Pressing the common conceptions of the universe, assistant professor Tommaso Treu will speak next Thursday, March 12 about his research on dark matter and black holes.

The lecture — entitled “Dark Matter and Black Holes Over Cosmic Time” — will be held in the conference room of UCSB’s Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics and will address True’s research on galaxy formation and the complex interplay between ordinary matter and dark matter. His research won him the Harold J. Plous Award last June.

Treu will elaborate on what his award-winning studies mean to the world of astrophysics.

“There’s this standard model of how we believe galaxies form,” Treu said. “However we must look deeper and ask whether that model fits reality or not, which would determine whether or not to throw that model away. It’s all about understanding galaxies in cosmological context.”

In astronomy, dark matter is hypothetical matter that is undetectable by its emitted radiation, but whose presence can only be seen from its gravitational effects on visible matter. In his research, Treu examined common human perceptions of the universe in an attempt to get a broader view of galaxy formation.

Treu’s research achievements include the discovery of a “double Einstein ring,” which is a never-before-seen phenomenon of gravitational “lensing.” The lensing is extremely rare because it involves galaxies lining up perfectly in our universe, forming a light ring.

According to Treu, the gravitational lensing found in his research will redefine the contemporary perceptions of the cosmos.

“The gravitational lensing reveals an accelerating growth of our universe, which goes against common gravitational laws,” Treu said. “That means there’s some sort of energy accelerating the growth — what we call ‘dark energy.’ This is something that’s changing the way we think of the universe and how galaxies form, thus causing us to take a closer look at the standard model and judge how realistic of a model it really is.”

The Harold J. Plous Award is considered one of the university’s most prestigious faculty honors, and is given annually to assistant professors from the fields of humanities, social sciences or natural sciences.