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  Pinning down the evolution of supermassive black holes from cosmic noon to today


   Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

   Saturday, August 31, 2024  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Supervisory Team:  Sebastian Hoenig

Project description

All big galaxies in the universe host a supermassive black hole (SMBH) in their centre. And even though these black holes have masses of millions to billions times the mass of our sun, they only contribute 1% or less to the mass of the central galaxy where they are embedded. Yet, the SMBH masses and properties of this central galaxies are intimately related. Cosmic galaxy evolution models have shown that the active growth phase of SMBHs regulate the growth of the galaxy, but the detailed physical mechanism is yet unknown. A main reason for this open question is our lack of accurate, direct SMBH mass measurements over a large range of cosmic times. As a result, the SMBH growth history and the evolution of SMBH mass with respect to the galaxy mass are quite uncertain.

In this PhD project, you will become an integral part of a revolutionary experiment to overcome this problem. Southampton is leading the 4MOST TiDES Reverberation Mapping survey to measure almost 1,000 SMBH masses over the last 10 billion years of cosmic evolution. The 25,000 spectra of actively accreting SMBHs taken with 4MOST will be combined with high quality photometric light curves from the Rubin Observatory's LSST dataset to characterise time lags between the continuum light and emission lines, which form the basis of the SMBH mass measurements. You will be exploiting these data and present the first SMBH masses from the combination of these state-of-the-art surveys. Given the wealth of unprecedented spectral and photometric data, there is a lot of new phenomena to be discovered in addition to working towards the main science goal. The project will be set in an international research team with plenty of opportunities to collaborate with and visit researchers across the UK, Europe and beyond.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact

Entry Requirements

A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Closing date: 31 August 2024. Applications will be considered in the order that they are received, the position will be considered filled when a suitable candidate has been identified.

Funding: Funding for tuition fees and a living stipend are available on a competitive basis. Funding will be awarded on a rolling basis, so apply early for the best opportunity to be considered.

How To Apply

Apply online: Search for a Postgraduate Programme of Study (soton.ac.uk). Select programme type (Research), 2024/25, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, next page select “PhD Physics (Full time)”. In Section 2 of the application form you should insert the name of the supervisor Sebastian Hoenig

Applications should include:

Research Proposal

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts/Certificates to date

For further information please contact:


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