Colby College Professor to Lecture at Williams College on Formation of Galaxies

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., April 6, 2017—Elizabeth McGrath, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Colby College, will deliver the Clare Boothe Luce Guest Lecture at Williams College at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, in room 203 of the Thompson Physics Building.

The title for McGrath’s lecture is “Formation and Evolution of the Most Massive Galaxies in the Universe.” McGrath says the average rate at which galaxies are forming stars in the universe has decreased by more than an order of magnitude over the last 10 billion years. Understanding why some galaxies stop forming stars, while others do not, is one of the key unanswered questions in astrophysics today. Observations in the local universe suggest that the mechanism responsible for quenching star formation in galaxies may be intimately linked to their structural transformation from disks to spheroids. Until recently, it has been difficult to identify the first generation of quiescent galaxies in the early universe.

McGrath will discuss her work studying the first massive systems to appear, when the universe was less than half its current age. She will show that the properties of these galaxies are challenging our understanding not only of how star formation is quenched, but also how mass is assembled in a hierarchical universe. She will conclude by discussing an emerging picture of massive galaxy formation and evolution, and possible paths forward utilizing the next generation of astronomical facilities that will be available in the not too distant future.
McGrath obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii in 2007. Her thesis, titled, “Formation and Evolution of Massive Galaxies and AGN in the Early Universe,” investigated the link between black hole activity and the growth of the most massive galaxies in the Universe. After leaving Hawaii, she was a researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she worked on designing new adaptive optics technologies to improve the image quality of ground-based telescopes. McGrath is a leader in the Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS), which is the largest sky imaging survey ever carried out by the Hubble Space Telescope, and she is working with colleagues to help define the science goals for the future Thirty Meter Telescope. She joined Colby College in 2012 as the Clare Boothe Luce assistant professor of physics and astronomy.


For building locations on the Williams campus, please consult the map outside the driveway entrance to the Security Office located in Hopkins Hall on Main Street (Rte. 2), next to the Thompson Memorial Chapel, or call the Office of Communications (413) 597-4277. The map can also be found on the web at