Department Contact Information

Physics Department

Location: 180-204
Phone: (805) 619-5106
Fax: (805) 756-2435
Email: physics@calpoly.edu
Chair: Karl Saunders

Support Physics

Website Update

Vardha N. Bennert

Vardha N. Bennert

Associate Professor

Email: vbennert@calpoly.edu
Office: 180-622
Phone: 805.756.7317

Education


  • Ph.D., Ruhr-Universität Bochum, 2005
  • M.S., Ruhr-Universität Bochum, 2002
  • Vordiplom, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, 1999

Research Interests


  • Astrophysics
  • Active Galactic Nuclei
  • Black Hole Mass Scaling Relations And Their Evolution
  • Galaxy Interactions And Mergers

About


Dr. Vardha N. Bennert completed her PhD in 2005 on the astrophysics of active galaxies at the Ruhr-University of Bochum, Germany. She moved to the US for a postdoctoral researcher position at the University of California, first in Riverside, then in Santa Barbara. Dr. Bennert joined the faculty at Cal Poly in 2011. Dr. Bennert’s research interests focus on the central region of “active galaxies” (the black hole and the so-called narrow- and broad-line regions immediately around the black hole) and its relation to the host galaxy. Dr. Bennert is passionate about creating an inclusive learning environment that promotes and values diversity. In her free time, she loves to explore the outdoors of California, and is also on an inward journey, integrating meditation into her everyday life.

Teaching

Ever since I began teaching, I have simply loved it. I love to stimulate a sense of wonder and to satisfy the natural desire for a deeper understanding of the amazing world in which we live. It is important for me to always stress the big picture and the conceptual understanding, emphasizing how we actually have come to our current knowledge. If I look back to my own studies, a lot of the detailed knowledge has become buried, but the scientific methodology remains and I apply it in everyday life. My experience has shown me that the best learning is achieved when students start to communicate their knowledge by teaching others. A close interaction between teacher and students is important to me: teaching is not a monologue, it is a dialogue. I want to foster inquiry-based learning by encouraging students to ask questions and by guiding them to answers that they construct themselves, which provides satisfaction of self-achievement. I encourage students to think and observe by themselves rather than learn by rote memorization. I not only wish to share my knowledge and passion, but I believe that I can have a positive influence on students' careers and personal lives. I want students to take responsibility for their own lives, but also want them to know that I am here to support them and that I respect them as individuals. I am committed to an inclusive teaching environment. It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds (gender, identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, age, socio-economic status, culture or religious identity) and perspectives are well served and that students' learning needs are addressed both in and out of class. The diversity that students bring to this class is a resource, strength and benefit.

Since I joined Cal Poly, I have taught the following courses: Physics 141 (Mechanics), Physics 132 (Waves, Optics, Thermodynamics), Physics 133 (Electricity & Magnetism), Physics 211 (Modern Physics I), Astronomy 101 (Solar System), Astronomy 102 (Stars & Galaxy), Astronomy 302 (Stars & Galaxies), Astronomy 444 (Observational Astronomy), Physical Sciences 101.

Research

I am an observational astronomer, using some of the biggest (mainly optical) telescopes in the world. My research makes use of data gathered with the Hubble Space Telescope, the W. M. Keck Observatory (Hawaii), the Very Large Telescope (Chile), Gemini Observatory (Hawaii), the Shane and Nickel telescopes of Lick Observatory (California) and others. Together with an international team of collaborators (including Cal Poly undergraduate students), we analyze images and spectroscopy of so-called active galaxies. Active Galaxies are galaxies with a supermassive black hole in their center that is currently growing by accretion of gas. Using a technique known as reverberation mapping, the mass of the supermassive black hole can be determined in a time-consuming observational campaign. I am particularly interested in the connection between the supermassive black hole and the host galaxy.

I am frequently including Cal Poly undergraduate students in my research. Here is a list of previous students. (Students marked with an * wrote their Senior Thesis on their research which can be found at Kennedy Library). If you are interested in conducting research with me, please send me an email. I am particularly interested in including students from diverse backgrounds in my research.

*Tomas Snyder (2019/20): AGN Host Galaxies as Imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope

*Nick Yee (2018/19/20): Differential Photometry of Active Galaxies

Jonathan Hood (2018/19/20): Spectroscopy

Naina Asarvala (2018/19): The Seoul AGN Monitoring Project: Remote Observations with the 1m Nickel Telescope of Lick Observatory

Matthew Salinas (2017/18/19): The Seoul AGN Monitoring Project: Remote Observations with the 1m Nickel Telescope of Lick Observatory

Tatiana Gibson (2017/18/19): The Seoul AGN Monitoring Project: Remote Observations with the 1m Nickel Telescope of Lick Observatory

Michael Ross (2017/18/19): The Seoul AGN Monitoring Project: Remote Observations with the 1m Nickel Telescope of Lick Observatory

Ellen Glad (2017/18/19): The Seoul AGN Monitoring Project: Remote Observations with the 1m Nickel Telescope of Lick Observatory

*Chance Spencer (2016/17/18/19): The Seoul AGN Monitoring Project: Remote Observations with the 1m Nickel Telescope of Lick Observatory

Priscilla West (2017): The Seoul AGN Monitoring Project: Remote Observations with the 1m Nickel Telescope of Lick Observatory

*Isak Stomberg (2016/17): Probing the Black-Hole-Mass-Galaxy Connection of Active Galaxies Using 2D Galaxy Fitting Techniques on Near-Infrared Images

*Edward Donohue (2016/17): Comparing the width of the [OIII]5007A emission-line with that of [OII]3727A

Donald Loveland (2016/17): Studying the Spatial Variations of the [OIII] Line Profile in a Sample of ~100 Local Active Galaxies

*Jake Haslemann (2015/16): Probing the Source of Ionization of Gas in Local Active Galaxies

*Sean Lewis (2015/16): The width of the [OIII]5007A emission line and its relationship to the stellar velocity dispersion of the bulge in a sample of local active galaxies

*Aaron Line (2015/16): Probing the Fitting Accuracy of Active Galaxy Spectra

Maren Cosens (2014-16): Black Hole Mass Measurements and Broad FeII Emission in a Sample of ~100 Local Active Galaxies

*Jordan Runco (2014/15): Frequency of Seyfert Type Transitions in a Sample of ~100 Local Active Galaxies

*Nathan Milgram (2013-15): Studying the Relationship Between the [OIII] Line Profile and the Stellar Velocity Dispersion in Active Galaxies

*Charlie Showley (2012/13): Determining the Location of the Coronal Line Region within Local Active Galactic Nuclei using [Fe VII] Emission Line Properties

*Bryan Scott (2012-14): Time Variation of the Broad Hbeta and Halpha Emission Lines in Active Galactic Nuclei

*Kelsi Flatland (2012): Determining Stellar Velocity Dispersion in Active Galaxies: Is the [OIII] Width a Valid Surrogate?

*Rebecca Rosen (2011/12): Orbital Velocities of Clouds in the Broad Line Region of Seyfert 1 Galaxies

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Here is a list of selected publications. A full list of publications can be found at the Astrophysics Data System, selected articles can be directly retrieved from Digital Commons at Cal Poly. Note that since September 2009, I am publishing as Vardha Nicola Bennert or Vardha N. Bennert (instead of Nicola Bennert).

Ding, Silverman, Treu, Schulze, Schramm, Birrer, Park, Jahnke, Bennert et al. 2020, ApJ, 888, 37: The Mass Relations between Supermassive Black Holes and Their Host Galaxies at 1<z<2 with HST-WFC3

Husemann, Bennert et al. 2019, ApJ, 879, 75: Jet-driven galaxy-scale gas outflows in the hyper-luminous quasar 3C 27

Keel, Bennert, et al. 2019, MNRAS, 483, 4847: AGN photoionization of gas in companion galaxies as a probe of AGN radiation in time and direction

Bennert, Loveland, Donohue et al. 2018, MNRAS, 481, 138: Studying the [OIII]5007A emission-line width in a sample of ~80 local active galaxies: a surrogate for sigma_star?

Williams, Pancoast, Treu, Brewer, Barth, Bennert et al. 2018, ApJ, 866, 75: The Lick AGN Monitoring Project 2011: Dynamical Modeling of the Broad-line Region

Woo, Le, Karouzos, Park, Park, Malkan, Treu, Bennert 2018, ApJ, 859, 138: Calibration and Limitations of the Mg II line-based Black Hole Masses

Pancoast, Barth, Horne, Treu, Brewer, Bennert et al. 2018, ApJ, 856, 108: Stability of the Broad-line Region Geometry and Dynamics in Arp 151 Over Seven Years

Keel, Lintott, Maksym, W. Peter, Bennert et al. 2017, ApJ, 835, 256: Fading AGN Candidates: AGN Histories and Outflow Signatures

Husemann, Scharwaechter, Bennert et al. 2016, A&A, 594, 44: Large-scale outflows in luminous QSOs revisited. The impact of beam smearing on AGN feedback efficiencies

Runco, Cosens, Bennert et al. 2016, ApJ, 821, 33: Broad Hbeta Emission-Line Variability in a Sample of 102 Local Active Galaxies

Husemann, Bennert et al. 2015, MNRAS, 455, 1905: The MUSE view on the luminous radio-quiet QSO PG 1307+085: A normal elliptical host galaxy interacting with its environment

Bennert et al. 2015, ApJ, 809, 20: A Local Baseline of the Black Hole Mass Scaling Relations for Active Galaxies. III. The Black Hole Mass - Stellar Velocity Dispersion Relation

Park, Woo, Bennert et al. 2015, ApJ, 799, 164: Cosmic Evolution of Black Holes and Spheroids. V. The Relation between Black Hole Mass and Host Galaxy Luminosity for a Sample of 79 Active Galaxies

Keel, Maksym, Bennert et al. 2015, AJ, 149, 155: HST Imaging of Fading AGN Candidates I: Host-Galaxy Properties and Origin of the Extended Gas

Barth, Bennert et al. 2015, ApJS, 217, 26: The Lick AGN Monitoring Project 2011: Spectroscopic Campaign and Emission-Line Light Curves

Barth, Pancoast, Bennert et al. 2013, ApJ, 769, 128: The Lick AGN Monitoring Project 2011: Fe II Reverberation from the Outer Broad-line Region

Harris, Bennert et al. 2012, ApJS, 201, 29: A Local Baseline of the Black Hole Mass Scaling Relations for Active Galaxies. II. Measuring Stellar Velocity Dispersion in Active Galaxies

Keel, Chojnowski, Bennert et al. 2012, MNRAS, 420, 878: The Galaxy Zoo survey for giant AGN-ionized clouds: past and present black hole accretion events

Bennert et al. 2011, ApJ, 742, 107: The Relation between Black Hole Mass and Host Spheroid Stellar Mass out to z~2

Bennert et al. 2011, ApJ, 726, 59: A Local Baseline of the Black Hole Mass Scaling Relations for Active Galaxies. I. Methodology and Results of Pilot Study

Bentz, Horne, Barth, Bennert et al. 2010, ApJ, 720, 46: The Lick AGN Monitoring Project: Velocity-delay Maps from the Maximum-entropy Method for Arp 151

Green, Myers, Barkhouse, Mulchaey, Bennert et al. 2010, ApJ, 710, 1578: SDSS J1254+0846: A Binary Quasar Caught in the Act of Merging

Bennert et al. 2010, ApJ, 708, 1507: Cosmic Evolution of Black Holes and Spheroids. IV. The BH Mass - Spheroid - Luminosity Relation

Bentz, Walsh, Barth, Baliber, Bennert et al. 2009, ApJ, 705, 199: The Lick AGN Monitoring Project: Broad-Line Region Radii and Black Hole Masses from Reverberation Mapping of Hbeta

Lintott, Schawinski, van Arkel, Bennert et al. 2009, MNRAS, 399, 129: Galaxy Zoo: `Hanny's Voorwerp', a quasar light echo?

Bennert et al. 2009, ApJ, 695, 276: A Search for H2O Megamasers in High-z Type-2 AGNs

Bennert et al. 2008, ApJ, 677, 846: Evidence for merger remnants in early-type host galaxies of classical QSOs

Canalizo, Bennert et al. 2007, ApJ, 669, 801: Spectacular shells in the host galaxy of the QSO MC2 1635+119

Bennert et al. 2006, A&A, 459, 55: Size and properties of the narrow-line region in Seyfert-1 galaxies from spatially-resolved optical spectroscopy

Bennert et al. 2006, A&A, 456, 953: Size and properties of the narrow-line region in Seyfert-2 galaxies from spatially-resolved optical spectroscopy

Leipski & Bennert 2006, A&A, 448, 165: [O III] profile substructure in radio-quiet quasars

Bennert et al. 2006, A&A, 446, 919: Size and properties of the NLR in the Seyfert-2 galaxy NGC 1386

Bennert et al. 2004 A&A, 419, 127: Spectral characteristics of water megamaser galaxies II. ESO 103-G035, TXS 2226-184, and IC 1481

Bennert et al. 2002, ApJ, 574, L105: Size and structure of the Narrow-Line Region of quasars

Mindfulness, Meditation and Work-Life Balance

The importance of mental health and the need for finding the right balance between work and life is something that is rarely, if ever, talked about, especially in academia. Yet, many students and faculty alike feel the stresses of modern life and suffer from the pressure to constantly perform, achieve and produce. According to the American College Health Association, students reported stress, anxiety, sleep trouble and depression as the top four impediments to academic achievement, and 9 of the 10 top factors are mental health and/or coping skills related. Throughout my career and particularly as an undergraduate research mentor, I have been approached by numerous students reaching out for help in their own individual struggles. The resulting uplifting conversations inspired me to start offering workshops on mindfulness, meditation and work-life balance.

To balance my work as a teacher and researcher, I have been practicing various forms of meditation and body-awareness practices (such as Tai Chi, QiGong, Yoga and conscious dance) for the past 20 years of my life and have also participated in numerous personal growth workshops.

For more information, please visit this webpage.(link coming soon)

Related Content

Planning for Fall

Learn More Here