A world‐leading researcher in experimental astrophysics and cosmology, Chuck Bennett focuses on extending our understanding of the universe by observing the cosmic microwave background. He designs and builds novel instruments to study this faint afterglow of energy from the infant universe.
Bennett is the first Bloomberg Distinguished Professor to hold a joint appointment with the Applied Physics Laboratory. In step with One University goals to foster interdisciplinary collaboration across divisions, Bennett directs the Space@Hopkins. Space@Hopkins is an initiative that unifies space-related activities across the institution in robotics, astronaut health, planetary sciences, solar physics, Earth science, spacecraft engineering, sensors, and astrophysics.
He joined Johns Hopkins in 2005 after 20 years at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where he held the roles of Infrared Astrophysics branch head, senior scientist for experimental cosmology, and Goddard Senior Fellow. While at Goddard, he was the deputy principal investigator for the Differential Microwave Radiometer on the NASA Cosmic Background Explorer, or COBE and principal investigator for the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, or WMAP space missions.
Through his observations of light traveling from the edge of the observable universe, Bennett is able to observe how the universe began. In fact, Bennett’s research has already greatly clarified our understanding of the universe. WMAP provided spectacular and unprecedented results, precisely revealing the curvature, age, history, and composition of the universe. The series of papers that present the revolutionary WMAP results have together been cited more than 40,000 times, making them among the most influential series in the history of modern science.
Bennett serves as co-director of the undergraduate minor in space science and engineering, which is open to students of both the Krieger and Whiting schools. In his role, he is now be able to connect Homewood students to research opportunities at APL. He continues to teach undergraduate courses and provide substantive undergraduate research experiences while leading the Space@Hopkins initiative.
“I am truly honored and excited about the opportunity to expand beyond the position I already hold in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. I foresee an ever more promising future of space studies at Johns Hopkins by strengthening the ties between the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Applied Physics Lab,” Bennett said upon his new appointment in 2015. “Together we will strive to answer really big questions from our observations of the sun, Earth, and Pluto, all the way out to the edge of the observable universe.”
Bennett is currently the co-principal investigator, with Assistant Professor Tobias Marriage, of the Cosmology Large Angular‐Scale Surveyor, or CLASS, leading an international team in developing and employing an innovative next‐generation facility that will observe the cosmic microwave background from Chile’s Atacama Desert. With unparalleled capabilities, CLASS will search for a pattern of cosmic microwave background polarization imprinted by primordial gravitational waves generated at the beginning of the universe. In other words, CLASS will allow us to view what the universe was like 13.8 billion years ago. Detecting this signal has become one of the holy grails of physics: It will not only test the quantum-to-cosmos theory called “inflation” about how the universe began, it also may provide evidence on the connection between the two great pillars of modern physics: Einstein’s theory of general relativity and quantum mechanics.
Bennett is also part of the Euclid Consortium and is collaborating on the Japanese-led Prime Focus Spectrograph instrument, partially constructed in the university’s Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy. Both of these initiatives aim to solve the mysteries of dark energy and dark matter in the universe.
Bennett earned his bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Maryland and his doctorate in physics from MIT. He also trained in astrophysical instrumentation at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.