Eli Visbal

2016 Regional Award Finalist — Post-Doc

Eli Visbal

Current Position:
Research Fellow

Center for Computational Astrophysics, Simons Foundation (Previously at Columbia University)

Astrophysics & Cosmology

Recognized for: Theoretical contributions to the studies of the formation of the first stars and black holes in the early universe

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Theoretical cosmology, first stars and supermassive black holes, large-scale structure of the Universe


PhD, Physics, Harvard University
AM, Physics, Harvard University
BS, Physics, Carnegie Mellon University

Dr. Visbal’s research is focused on understanding the emergence of the first stars, galaxies, and supermassive black holes in the universe. Measurements of the cosmic microwave background indicate that shortly after the Big Bang, the universe was relatively simple, consisting of a nearly uniform expanding medium of hydrogen and helium gas, dark matter, and radiation. A billion years later, the universe was highly complex, containing stars and galaxies. Dr. Visbal utilizes computer simulations and analytic techniques to describe this transition from simplicity to complexity.

As postdoctoral researcher, Dr. Visbal proposed a new formation mechanism for the first supermassive black holes, which may solve the puzzle of how they formed so quickly in the early universe. He also used recent observations of cosmic microwave background to constrain the properties of the first stars. As a graduate student, Dr. Visbal produced the first realistic simulations of the large-scale distribution of the first stars including the newly discovered “streaming velocity” between dark matter and gas.

My overarching goal is to create theoretical predictions of the formation of the first stars, galaxies, and supermassive black holes in the Universe. Comparing these predictions with upcoming observations will provide an important test for the standard model of cosmology.”

Key Publications:

  1. Visbal E, Haiman Z, Bryan GL. Limits on Population III star formation in minihaloes implied by Planck. MNRAS. 2015
  2. Visbal E, Haiman Z, Bryan GL. Direct collapse black hole formation from   synchronized pairs of atomic cooling halos. MNRAS. 2014
  3. Visbal E, Haiman Z, Bryan GL. A no-go theorem for direct collapse black holes without a strong ultraviolet background. MNRAS: Letters. 2014
  4. Visbal E, Barkana R, Fialkov A, Tseliakhovich D, Hirata CM. The signature of the first stars in atomic hydrogen at redshift 20. Nature. 2012

In the media:

Stars in the making. Harvard Gazette. August 2, 2012