Department of Physics and Astronomy
Hugh Couchman did his undergraduate and graduate work at Cambridge University, receiving his Ph.D. from the Institute of Astronomy in 1986. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA) from 1986-88 and then spent three years in Astronomy at Toronto before moving to the Department of Astronomy at the University of Western Ontario in 1991. He joined the Physics and Astronomy department at McMaster in 1999. He is a Fellow of the CIAR Cosmology programme.
Dr. Couchman's research is concerned with the structure of the post-recombination universe: from about 105 years after the big bang to the present, ~1010 years later. Much of his work uses numerical simulation to model the formation of cosmic structure from the small density fluctuations that exist at early times, to the rich array of structures that we see at present; ranging from sub-galactic scales, to galaxies such as our Milky Way, to groups and clusters of galaxies and finally to superclusters and the large "walls" and "voids" detected in galaxy surveys.
Observed cosmic structures span a range of scales of at least 1010 in mass, posing a tremendous challenge for computer simulation. Typically we can only hope to model a range of scales two or three orders of magnitude smaller than this. A key focus of this research has been to develop efficient numerical tools which enable the highest resolution simulations to be achieved for given computational hardware.
With students and collaborators, Couchman uses computers ranging from fast desktop workstations to massively parallel supercomputers to model a range of problems in cosmic structure formation; one of the ``Grand Challenges'' of the computational sciences. A particular interest is an investigation of the formation of galaxies - frequently dubbed the Holy Grail of contemporary cosmology - and the formation of the first cosmic objects at early epochs in the universe.