I am a PhD student in the Astronomy and Astrophysics group at the University of Warwick working with Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay. My research focuses on the identification and characterisation of white dwarfs within the Gaia survey. I completed my MSci undergraduate degree, Physics with Astrophysics, at Queen's University Belfast in 2018.
ESA’s Gaia satellite released its second astrometric catalogue in 2018, providing distances and velocities for over a billion stars. Using Gaia DR2 to select a sample of local white dwarfs, I intend to use this to derive the stellar formation history of the solar neighbourhood. With this catalogue, and extending it beyond the local area, it will also be possible to find more exotic white dwarfs which can provide insight into other areas of astrophysics.
During my time at Warwick, I have undertaken 25 nights of astronomical observations. These have been split between the William Herschel Telescope and the Isaac Newton Telescope at the Observatorio del Roque de Los Muchachos on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands.
Other research interests
I am also interested in exoplanets, including white dwarf planetary systems. My master's research was aimed at fitting a time-series dataset, obtained with FORS2, to retrieve a transmission spectrum of WASP-96b and search for atomic absorption features in its atmosphere. Carrying on from this, I hope to also research evolved planetary systems during my PhD.
Gaia white dwarfs within 40 pc II: the volume-limited northern hemisphere sample -- McCleery, J. et al., MNRAS (2020)
Gaia white dwarfs within 40 pc I: spectroscopic observations of new candidates -- Tremblay, P.-E., et al. MNRAS (2020)
"An absolute sodium abundance for a cloud-free 'hot Saturn' exoplanet" -- Nikolov, N. et al. Nature (2018)
- "The Gaia 40 pc Northern Hemisphere Sample" - (Warwick, June 2020)
- "The Story of Stellar Metamorphosis" - A talk based on, and analysis of, pseudoscience (Warwick, June 2019)
The northern hemisphere Gaia 40 pc sample is available here, in both csv and fits format.
I currently mark the 2nd year undergraduate AS2: Astronomical Spectroscopy lab books, for the PX271 Physics Skills module. The primary role of this work involves marking the student's lab books to determine how well they have conducted the experiment, recorded their results, how well they have understood the underlying physics, and whether they have properly considered errors. I also need to liaise with the lab demonstrator and the staff in charge of the experiment to finalise my results. After this, I meet with the students individually to give them personalised feedback on where they have lost their marks and what they can improve upon in future.
Previously I took first-year undergraduate assignment classes; this involved marking a set of assignments each week and leading a class with those students in which we went through their worksheet. The purpose of these classes, at least from my point of view, was to make sure the students understood the physics in the worksheets rather than just getting good marks. The topics covered include a wide range of areas to provide general foundational knowledge for first-year physics students. (e.g. classical mechanic/special relativity/E&M/quantum phenomena). I have also helped with marking first-year exam scripts for the PX145 Physics Foundations Module.
I am very passionate about physics outreach; I regularly volunteer for events at the university and local schools with the Warwick Planetarium, as well as departmental open days at the University. I recently wrote an article about spotting nebulae as part of the groups "Astronomy at a Distance" series. I am always keen to give talks, or simply answer some questions, feel free to contact me!