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Dr Michael Wise named professor by special appointment of Observational High-Energy Astrophysics, in particular Black Hole Feedback, at the Faculty of Science at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). The chair was established on behalf of the Stichting Het Jan van Paradijs Fonds. Wise will combine the professorship by special appointment with his work as the general and scientific director of SRON, the Netherlands Institute for Space Research.

Michael Wise (photo: Kirsten van Santen)
Michael Wise (photo: Kirsten van Santen)

Wise’s research uses radio and X-ray observations to examine how the gases in galaxies interact with their central black holes and thus affect the evolution of the galaxy and the growth of the black hole itself, a process commonly known as black hole feedback. Radio observations with ground-based telescopes like LOFAR and the JVLA, combined with X-ray data from space observatories like Chandra and XMM-Newton, provide unique tools to understand how the energy released by material falling into these central black holes can affect their surrounding environment. Wise has in particular focussed on how black hole feedback from radio active galactic nuclei (AGN) in clusters of galaxies can drive the formation and evolution of large-scale structures. The gas-rich centers of clusters of galaxies provide a natural source of fuel for the black holes and are the ideal environments to study how the feedback process can evolve over cosmic timescales. Understanding the AGN feedback cycle in clusters of galaxies will be one of the primary scientific goals of the next generation of radio telescopes like the SKA and new ESA X-ray missions like Athena.

As a professor at UvA, Wise hopes to strengthen the existing collaboration between the high-energy astrophysics group at the Anton Pannekoek Institute (API) and the research programme at SRON the Netherlands Institute for Space Research where he is currently director. Active participation by the research community is essential for the scientific success of the missions SRON is currently developing as well as the definition of future missions the community will require to continue making new discoveries. By closer collaboration between SRON and API astronomers, Wise hopes to strengthen the world-leading position UvA holds in the field of high-energy astrophysics and ensure the Dutch astronomy community is well positioned to take full advantage of the scientific potential of future high-energy missions like Athena and LISA.

Wise will contribute to the teaching environment at the API through the supervision of Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD students, and specialised courses in the science and techniques of high-astrophysics and instrumentation. Along with instrumentation itself, Wise has contributed to many of the analysis techniques and tools used in the high-energy astrophysics community today. Working with API staff and students, he hopes to help develop the techniques and tools the next generation of high-energy instruments will require.

About Wise

Wise obtained his PhD from the University of Virginia in 1992. After serving as a postdoc at Kitt Peak National Observatory, Wise joined the staff of the Chandra X-ray Science Center in 1994 where he was part of the team that built and launched NASA’s flagship Chandra X-ray observatory. In 2006 he moved to the Netherlands to join the staff of ASTRON the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy to work on the design and construction of the LOFAR telescope. While at ASTRON, he served as LOFAR project scientist and later head of the Astronomy Group from 2014 to 2018. He has been in his current role as general and scientific director of SRON since 2019.

Wise has almost 30 years of experience with the construction and operation of large-scale astronomical facilities. He has led the successful preparation of large EC H2020 grants for research infrastructure funding as well as various research grants through NWO and NASA. He has authored or co-authored over 125 refereed publications and was co-founder of the journal Astronomy and Computing. He has served as president of the International Astronomical Union’s Commission B2 on Data and Documentation and is currently a member of the CSIRO ATNF Steering Committee, member of the COSPAR executive committee on behalf of the Netherlands, and vice-chair of the ESA Science Programme Committee.