A Step Closer to Understanding Black Hole and Galaxy Co-Evolution: Determining Circumnuclear Disk Geometrie


I intend to work with Dr. Erin Hicks during the school year 2021-22 on a research project that will expand my previous work analysing the role of the Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) and the host galaxy properties in influencing the black hole’s growth during the AGN phase. This expanded analysis will help gain headway in understanding how galaxies and their black holes coevolve, something we have come to understand to be a fundamental component of shaping galaxies into what we see today. I will do this by determining the stellar and gas disk geometry from fits to the kinematics in a statistically significant sample of Seyfert galaxies and then applying this new knowledge to update my previous research measurements and expanding it to consider the influence of fundamental AGN and host galaxy properties This improved analysis will more conclusively demonstrate how the characteristics of the circumnuclear star and gas in the AGN influence the growth of the supermassive black hole, thus helping us analyze the cycle of fueling the AGN phase of galaxy evolution. The question behind the coevolution of black holes and their host galaxies remains a major mystery in modern astrophysics and my research will provide insight to answering this question. The goals of this project are highly relevant to NASA’s Cosmic Origins Program and to supporting primary science drivers for future NASA facilities, such as the James Webb Space Telescope.


Name: Cassidy Berger, Undergraduate Student

Institution: University of Alaska Anchorage

Major: Mathematics

Mentor: Erin Hicks, ekhicks@alaska.edu

Award: Apprenticeship

Funding Period: 2021 to 2022