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Sheperd Doeleman    

Astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard University & Director of the Event Horizon Telescope

Sheperd Doeleman is the project director of the Event Horizon Telescope and an astrophysicist with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. His research focuses on problems in astrophysics that require ultra-high resolving power. His work employs the technique of very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI), synchronizing geographically distant radio dishes into an Earth-sized virtual telescope. In addition to his work at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and for the Event Horizon Telescope, Doeleman is a Harvard senior research fellow and a project co-leader of Harvard's Black Hole Initiative.

Doeleman's research includes work at the McMurdo Station on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica and as assistant director of the MIT Haystack Observatory. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and was the recipient of the DAAD German Academic Exchange grant for research at the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie. He leads and co-leads research programs supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory ALMA-NA Development Fund, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the MIT International Science & Technology Initiatives (MISTI), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation. Doeleman received his BA from Reed College and completed a PhD in astrophysics at MIT.

Doeleman's interests focus on problems in astrophysics that require ultra-high resolving power—the ability to observe fine details of cosmic objects. His research employs the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), in which widely separated radio dishes are combined to form an Earth-sized virtual telescope. He has used this technique to study the atmospheres of dying stars, as well as stars that are just being born. His group at MIT pioneered development of instrumentation that enables VLBI to achieve the greatest resolving power possible from the surface of the Earth. He carried out the first global experiments using these new systems that successfully measured the size of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy and in the galaxy M87. He now directs the international Event Horizon Telescope project, whose goal is to image the event horizon of a black hole, the boundary where gravity is so strong that even light cannot escape. This project addresses several fundamental questions about the Universe: Do event horizons exist? Does Einstein's theory of gravity hold near a black hole? How do black holes affect the evolution of galaxies?

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