KU Department of Physics & Astronomy professor receives prestigious NSF award for black hole research

LAWRENCE — A prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation will help a University of Kansas Department of Physics & Astronomy professor continue her groundbreaking research on supermassive black holes.

Elisabeth Mills
Elisabeth Mills

Elisabeth Mills, assistant professor of physics & astronomy, received the five-year, $821,724 grant from the NSF for her research on how supermassive black holes grow.

Every galaxy, including our own Milky Way galaxy, has a supermassive black hole at its center, yet very little is known about how black holes gather gas from their surroundings to grow bigger. Mills will use some of the world’s most powerful telescopes — the Very Large Array in New Mexico and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile — to observe supermassive black holes in neighboring galaxies.

She said the goal is to study the gas and dust in the centers of these galaxies to better understand when they might become the next meal for the black holes.

“This work helps us understand how our own Milky Way galaxy has been formed and how the growth of its black hole might change our galaxy in the future,” Mills said.

The NSF’s CAREER Award is the most prestigious awards given to faculty members beginning their independent careers, providing support to advance outstanding research through commitment to teaching, learning and disseminating knowledge. Along with helping to develop her research, Mills said the award will also support department outreach efforts, like the popular KU AstroNights telescope viewing events, as well as provide important opportunities for KU students.

“It gives students in my group the opportunity to make connections with internationally renowned astronomers from all over the world and makes KU visible on an international stage,” she said. 

Arash Mafi, executive dean of KU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, said the award is a reflection of the high caliber of research taking place within the College.

“We are thrilled that the NSF has recognized Professor Mills’ innovative work,” Mafi said. “It is further proof of the world-class research being conducted across the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.”

About the College

The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (known as “The College”) is the heart of KU, educating the most students, producing the most research, and collaborating with nearly every entity at KU. The College is home to more than 50 departments, programs and centers, as well as the School of the Arts and School of Public Affairs & Administration.       

Mon, 03/11/2024


Ranjit Arab

Media Contacts

Ranjit Arab

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences