David Wake, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor and Lookout Observatory Director

Contact Information

  • dwake@unca.edu
  • 232-5036
  • 107 Rhoades/Robinson Hall


David Wake is an astrophysicist who studies galaxy formation and the growth of structure in the Universe. Much of his research focuses on how the properties of galaxies are governed by there relationship to their host dark matter halos and how that changes over time. David specializes in analyzing data from large surveys of many thousands to hundreds of thousands of galaxies as well as designing such surveys.

After his Ph.D David worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Durham University in the UK, before moving to Yale University as a Research Scientist. He then moved back to the UK to take up a senior research fellowship at the Open University before moving to UNC Asheville in 2017.

At UNCA David continues his research alongside undergraduate teaching and community education. His main research projects at the moment are focusing on data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the MaNGA part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey IV. He teaches introductory astronomy to students from across the university, as well as upper-level classes that make up the astronomy minor, and he mentors students in independent research projects. As Lookout Observatory Director he oversees all operations of UNCA's on-campus observatory including coordinating student docents in the delivery of public science programs that bring over 2000 members of the wider Asheville community to campus annually.

More information about research and teaching in astronomy and astrophysics at UNCA can be found on the Astronomy & Astrophysics website.

Information about events at Lookout Observatory can be found on the Lookout Observatory website.


  • Ph.D., Liverpool John Moores University 2004
  • M.Sc., Queen Mary University of London 1999
  • B.Sc., University of Nottingham 1996

Select Publications

1. Ashley Spindler, David Wake, Francesco Belfiore, Matthew Bershady, Kevin Bundy, Niv Drory, David R. Law, Karen Masters, José R. Sánchez-Gallego, Daniel Thomas, Kyle Westfall, Vivienne Wild, "SDSS-IV MaNGA: the spatial distribution of star formation and its dependence on mass, structure, and environment", Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 476, pp. 580 (2018)

2. David A. Wake, Matthew A. Bershady, Michael R. Blanton, Kevin Bundy, Aleksandar M. Diamond-Stanic, Renbin Yan, Niv Drory, Guinevere Kauffmann, David R. Law, Cheng Li, Nicholas MacDonald, Jose R. Sanchez-Gallego, Daniel Thomas, Jeremy Tinker, Anne-Marie Weijmans, "The SDSS-IV MaNGA Sample: Design, Optimization and usage considerations", The Astronomical Journal, Volume 154, pp. 86 (2017)

3. Ashley Spindler & David Wake, "The Differing Relationships Between Size, Mass, Metallicity and Core Velocity Dispersion of Central and Satellite Galaxies", Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 468, pp. 333 (2017)

4. Rachel Bezanson, David A. Wake, Gabriel B. Brammer, Pieter G. van Dokkum, Marijn Franx, Ivo Labbé, Joel Leja, Ivelina G. Momcheva, Erica J. Nelson, Ryan F. Quadri, Rosalind E. Skelton, Benjamin J. Weiner, Katherine E. Whitaker, "Leveraging 3D-HST Grism Redshifts to Quantify Photometric Redshift Performance", The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 822, pp. 30 (2016)

5. Kevin Bundy, Matthew A. Bershady, David R. Law, Renbin Yan, Niv Drory, Nicholas MacDonald, David A. Wake + 61 co-authors., "Overview of the SDSS-IV MaNGA Survey: Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory", The Astrophysical Journal Volume 798, pp. 7 (2015)

6. David A. Wake, Pieter G. van Dokkum, Marijn Franx, "Revealing velocity dispersion as the best indicator of a galaxy's color, compared to stellar mass, surface mass density or morphology", The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Volume 751, pp. 44 (2012)

7. Tomer Tal, David A. Wake, Pieter G. van Dokkum, "Observations of dark and luminous matter: the radial distribution of satellite galaxies around massive red galaxies", The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Volume 751, pp. 5 (2012)

8. Tomer Tal, David A. Wake, Pieter van Dokkum, Frank van den Bosch, Donald P. Schneider, Jon Brinkmann, Benjamin A. Weaver, "Mass growth and mergers: direct observations of the luminosity function of LRG satellite galaxies out to z=0.7 from SDSS and BOSS images", The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 746, pp. 138 (2012)

9. Britt Lundgren, David Wake, Nikhil Padmanabhan, Alison Coil, Donald York, "The Dark Matter Haloes and Host Galaxies of MgII Absorbers at z~1", Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 417, pp. 304. (2011)

10. David A. Wake, Katherine E. Whitaker, Ivo Labbe, Gabriel Brammer, Pieter G. van Dokkum, Marijn Franx, Ryan Quadri, Danilo Marchesini, Britt F. Lundgren, Adam Muzzin, and Mariska Kriek, "Galaxy Clustering in the NEWFIRM Medium Band Survey: The Relationship between Stellar Mass and Dark Matter Halo Mass at 1 < z < 2", The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 728, pp. 46 (2011)

11. David A. Wake, Scott M. Croom, Elaine M. Sadler, Helen M. Johnston, "The clustering of radio galaxies at z~0.55 from the 2SLAQ LRG survey", Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 391, pp. 1674 (2008)

12. David A. Wake, Ravi K. Sheth, Robert C. Nichol, Carlton M. Baugh, Joss Bland-Hawthorn, Matthew Colless, Warrick J. Couch, Scott M. Croom, Roberto De Propris, Michael J. Drinkwater, Alastair C. Edge, Jon Loveday, Tsz Yan Lam, Kevin A. Pimbblet , Isaac G. Roseboom, Nicholas P. Ross, Donald P. Schneider, Tom Shanks and Robert G. Sharp, "The 2dF-SDSS LRG and QSO Survey: evolution of the clustering of luminous red galaxies since z = 0.6", Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 387, pp. 1045 (2008)

13. David A. Wake, Robert C. Nichol, Daniel J. Eisenstein, + 21 co-authors, "The 2dF-SDSS LRG and QSO survey: evolution of the luminosity function of luminous red galaxies to z = 0.6", Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 372, pp. 537 (2006)

14. David A. Wake, Chris A. Collins, Laurence R. Jones, Robert C. Nichol and D. J. Burke, "The Environmental Dependence of Galaxy Colors in Intermediate-Redshift X-Ray-selected Clusters", The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 627, pp. 186 (2005)

15. David A. Wake, Christopher J. Miller, Tiziana Di Matteo, Robert C. Nichol, Adrian Pope, Alexander S. Szalay, Alexander Gray, Donald P. Schneider, Donald G. York, "The Clustering of AGN in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey", The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 610, pp. 85 (2004)

A full publication list can be found here.