Professor Richards is an expert in identifying quasars and active galactic nuclei (AGNs) through modern statistical methods using imaging data (pictures) from large astronomical sky surveys, notably the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Quasars and AGNs are galaxies in which new material is currently falling into supermassive black holes at their centers. Dr. Richards is interested in understanding the accretion disks that feed these massive black holes, how mass and energy ejected from these black holes influence the evolution of galaxies over time, and how large quasar samples may serve as statistical probes of the structure of the Universe.
Richards frequently uses space-based observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. He also draws upon ground-based optical and radio observatories, particularly the Very Large Array radio telescope. Dr. Richards is a member of the AGN science collaboration for the upcoming Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) project –in which Drexel participates– conducted at the Vera Rubin Observatory in Chile. He serves as the co-chair of the LSST AGN science collaboration.
Professor Richards has co-authored more than 250 articles in refereed journals and is the primary investigator on grant awards from the National Science Foundation and NASA. In 2007, Richards was one of 23 physicists, three in astrophysics, selected for the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan research fellowship and earned an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship in 2013 to support sabbatical work at the Max Planck Institut für Astronomie in Heidelberg, Germany. He is a frequent visitor to the University of Cambridge.