School of Physics Colloquium

The Formation and Growth of Massive Black Holes

Title: The Formation and Growth of Massive Black Holes

Abstract: Black holes as massive as several billion solar masses appeared within a billion years after the Big Bang.  The origin of these objects remains a mystery.  I will present three competing ideas on how such massive black holes may have formed in the early universe, (i) via catastrophic collapse of gas in protogalaxies, (ii) via rapid gas accretion onto the black hole remnants of the first stars, or (iii) via many successive mergers between black holes.  I will then discuss the role of ambient gas in facilitating mergers between black holes, producing unique observational signatures, and impacting low-frequency gravitational wave emission.  Upcoming observations with the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and with the space-based Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) will help us understand the origin of massive black holes, including the details of their mergers.

Bio: Professor Zoltan Haiman received a Physics B.S. degree from MIT, and he attended graduate school in Cambridge, UK, and at Harvard University, where he received a Ph.D. in Astronomy in 1998. He was chosen as one of Popular Science Magazine's Brilliant 10 young scientists in 2002 and received the New York Academy of Sciences Blavatnik Award in 2010 and a Simons Fellowship in Theoretical Physics in 2016. He was a Hubble Fellow at Princeton and a postdoc in the theory group at Fermilab, before joining the faculty at Columbia University.

Professor Haiman's research has explored broad topics in theoretical astrophysics and cosmology, including the formation of the first stars, the emergence of massive black holes, the nature of dark energy and dark matter, as well as astrophysical sources of gravitational waves.

Event Details


  • Date: 
    Monday, April 3, 2023 - 3:30pm to 4:30pm

Marcus Nanotechnology Bldg. Room: 1116-1118