Thesis Topic: AGN outflows impact on the molecular gas: linking observations with simulations

Thesis Supervisor: Vincenzo Mainieri (ESO), Tiago Costa(MPA), Chris Harrison(ESO/ Newcastle University)


A very active area of research in galaxy evolution focuses on the impact of AGN-driven outflows on the structure, composition and kinematics of the interstellar medium (ISM) of their host galaxies. There are currently various observational studies at low and high-z that attempt to quantify the impact of AGN activity on the molecular gas reservoir of their galaxies, and consequently on their ability to form new stars. On the theoretical side, there is now a wide variety of state-of-the-art hydrodynamic, cosmological simulations which model AGN-driven outflows and which can be used to quantify their impact on the ISM. While these simulations follow large populations of galaxies, they suffer from inevitable poor resolution which prevents them from resolving the cold gas phase of the ISM. 

The main goal of this PhD thesis is to make significant progress in linking our current observational and theoretical understanding of this topic.

The thesis will include:

a) Use proprietary and archival ALMA data to characterize the molecular gas content in a statistical sample of AGN spanning a wide range in AGN properties (redshift, bolometric luminosity, accretion rate, obscuration).

b) Post-processing of available state-of-the-art cosmological simulations (e.g. IllustrisTNG, EAGLE) to constrain the molecular gas properties for a statistical sample of galaxies to compare differences in the kinematics and composition due to AGN outflow activity 

This project aims at bridging observations and theory, and the balance between the two sides of the thesis will depend on the interest of the student.

This PhD position is financed by the ORIGINS cluster ( for three years starting in September 2020.


Figure. Left: ionized wind extending over a few kpc detected in NGC1365. Right: Hydro-dynamical simulation of an AGN driven outflow covering a wide range in gas temperatures.