Thesis Topic: Fuelling the central engine of disc galaxies


Thesis Supervisors:

Main supervisor:  Eric Emsellem, Co-supervisor:  Klaus Dolag (USM/MPA)

Team includes: Eva Schinnerer (MPIA-Heidelberg), Jeremy Fensch (CRAL-Lyon), Florent Renaud (Lund)


PhD at ESO, funded by the ORIGINS Excellence Cluster.


Supermassive black holes (SMBHs) are present at the centres of most galaxies and seem to co-evolve with their hosts. Some become active, when specific physical conditions allow gas to be accreted in the vicinity of the SMBH. The activity is known to be intermittent, shutting on and off for short periods of 100 to 1,000,000 years.

The goal of the proposed PhD is to study the cause for this 'flickering' SMBH activity and identify the physical conditions which can turn on (or shut off) the SMBH activity. One key factor seems to be the availability and fuelling of gas from large galactic scales in the galaxy disks down to below the ~parsec scale, i.e. into the immediate vicinity of the SMBH itself.

Our team is conducting state-of-the-art numerical and observational experiments to further our understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies (via cosmological simulations, high-resolution simulations of galaxies, detailed modelling and observations using multi-wavelength messengers). One main focus is on the role of galactic structures on star formation, nuclear activity and the connection with black holes.

In that context, we seek a PhD student who will lead the development, running and exploitation of dedicated hydro-dynamical simulations at highest resolution possible to directly probe the variability and understand how it connects to the large-scale disk properties. The PhD project will benefit form the nearby LRZ supercomputing facilities and get the support from an international team of theorists and observers (e.g., Florent Renaud, Lund; Eva Schinnerer, MPIA-Heidelberg; Jeremy Fensch, CRAL-Lyon). This PhD project will also be a superb opportunity to connect with multi-wavelength observational astronomy via e.g., the unique PHANGS datasets (e.g., ALMA, MUSE/VLT, HST). We will guide and support the PhD student as to have her/him take full ownership of the project, its science objectives and results.


  • Renaud, Bournaud, Emsellem et al., 2013, MNRAS 436, 1836
  • Emsellem, Renaud, Bournaud et al. 2015, MNRAS 446, 2468
  • Guillard, Emsellem, Renaud, et al. 2016, MNRAS 461, 3620
  • Hopkins, Quataert 2010, MNRAS 407, 152
  • Tress et al. 2020, eprint arXiv:2004.06724