Mariangela Bernardi

Mariangela Bernardi
Standing Faculty

Associate Professor

Research Areas: Astronomy, Cosmology

(215) 573-6251



  • Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania (2010-)
  • Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania (2005-2010)
  • Associate Researcher in Astrophysics, University of Pittsburgh (2004)
  • Associate Researcher in Astrophysics, Carnegie Mellon University (2002-04)
  • Associate Researcher in Astrophysics, University of Chicago (2000-02)

Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet, Munich, Germany (1999)
Laurea from Università di Padova, Italy (1995)

Research Interests

Mariangela Bernardi is currently an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania. Early-type galaxies are her main research interest. She assembled, maintained and analyzed the ENEAR database used for peculiar velocity studies; it is still the only all-sky early-type galaxy database. She demonstrated that chemical compositions of early-type galaxies in the ENEAR sample show little dependence on environment. She also made the first direct measurements of the distributions of galaxy sizes, masses and velocity dispersions in the SDSS database; analyzed the Fundamental Plane at z ~ 0.1; and demonstrated that velocity dispersion is the key physical parameter which determines early-type galaxy properties. She has published work on the IGM and quasars at intermediate and high redshift and is acknowledged as an SDSS builder. At Penn, she used the SDSS to assemble two different candidate samples for the most massive galaxies in the Universe; one sample contains the most luminous galaxies (usually called Brightest Cluster Galaxies) and the other contains galaxies with extremely large velocity dispersions. Curiously, BCGs appear to be slightly less dense than average, whereas the other sample contains some of the densest galaxies in the Universe. Both samples constrain the latest galaxy formation models. The most massive galaxies are expected to contain the most massive black holes in the Universe; she has shown how some correlations traced by black hole hosts are different from those defined by the bulk of the SDSS early-type galaxy population. Her research program on galaxy formation and evolution complements the Penn astrophysics research program, whose main focus is on issues related to dark matter and dark energy. Her research will benefit from Penn's membership in the Dark-Energy Survey (DES) and the Large-Scale Synoptic Telescope (LSST).