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College of Arts & Sciences

When the supermassive black hole at the heart of a galaxy is actively accreting material, it is called an Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN). These are the most luminous permanent sources of energy in the cosmos. They provide both a compelling laboratory for the behavior of material in extreme space-time environments and a portrait of the effect this “central engine” has on its host galaxy. The two appear to be intimately related: the black hole mass is tightly correlated with several host galaxy properties far beyond its sphere of influence, like the stellar velocity dispersion and luminosity of the galaxy’s stellar bulge. The process by which the black hole and the host galaxy interact is called AGN feedback: material fueling the black hole emits enormous luminosity, which can drive radiative outflows into the galaxy. Some AGN launch powerful relativistic, collimated jets that can span many times the stellar extent of the host. Professor Smith uses ground-based optical IFU observations combined with JVLA radio imaging and X-ray Chandra imaging to study the effect of these outflows and jets on star formation and galaxy evolution.