Josh Winn

Gravitational Lensing, Interferometry, and Education
Contact information:
Fellowship status:
Starting year: 2001
AAPF alumnus
Fellowship institution: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Current (or last known) position: Assistant Professor, MIT
Research Interests:

Most of my work has been on gravitational lenses. The light from distant galaxies is deflected and distorted by the gravity of galaxies in the foreground - an effect of Einstein's theory of general relativity. Occasionally, this effect causes multiple images of distant galaxies to appear in the sky. By finding and studying these cases of multiple imaging, we can measure the structure of galaxies, dark matter, and cosmic distances. I have also become interested in young stars and planets, through my involvement in the mystery of a particular young star called KH 15D that exhibits unusual eclipses. To do this work I have used optical telescopes, radio interferometers, and archival collections of astronomical photographic plates.

Education and Outreach Interests:

One of the best things about academia is that you are constantly granted the opportunity to share your intellectual passions with others. The main challenge of teaching physics and astronomy and, more broadly, communicating science, is to achieve crystal clarity without sacrificing accuracy or causing boredom. I always seek new ways to sharpen my skills as a scientific communicator. I have co-authored an optics textbook and moonlighted as a science journalist for The Economist. I have also taught physics and astronomy laboratory courses at MIT and Harvard, and recently I taught a course on cosmology for non-majors at Williams College.