search our site

Tom Crawford,
Research Associate Professor

University of Chicago
Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics
5640 South Ellis Avenue, ERC 331
Chicago, IL 60637

Office: ERC 331
Phone: 773 702 1564

Current CV (last updated Mar. 2017)

About Me:
I'm a Senior Research Associate Research Associate Professor in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics. at the University of Chicago. For the past 12 years, I have worked on a single project: The 10-meter South Pole Telescope (SPT). The SPT is a millimeter-wave telescope designed to make sensitive measurements of diffuse, low-contrast emission, such as anisotropy in the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The first camera on the SPT was equipped with a highly sensitive, kilo-pixel bolometer array capable of mapping the arcminute-scale anisotropy of the CMB to exquisite precision. The primary goal of this camera was to survey 2500 square degrees of the southern sky, using the CMB as a backlight to discover distant, massive clusters of galaxies through their interaction with the CMB, known as the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich (SZ) effect. The full survey was completed in late 2011. In January, 2012, a new polarization-sensitive receiver was installed on the telescope. Two years of data has been collected with this receiver, and it is anticipated that the first year's data will lead to the first ever detection of B-mode polarization in the CMB. UPDATE: And it has! The result is now published in Physical Review Letters (see the article or the arxiv preprint). This result was named one of the top 10 breakthroughs in all of physics for 2013 by Physics World. As the data from this receiver continue to be collected, and exciting results continue to be published, we are simultaenously working on the third-generation receiver for the SPT. This camera will have over 15,000 polarization-sensitive detectors and will represent a fundamental step forward in our ability to characterize the CMB and the millimeter-wave sky.

In addition to the B-mode result, SPT data has led to numerous other groundbreaking publications. In 2008, the SPT team reported the first successful use of SZ observations to find previously unknown clusters. Using only 10% of the survey data, the team also published the first cosmological constraints from an SZ-selected sample of clusters, the first detection of the SZ power spectrum, the first millimeter-wave detection of fluctuations in the cosmic infrared background, and the discovery of a new family of high-redshift star-forming galaxies. More recently, the team has made the highest signal-to-noise measurement of the gravitational lensing of the CMB and used that measurement to constrain the clustering bias of galaxies, and the team has used the full 2500 square-degree survey data to make the most sensitive measurement yet of the damping tail of the primary CMB power spectrum.

During my time on this project, I have particpated in the design of the telescope, optics, and receiver; I have designed and built a protoype SPT receiver (which was used to qualify the secondary mirror and cold optics box); I have traveled to the South Pole with four other team members to assemble the primary reflector, and now I am one of the leaders of the data analysis effort. I also play an active role in planning for the next-generation "Stage-4" ground-based CMB experiment, CMB-S4, including co-authoring the "Snowmass" documents (I was corresponding author on the inflation document), which are generally considered the starting point of the case for CMB-S4, and as one of the core authors of the CMB-S4 Science Book.

I currently spend a lot of my time physically at the University of Texas Department of Astronomy, to whom I am indebted for their continuing hospitality.

If you want to know more about my academic & scientific history, here's my CV (last updated Mar. 2017).

Here are some photos from my most recent trip to the South Pole (January, 2014).

In my spare time, I moonlight as a professional singer.


UChicago Department of Physics
UChicago Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics
Enrico Fermi Institute

Other Kavli Institutes