MSU astrophysicist Amy Reines has been awarded a grant from NASA to search for the origin of supermassive black holes. The three-year, $750,000 NASA Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research Grant (EPSCoR), will provide Reines with funding and support to continue her research into black holes, a subject to which she has dedicated her entire career.
Earlier this year, Reines led an investigation into the existence of supermassive black holes in dwarf galaxies, which were previously considered too small to host massive black holes. In this investigation, Reines searched 111 known dwarf galaxies within a billion light-years of Earth and found that 13 of the observed galaxies almost certainly had massive black holes within them. Speaking to MSU News Service, Reines said, “All of the black holes I had found before were in the centers of galaxies. These were roaming around the outskirts. I was blown away when I saw this.” Reines’ research has been contributing to a larger conversation about the existence of black holes in small galaxies, and her findings in this investigation will greatly change the way in which scientists look for black holes.
Reines’ interest in black holes of dwarf galaxies began in graduate school. During her research surrounding star formations in dwarf galaxies, she came across black holes, which were a novel discovery. Since then, her research has centered almost exclusively on the topic of black holes.
Reines is the first woman in Montana to be the primary investigator on a multi-year NASA EPSCoR grant. Several co-investigators are also included in this project from the physics and mathematics departments at MSU. Anne Lohfink, Ph.D. and David Nidever, Ph.D. are joining Reines from the physics department, and Dominique Zoosa, Ph.D. and Stacey Hancock, Ph.D. will be joining the investigation from the mathematical sciences department. In addition, Reines has expressed hope that several graduate students and postdoctoral researchers will be able to join this project. “As a mentor, I want to try to lift up the next generation of scientists,” Reines said in a statement to MSU News Service. “My hope is that this grant sets my group up for success and [that] we learn many interesting things along the way.”