disciplines into critical areas of mathematics, computer science, and physical sciences that are key to the success of the program. The Initiative thus involves tight collaboration between the departments of Physics, Computer Science, Math, and Statistics, as well as collaborators at Google, and with scientists at LANL and LLNL. We seek creative individuals interested in the science who have a strong record of contributions in one or more of these four disciplines. Faculty associated with this initiative are involved in the LSST project science and technology and are working on innovative database mining techniques for exploration and discovery with extremely large cosmological data sets, machine learning, and complex systems. This includes massive Monte Carlo simulations from cosmology, instrument systematics, and data interpretation in a cosmological or astronomical context (phenomenology). Data from existing optical astronomy surveys and new "LSST precursor" surveys will be available for both scientific analysis and technology development.

Six tenured or tenure-track faculty positions were allocated, two in Physics, two in CS, and one each in Math and Statistics. There is an overall Initiative Steering Committee to establish the overall hiring goal for each year and coordinate with the four departments. The timeline for this cluster hiring is two years. The cluster hiring strategy will be to attract world-class individuals whose research uniquely matches the cross-disciplinary needs of Universe@UCDavis. Additional research faculty positions are being added to the Universe Initiative. A number of postdoctoral scholars and graduate students have joined the Universe collaboration.

Our current understanding of the exciting Petascale Data challenges associated with the LSST data management and analysis is summarized here. It will take a focused collaboration of computer scientists, statisticians, and mathematicians, working with LSST astrophysicists, to develop solutions to these challenges. The results will be widely applicable to petascale data challenges in other areas of science and engineering.