Research Overview

I am currently a European Space Agency research fellow, based at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC, Noordwijk, the Netherlands). My interests are in the transient phenomena that occur in the later stages of (binary) stellar evolution, including gamma-ray bursts, fast blue optical transients and fast radio bursts.

My work straddles the boundary between theory and observation. On the theory side, I have experience with stellar evolution models and population synthesis techniques, making particular use of BPASS (Binary Population and Spectral Synthesis). Observationally, I have experience with transient follow-up, modelling transient emission and using data from across the electromagnetic spectrum to characterise transient host galaxies. By studying the host galaxies and the locations of transients within or around them, we learn about the stellar populations and conditions which are capable of producing these events.

I'm particularly interested in a class of highly magnetised neutron star, 'magnetars'. The origin of their exteme magnetic fields, how they fit into the zoo of other compact object systems (e.g. pulsars, XRBs), and whether they are formed in regular core-collapse supernovae from typical progenitors, are all unclear. Magnetars are interesting in their own right, but have also been invoked to play a role in range of transient phenomena, including short (mostly compact object merger) GRBs, long (mostly collapsar) GRBs, superluminous supernovae, fast blue optical transients and fast radio bursts. We are still trying to understand these transients, in terms of the emission physics, central power sources and also in the wider contexts of late stellar evolution and the chemical enrichment of galaxies. Many next-generation facilities and large surveys across the electromagnetic spectrum and beyond are beginning operations over the next decade, so this is a particularly exciting time to be exploring the origins of the most dramatic events the Universe has to offer!

An artistic interpretation of my PhD... well, this paper at least: