Robert J. Brunner
Outstanding Alumni 2014
- 1990 B.S., Physics, Purdue University
- 1992 M.S., Physics, Purdue University
- 1994 M.A., Astrophysics, The Johns Hopkins University
- 1998 Ph.D., Astrophysics, The Johns Hopkins University
Associate Professor of Astronomy, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
A native of Indiana, Robert Brunner graduated from Purdue University with a BS in Physics in 1990 and an MS in Physics in 1992. He then moved to the Johns Hopkins University to study Observational Cosmology with Professor Alex Szalay. While at Hopkins, Robert led the development of the data archive for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and he helped develop the virtual observatory concept. After completing his Ph.D research on the Statistical Approach to Galaxy Evolution in 1997, Robert moved to the California Institute of Technology where was a postdoctoral scholar in Astronomy working under Professors S. George Djorgovski and Tom Prince. At Caltech, Robert served as Project Scientist for the Digital Sky project working to develop new techniques to federate data from multi-wavelength surveys and visualizations of massive image data sets. He also led the development of data processing and archiving pipelines for the Digitized Palomer Observatory Sky Survey and the Palomar-Quest Survey.
In 2002, Robert moved to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to join the faculty in the Astronomy department and the research staff at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. He led the Illinois effort to join the Large Synoptic Survey project and was one of the founders of the Dark Energy Survey. Robert's research has focused on developing precision cosmological constraints by using large photometric data sets and on quantifying the variability of astrophysical sources to constrain the supermassive black holes that power active galactic nuclei. More recently, Robert has extended his research into the field of data science through the application of statistical and machine learning algorithms to large data. To aid in these new efforts, Robert has recently developed new informatics courses to train students to more effectively work with big data. Robert is also a faculty affiliate in the Computational Science and Engineering program and in the Beckman Institute, and is currently an Associate at the Center for Advanced Study at Illinois.