Brooke D. Simmons

Einstein Fellow, UC San Diego


I am currently an Einstein Fellow at UC San Diego's Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences. Prior to that I was the Henry Skynner Junior Research Fellow in Astrophysics at Balliol College, Oxford. I am also the Deputy Project Scientist for Galaxy Zoo and Principal Investigator of Galaxy Zoo Bar Lengths and The Planetary Response Network. As part of the Zooniverse team I have helped design citizen science projects and have done research into the practice of crowdsourcing.

My primary research focus is on the co-evolution of supermassive black holes and their host galaxies. I make extensive use of multi-wavelength data, including from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. I use parametric methods such as GALFIT to analyze galaxy light profiles and separate galaxies from their central active galactic nuclei (AGN), and have created my own method to determine bolometric luminosities of obscured AGN. I study AGN across many orders of magnitude in luminosity and mass, and I am particularly interested in the merger-AGN connection. This includes the possible lack of it: my recent work has found that merger-free processes can grow supermassive black holes to substantial masses, hosted in pure disk galaxies of proportionally large masses.

Three of the bulgeless galaxies from Simmons et al. 2013.
Bulgeless galaxies hosting growing black holes are excellent means to study secular co-evolution of black holes and galaxies in isolation from merger-driven processes. (Simmons et al. 2013)


Brooke Simmons
UC San Diego, CASS 0424
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093
+1 858 822 4463

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As an undergraduate, I took one art class per term. Walking between studio time and physics problem sessions during the first semester was slightly painful at first: switching between artistic and analytical modes wasn't always easy. Eventually I learned to go back and forth at will.

When I discovered ceramics, the balance felt complete. Pottery is a process blending physics, chemistry, mathematics and design. Plus, it's fun to get your hands dirty. It's even more fun to pour tea from a pot you transformed from nothing but a ball of moist earth into a functional, durable and hopefully beautiful vessel.

Finding creative solutions to challenging problems is a fundamental part of astrophysics. The connection between ceramics and black holes may not be immediately apparent, but sometimes non-obvious connections are the key to unraveling a research puzzle. So I try to carve out regular (if not frequent) time to cultivate my hobby.