Aparna Venkatesan

Associate Professor

Full-Time Faculty

(415) 422-6152 Harney Science Center G30


I am currently Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of San Francisco. Please visit my GENERAL WEBSITE HERE for more details on my research, undergraduate projects, CV, recent awards and press etc.

Recent awards and grants include a Cottrell College Science Award from Research Corporation (2010-2013), a USF Jesuit Foundation Grant (2012), and a Dean's Scholar Award at USF for 2012-2013. I am USF's Lead Faculty Member in a 3-year $437,883 collaborative grant (2012-2015) from the National Science Foundation to the Undergraduate ALFALFA Team (UAT; PI: Prof. Rebecca Koopmann at Union College), a consortium of 19 undergraduate-focused institutions across the United States.

Please go here for my recent interview with Dr. Moira Gunn on Tech Nation with NPR on the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded for the discovery of the Higgs Boson.

My scientific interests lie primarily in theoretical cosmology, including studies of the first stars and quasars in the universe, cosmological reionization (particularly helium reionization), cosmic element synthesis, the cosmic microwave background, the physics and chemistry of gas in the early universe, dark matter, and gravitational lensing. I have also worked in high-energy astrophysics (gamma-ray bursts and cosmic rays) and planetary astronomy as an undergraduate and graduate student. My current work ranges from the above cosmology topics to projects in the fields of dark stars and astrobiology.

Undergraduate Research: I have worked with many physics major (and astrophysics minor) students on a variety of theory cosmology projects, as well as projects in radio astronomy through the ALFALFA Collaboration using 21 cm observations on the world's largest radio telescope, the 305-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. My students have presented their research results at national meetings and workshops, as well at the annual USF Creative Activity and Research Day events.

Recent students include Long Yan Yung (starting his PhD at Rutgers in Fall 2014) and Benjamin van Kleeck. Long Yan is also the 2012 recipient of the USF Arthur Furst scholarship award for his research.

Past students include Haley Sharp (M.S. in Planetary Astronomy, San Diego State, expected in 2014), Christopher Downing, and Yue Zhao and Yang Wang (graduate school, UCLA).

I joined USF's physics department in Fall 2006 to help expand the astronomy and astrophysics program. Through the introduction of new astronomy and astrophysics courses over the last few years, we now have two new undergraduate minors (astronomy, and astrophysics) as of Fall 2009. More details are now available on the departmental website.

MS and PhD, University of Chicago
BA in Astronomy, Cornell University
Theoretical Astrophysics
First Stars and Primordial Supernovae
Cosmological Reionization
Cosmic Element Synthesis
Microwave Background
Dark Stars