Tom Crawford,
Research Professor

University of Chicago
Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics
5640 South Ellis Avenue, ERC 433
Chicago, IL 60637

Office: ERC 433
Phone: 773 702 1564

Current CV (last updated Mar. 2021)

About Me:
I'm a Research Professor in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics. at the University of Chicago. For the past 18 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 the polarization-sensitive SPTpol receiver was installed on the telescope. This camera operated for five years and was primarily used to make deep temperature and polarization maps of a 500-square-degree sky region and ultra-deep maps of a 100-square-degree sub-region. Among the major results from SPTpol data was the first detection of B-mode polarization in the CMB. This result was named one of the top 10 breakthroughs in all of physics for 2013 by Physics World.

The newest receiver on the SPT is the SPT-3G camera. This groundbreaking instrument has a factor of 10 more detectors than SPT-SZ or SPTpol and hence maps the sky to the same noise level 10 times faster. Data from this receiver will be used, in conjunction with ultra-deep degree-scale measurements from the BICEP/Keck family of instruments, to detect or put unprecedented constraints on the energy scale of inflation, by measuring the level of tensor perturbations in the CMB. In addition, the unprecedentedly deep high-resolution measurements of 1500 square degrees of the millimeter-wave sky will lead to countless other important scientific results in cosmology, astrophysics, and beyond.

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.

In addition to the primary CMB science pursued with the SPT, we have also used the telescope to participate in the worldwide very-long-baseline-interferometry network, The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). The SPT provides some of the longest baselines for the EHT and is hence crucial for obtaining the highest-resolution information on the black hole at the center of our galaxy. Data from the SPT was used in the analysis that led to the creation of the first image of a black hole at event-horizon scales. For my small contribution to this result, I shared the 2020 Breakthrough Prize for Fundamental Physics with 346 of my closest friends.

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.

If you want to know more about my academic & scientific history, here's my CV (last updated Mar. 2021).

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