I am a Research Fellow working in the field of extra-Solar planets. I gained my PhD in 2013 from the University of St Andrews, and before that studied Physics at the University of Warwick, graduating in 2009. After working as a postdoc at Queen's University Belfast, I joined the Astronomy group in March 2015.
I work in the PLATO Science Management (PSM) Office, and am funded by the UK Space Agency.
PLATO (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) is the European Space Agency's M3 mission to search for extra-solar planets, or exoplanets. It is designed to find planets the size of Earth, around stars like the Sun, on orbits roughly similar to the Earth's. It will also find thousands of other planets, and characterise their radii, masses, and ages.
PLATO uses the transit method to find planets. The satellite will have 26 small telescopes, which will stare at a large area of the night sky, looking for the regular dimming of stars that is caused by an exoplanet passing in front of them. PLATO also has a strong asteroseismology aspect to it. The mission will investigate the structure of thousands of stars by examining how they vibrate.
As part of the PSM Office, I work closely with Prof. Don Pollacco, the PSM Coordinator, to manage the PLATO-related work of hundreds of scientists from across Europe, and to prepare for the launch of PLATO in 2026. Since starting this position in 2015 I have assisted with two major ESA reviews, coordinated budget preparation and applications, and carried out efficiency and performance studies, amongst other duties.
I'm interested in all aspects of exoplanetary science. My PhD was focused on the interactions between hot Jupiter planets and their host stars, particularly through gravitational tides. These can have a significant effect on the evolution of a planetary system, both from the star and the hot Jupiter's points of view. Past projects include:
- Tidal spin-up of host stars
- Tidal realignment of planetary orbits through measurement of the spin-orbit alignment angle using the Rossiter-McLaughlin effect
- The accuracy of different stellar age estimation methods for exoplanet hosts
- The presence of circumbinary planets in CoRot, Kepler, and K2 data
- The existence, or otherwise, of additional, outer bodies in hot Jupiter systems that might have caused misalignment
- Tidal decay of hot Jupiters
- Follow-up of SuperWasp planetary candidates (photometry and radial velocities)
Since beginning my PhD I have been part of the SuperWASP collaboration, and continue to work with the SuperWASP planet discovery and follow-up team. I am also involved in a large program to follow-up K2 planetary candidates.
A full list of my publications can be found here, courtesy of ADS.
PDF copies of my PhD thesis are available on request should you wish to read it. All science chapters in my thesis are also available as refereed journal articles (listed above).
A copy of my CV can be downloaded here.
Copies of the conference talks (as well as some outreach talks) that I have given are availble on request. You will need a pdf viewer to open them.
As well as research activities, I am very interested in public engagement and scientific outreach activities. I'm happy to talk to anyone about my research, or about what it's like working in astronomy; please feel free to get in touch if you'd like me to visit your group/society/meeting.
I have several pre-prepared talks, all of which can be adjusted to suit different time slots:
- "A Brief History of Exoplanets" - an overview of major exoplanet discovery techniques and results; suitable for astronomy societies and older school groups.
- "Falling Planets" - a more technical talk about tidal interactions; suitable for astronomy societies.
- "Exoplanet Hunting: the life of a professional astronomer" - an overview of my inspirations and career path, with the basics of exoplanet discovery; suitable for schools and youth groups.
In 2017, while observing on HARPS at ESO's La Silla observatory, I was interviewed about my work for a short documentary: Looking Out There (link to Vimeo)
I also swim regularly, and am very interested in water safety. I was a member of the RLSS for over ten years, and have previously been qualified as a lifesaving instructor.
I am a first aider within the Physics department, currently trained to First Aid at Work standard.