2017 Elizabeth Laird Lecture

The Elizabeth Laird Lecture series was initiated in 1970 to honour Professor Elizabeth Rebecca Laird—long-time associate, colleague and friend of the Physics Department at Western University. These lectures are designed to bring exciting discoveries by leading researchers from all over the world to the general public. In addition, this lecture series highlights individuals who have made significant contributions while overcoming challenges—either personal or professional—to recognize resilience in the face of adversity and demonstrate the often rocky road of scientific accomplishment to students.

This year, Western Science is pleased to welcome Dr Megan Urry, the founding Director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, who will be this year’s Laird Lecturer. Dr Urry’s research focuses on active galaxies and supermassive black holes. Among her many and distinguished achievements, Dr Urry is also known for her efforts to address the disparity of women in the natural sciences.

More details regarding Dr Urry's abstract can be found below.

Black Holes, Galaxies, and the Evolution of the Universe

Monday, 6th November 2017, at 5:00 pm in Spencer Engineering Bldg. Room 1059
Reception to Follow

Over the past 13.7 billion years, billions of galaxies developed across the Universe, each containing up to 100 billion stars. Simultaneously, very massive black holes grew at the center of those galaxies, by accreting surrounding matter; the most rapidly growing of these are called Active Galactic Nuclei, or AGN. The energy an AGN releases into its host galaxy can strongly influence its evolution. Indeed, theorists use this kind of “feedback” mechanism in cosmological simulations, in order to match the galaxy population today. So black holes are an important influence on the Universe, including our own Milky Way galaxy. We use multiwavelength infrared+optical+X-ray surveys to carry out a census of black hole growth, including in the heavily obscured systems that are undetected in optical/ultraviolet surveys. By developing a population model matched to the data, we find that most black hole growth must, in fact, be obscured. Also, we see that galaxy mergers may trigger some AGN, eventually leading to black hole mergers that generate strong gravity waves – a new probe of black hole evolution.