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Do black holes affect how galaxies evolve?

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Aird
    Prof MG Watson
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Supermassive black holes are now thought to lurk at the centres of most, if not all, galaxies but it is still unclear how these black holes form, what drives their subsequent growth over the history of the Universe, and how they affect the galaxies they lie in. This project will focus on identifying growing black holes - seen as Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) - and connecting the properties of these AGN with the evolution of galaxies. Galaxies follow a range of evolutionary pathways, whereby their sizes, morphologies, star formation rates, stellar populations and gas properties change over time. However, the role of the black hole and the impact of an AGN on these processes remains unclear.

We will use the latest galaxy surveys, incorporating data from a wide range of facilities (including the Hubble Space Telescope and Keck Observatory) to identify galaxies at different cosmic epochs and in different evolutionary states. We will then use multiwavelength datasets - including X-ray data (from Chandra, XMM-Newton, and NuSTAR), infrared imaging, and radio data - to identify AGN within these galaxies and determine their properties (such as their luminosities, black hole accretion rates, and their level of obscuration). We will then track how the levels of AGN activity depend on the galaxy properties to provide new insights into the processes that fuel black hole growth across the evolving galaxy population and investigate the impact of black holes on the galaxies they lie in.

Funding Notes

This project is eligible for a fully funded STFC studentship which includes :
· A full UK/EU fee waiver for 3.5 years
· An annual tax free stipend of £14,777 (2018/19)
· Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)
· Conference Fees & UK Fieldwork

Studentships are available to UK/EU applicants who meet the STFC Residency Criteria; if you have been ordinarily resident in the UK for three years you will normally be entitled to apply for a full studentship.


The Formation and Evolution of Massive Black Holes
Volonteri 2012, Review for Science Special Issue

Cosmic X-ray surveys of distant active galaxies: The demographics, physics, and ecology of growing supermassive black holes
Brandt & Alexander 2015, The Astronomy & Astrophysics Review,

X-rays across the galaxy population - III. The incidence of AGN as a function of star formation rate
Aird, Coil & Georgakakis 2019,

X-rays across the galaxy population – II. The distribution of AGN accretion rates as a function of stellar mass and redshift
Aird, Coil & Georgakakis 2018, MNRAS,

Related Subjects

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