Award funds dark matter research, new physics course

Monday, February 13, 2023
UNH professor Chanda Prescod-Weinstein in front of a painting of Black astronomers.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, received a 2023 Cottrell Scholar Award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. It’s the first time a UNH faculty member has received this prestigious award. Prescod-Weinstein, who is also a core faculty in women’s and gender studies, is among 25 outstanding teacher-scholars in chemistry, physics, and astronomy to receive the award of $100,000 to fund proposed research and science education. Cottrell Scholars are chosen through a rigorous peer-review process of applications from a wide variety of public and private research universities and primarily undergraduate institutions in the United States and Canada.

Prescod-Weinstein’s award will support a research and education project called “Searching for a Vibrant Dark Sector,” which seeks to understand dark matter by synergizing theoretical work and astrophysical observations. “It’s easy to think that the incredible universe that we see when we look through a telescope or a microscope is everything that’s out there. But it turns out that most of the matter in the universe is apparently invisible,” she says. “We see its effects in our astronomical observations, so we know it’s there, but so far we’ve never detected it in a lab.”

In addition, Prescod-Weinstein will develop and teach a new advanced undergraduate and graduate-level course, Physics in Social Context. The course aims to equip students with a foundation in the history of physics through an interdisciplinary lens, allowing them to develop proficiency at identifying and addressing anti-empirical practices and norms within physics classrooms or research environments.