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Jessie Runnoe

Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy
Affiliated Faculty, Data Science Institute

Research Interests

My research focus is understanding the central engines of supermassive black hole growth, which we view as quasars, and using that knowledge to try to find supermassive black hole binaries. I am an electromagnetic astronomer, meaning I use traditional telescopes to observe light; I am member of the fifth iteration of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS V) which is a major ground-based large area survey, and I also use facilities like the Hubble Space Telescope. I am an associate member of the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) Collaboration and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) Consortium.

Current projects in my group include:

  • The big-data time-domain view of quasar central engines with SDSS V.
  • Electromagnetic searches for supermassive black hole binaries.
  • Preparation for multi-messenger astrophysics with the Vera Rubin Observatory.
  • Preparation for joint multi-messenger detections of massive black hole binaries with LISA.


Dr. Jessie Runnoe is an Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy and affiliated faculty with the Vanderbilt Data Science Institute. She was awarded a Dean’s Faculty Fellowship by the Vanderbilt College of Arts & Science in 2019 and her research is supported by NASA and the NSF. Runnoe has a deep commitment to making astronomy a diverse, equitable, and inclusive field: she is a member of the steering committee for the Establishing Multi-messenger astronomy Inclusive Training (EMIT) graduate training program, a faculty mentor for the Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program, and was a co-PI for Vanderbilt Physics & Astronomy’s participation in the APS Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Alliance. Runnoe is also a committed educator having revamped ASTR 8060: Observational Methods in Astronomy and developed a new course teaching hands-on computational skills for astrophysics in the big-data era (ASTR 8080: Data Mining in Large Astronomical Surveys). She joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2019.