Prof. Nate Bastian, Dr. Ben Davies and Dr. Ricardo Schiavon
Whether the stellar initial mass function (IMF) is universal or is instead sensitive to environmental conditions is of critical importance: The IMF influences most observable properties of stellar populations and thus galaxies, and detecting variations in the IMF could provide deep insights into the star formation process. Recently, it has been claimed that massive elliptical galaxies have a “bottom-heavy” IMF (too many low mass stars, relative to that seen locally). If true, this would have drastic implications for our understanding of how these galaxies formed and evolved. The project will be to test many of the assumptions that have gone into these works, as well as investigate the implications of such a strange IMF.