I'm a final year PhD student in the Astronomy and Astrophysics group at the University of Warwick and my supervisor is Dr Elizabeth Stanway.
Studying Local Analogues of some of the First Galaxies
In my PhD project I'm investigating local analogues to high-redshift Lyman break galaxies (LBGs): Lyman break galaxies are some of the earliest star-forming galaxies in the Universe, and it is therefore possible to gain insights into the formation and evolution of galaxies, their star formation histories and other aspects by studying these objects. Due to their high redshifts (the ones whose analogues I am looking at have redshifts of around z~5 - meaning that they are about 12.5 billion lightyears away), it is difficult to observe these LBGs directly. Therefore, in order to learn more about them, it becomes necessary to look for local analogues which exhibit similar star formation density and spectra.
Spectral Energy Distribution Fitting
Having established a sample of local ultraviolet-luminous galaxies, I wrote a Python program to fit their spectral energy distributions (SED) in order to derive their physical properties, such as masses, star formation rates, dust reddening, dominant stellar population age and metallicity.
The SED fitting confirmed that the estalished local analogues sample indeed gives a valid analogous way of studying this kind of galaxy (see link to the paper below).
In order to learn more about the dust content and star formation rate densities within these objects, I undertook radio observations of a subset of the galaxies. These were done with the VLA and ATCA, showing that these systems are indeed star formation driven, with no strong indications of the presence of active galactic nuclei. I am awaiting the completion of further VLA observations before publishing the results of this analysis...
To determine how reliably the photometric selection criteria produce spectroscopically confirmed Lyman break analogues, I am working on the analysis of AAOmega spectra of ~200 potential LBA candidates.
Publications & Presentations
Stanway, Greis et al 2014 Interpreting high [O III]/Hbeta ratios with maturing starbursts
March 2015 - presentation, Dissecting Galaxies Near & Far (ESO conference); Santiago, Chile
June 2014 - poster, National Astronomy Meeting; Portsmouth, UK
Posters about my work
Research Postgraduate Poster Showcase 2014 (for which I won the Science faculty prize worth £150)
Outreach & Volunteering
Dec 2015 - current: author and editor for astrobites blog
summer 2014 - current: outreach to local primary and secondary schools
October 2014 - current: Postgraduate Student Staff Liason Committee reprentative for Athena Swan
October 2013 - October 2014: Postgraduate Student Staff Liason Committee reprentative for astronomy
I've written and co-written proposals for various telescopes, including ALMA, HST, IRAM, VLA, WHT, VLT, AAO, and APEX.
Explaining my Research to School Students
The following is a brief explanation of my work which I wrote when trying to explain my work to school students:
I use light of many different wavelengths - from UV (which is the stuff that can give you sunburn - though in my case it's much much weaker) to radio waves - to study galaxies which resemble the first galaxies that formed in the universe. Some of the telescopes I use are in deserts, while others are orbiting the Earth in outer space. Since the very first galaxies that formed are really really far away, not a lot of light reaches us from them. So instead of studying them directly, I look at slightly more nearby ones which look similar - though those "nearby" ones are still about 3 billion light years away! I then use models of many different kinds of stars to see what mixture of young and old stars fits best to the observations. This helps us understand not only the earliest galaxies in the universe, but also the origins of our galaxy, the Milky Way.