Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Grant W. Wilson

Second Advisor

Guy Blaylock

Third Advisor

Mark Heyer

Subject Categories

Astrophysics and Astronomy | Instrumentation | Stars, Interstellar Medium and the Galaxy


One of the primary drivers in the development of large format millimeter detector arrays is the study of sub-millimeter galaxies (SMGs) - a population of very luminous high-redshift dust-obscured starbursts that are widely believed to be the dominant contributor to the Far-Infrared Background (FIB). The characterization of such a population requires the ability to map large patches of the (sub-)millimeter sky to high sensitivity within a feasible amount of time. I present this dissertation on the design, integration, and characterization of the 144-pixel AzTEC millimeter-wave camera and its application to the study of the sub-millimeter galaxy population. In particular, I present an unprecedented characterization of the "blank-field" (fields with no known mass bias) SMG number counts by mapping over 0.5 deg 2 to 1.1mm depths of ∼1mJy - a previously unattained depth on these scales. This survey provides the tightest SMG number counts available, particularly for the brightest and rarest SMGs that require large survey areas for a significant number of detections. These counts are compared to the predictions of various models of the evolving mm/sub-mm source population, providing important constraints for the ongoing refinement of semi-analytic and hydrodynamical models of galaxy formation. I also present the results of an AzTEC 0.15 deg 2 survey of the COSMOS field, which uncovers a significant over-density of bright SMGs that are spatially correlated to foreground mass structures, presumably as a result of gravitational lensing. Finally, I compare the results of the available SMG surveys completed to date and explore the effects of cosmic variance on the interpretation of individual surveys.