Professor Masui works to understand fundamental physics and the evolution of the Universe through observations of the large-scale structure – the distribution of matter on scales much larger than galaxies. Focussing on theory and data analysis, he works principally with radio wavelength surveys to develop new observational probes such as hydrogen intensity mapping and fast radio bursts (FRBs).
Hydrogen Intensity Mapping is a method for rapidly surveying the large-scale structure in three dimensions using the 21-cm radio line from hydrogen’s hyperfine transition. Masui has shown that the technique will ultimately permit precise measurements of properties of the early and late Universe and enable sensitive searches for primordial gravitational waves. To this end, he is working with a new generation of rapid-survey digital radio telescopes that have no moving parts are rely on signal processing software running on large compute clusters to focus and steer. An example is the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), of which he is a core science team member.
Fast radio bursts are brief and energetic flashes of radio light of unknown astronomical origin. Masui led the team that discovered an FRB with the Green Bank Telescope and proved that its source resides far outside our Galaxy. He has also shown that surveys of thousands of bursts can be used to study large-scale structure and is part of an effort to add new digital instrumentation to CHIME to perform such a survey.
Professor Masui studied engineering physics at Queen’s University in Canada and did his undergraduate thesis in experimental astroparticle physics working with Arthur B. McDonald. He received his PhD in physics in 2013 in the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA) at the University of Toronto. For his graduate work he led one of the first radio surveys to use hydrogen to map large-scale structure beyond the local universe. He then moved to the University of British Columbia as a Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Global Scholar and subsequently a CITA National Fellow. He joined the MIT Department of Physics as an Assistant Professor in 2018.
The fast radio bursts are likely generated by a magnetar, the most magnetic type of star in the universe.
Awards & Honors
- 2019 // Teaching with Digital Technology Award, Nomination, MIT
- 2016-18 // National Fellow, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics
- 2013-15 // Global Scholar, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
- 2012-13 // Walter C. Sumner Memorial Fellowship, Walter C. Sumner Foundation
- 2012 // Van Kranendonk Teaching Award, University of Toronto, Department of Physics
- 2010-12 // Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholar—Doctoral, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
- 2008-10 // Canada Graduate Scholar—Master’s, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
K. W. Masui, U.-L. Pen, and N. Turok, “Two- and Three-Dimensional Probes of Parity in Primordial Gravity Waves”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 118, 221301 (2017), arXiv:1702.06552.
K. Masui, H.-H. Lin, J. Sievers, et al., “Dense magnetized plasma associated with a fast radio burst”, Nature 528, 523 (2015), arXiv:1512.00529.
K. W. Masui and K. Sigurdson, “Dispersion Distance and the Matter Distribution of the Universe in Dispersion Space”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 115, 121301 (2015), arXiv:1506.01704.