Katelin Schutz works at the interface of theoretical particle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology. Her aim is to recover every bit of information about what our Universe is made of by considering how astrophysical systems would be affected with the addition of new particles and interactions. While primarily a theorist, Schutz sometimes gets her hands dirty with the data. In the course of thinking about astrophysical signs of new physics, she has harnessed the constraining power of:
the cosmic microwave background, the afterglow of the Big Bang;
the formation of large-scale cosmological structure, which causes our Universe to look clumpy (in the sense that galaxies are spattered around and not uniformly distributed);
the epoch of reionization, when the first stars and galaxies were “switched on”;
our galaxy, the Milky Way;
dwarf galaxies, mini-galaxies that are dominated by dark matter;
supernovae, extremely high-energy explosions of stars;
millisecond pulsars, which are the most stable clocks in our Universe (including atomic clocks made in laboratories on Earth).
The search for new particles and interactions is at somewhat of a crossroads: while we know that the Standard Model of particle physics is incomplete, there have been few hints of what nature has in store. With that in mind, Schutz plans to continue with a multipronged strategy on the astrophysics front, helping to ensure that no stone goes unturned. A major focus of her work is to determine what dark matter is made of, but she is also interested in the electroweak hierarchy problem, the strong-CP problem, inflation, the origin of the neutrino mass, and the nature of dark energy.