Kelly Holley-Bockelmann, Vanderbilt University
On February 11, 2016, scientists announced the first detection of gravitational waves, a Nobel Prize‐level achievement and a profound moment for humankind. Prior to that moment, the only way we learned about the distant Universe is through the light we received. Light revealed that we live in an extraordinarily beautiful expanding and accelerating Universe — full of exoplanets, stellar explosions, other galaxies, and dark matter that pervades everything. And now, humanity has observed the ripples in space‐time caused by the motion of massive objects like black holes; these gravitational waves have opened a whole new window to the Universe of things we can’t see with light ‐ things that could change our understanding of the Cosmos.
Kelly Holley‐Bockelmann is an Associate Professor of Astronomy at Vanderbilt University, where she joined the faculty in 2007. She received her B.S. in Physics at Montana State University and her PhD in Astronomy in 1999 at the University of Michigan. After her PhD, she did postdoctoral work at Case Western Reserve University and the University of Massachusetts. In 2004, she joined the Center forGravitational Wave Physics at The Pennsylvania State University, where she became a big fan of gravitational waves and attended many talks on loop quantum gravity that left her scratching her head. Her main interests are in computational galaxy dynamics, black holes of all sorts, and gravitational waves. She is a recipient of a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation, is a Vanderbilt Chancellor Faculty Fellow, and her work has also been supported by NASA. Dr. Holley‐Bockelmann’s research on growing supermassive black holes and rogue black holes have been featured in many online and print media outlets, though she still gets a bit nervous talking to the press.
As a first‐generation college graduate within a family that sometimes lived below the poverty level, Dr. Holley‐Bockelmann has a deep interest in broadening the participation of women, minorities, and first‐generation college students in science. She is the Co‐Director of the Fisk‐to‐Vanderbilt Master’s‐to‐PhD Bridge Program, which is designed to mentor a diverse cohort of graduate students to develop the skills needed to succeed as a PhD scientist.