Prof. Alan Heavens

ICIC director, FRSE

a.heavens@ null

Phone: +44 (0)20 7594 2930
Fax: +44 (0)20 759 47772
Room 1018e, Level 10
Imperial College London, Astrophysics, Blackett Laboratory, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2AZ, UK

My Research: Much of what we do in science is inference, which means we have some experimental data, from which we infer something about the Universe. For example we may wish to determine how fast the

Universe is expanding, or what the properties of Dark Energy are.  We can also ask broader questions such as whether the Big Bang model is the preferred theoretical framework, or whether Einstein's General Relativity is favoured over another gravity theory.  These are the sorts of questions I and colleagues at the ICIC address, through statistical analysis of cosmological data such as obtained from gravitational lensing, galaxy or microwave background surveys. My specific interests centre on developing and applying the best methods for extracting information from data, such as: using the full 

3D information from weak lensing surveys, and using size as well as shape information; transforming the data so that theory can be applied more effectively; compressing data in an optimised way so statistical analysis can be done very fast; looking for non-Gaussianity in the Cosmic Microwave Background and in the galaxy distribution.  The scientific questions I am interested in include whether or not the acceleration of the Universe is due to Einstein's cosmological constant, Dark Energy, or alternative gravity models. 






Video: A one-minute video presentation of my research is here.  
If you have longer, my inaugural lecture is here.
Bayesian Evidence from Planck MCMC chains
In Heavens et al. 2017 we compute Bayesian Evidence (or Marginal Likelihood for cosmological models from the Planck Monte Carlo Markov Chains. The Python code to do this is public here. The full grids of models and datasets analysed are: chains analysed separately, chains concatenated, and a folder of txt and csv files.  
Baryon Acoustic Oscillation scale.  Raul Jimenez, Licia Verde and I have measured the BAO ruler length - a key observable quantity in cosmology theories, in an almost model-independent way from supernova and galaxy clustering data.  The length, 101.9 +/- 1.9 Mpc/h is measured independently of General Relativity.  Published in December 2014 in PRL as Editors' Suggestion, there is an accessible account in their physics highlights.  The paper itself is here.  Picture courtesy of Chris Blake and Sam Moorfield.

Roles: Apart from being Director of the ICIC, I coordinate the Weak Lensing Magnification work package in the Euclid Consortium, was in the non-gaussianity group of Planck, served on the Science and Technology Facilities Council Science Board, co-chaired the STFC DiRAC High Performance Computing Resource Allocation Committee, and am External Examiner for the University of Manchester Physics degree.




Publications: Click here (opens in a new window)


Impact: Massive data compression techniques allow very rapid analysis of large data sets, such as come from medical scanners.  I am a founding director of Blackford Analysis, a spin-out company from the University of Edinburgh, which specialises in making radiology tasks more efficient.