Professor Richards is an expert in the identification of quasars and active galactic nuclei (AGNs) through modern statistical methods using imaging data (pictures) from large astronomical sky surveys, particularly the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Quasars and AGNs are galaxies in which new material is currently falling into supermassive black holes at their centers. He is particularly interested in understanding the accretion disks that feed these massive black holes, how mass and energy ejected from these black holes influences the evolution of galaxies over time, and how large quasar samples can be used as statistical probes of the structure of the Universe.
Richards frequently uses both space-based observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray
Observatory in addition to ground-based observatories such as the 4-m Mayall Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory and the Very Large
Array radio telescope. He is a member of the AGN science collaboration for the upcoming LSST project (of which Drexel is a member) and is the
co-chair of the extra-galactic working group that is planning a new sky survey using the Very Large Array. He is co-author of 192 articles in
refereed journal and is funded by both NSF and NASA. Prof. Richards was one of 23 physicists (3 in astrophysics) selected for the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan research fellowships in 2007 and earned an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship in 2013 to support
sabbatical work at the Max Planck Institut für Astronomie in Heidelberg, Germany where he is a frequent visitor.