Research Overview

I am currently a Radboud Excellence Initiative fellow, working in the Department of Astrophysics. My interests are in the transient phenomena that occur in the later stages of stellar evolution, including gamma-ray bursts and fast radio bursts, and the evolution of the massive stars and binary systems which preceed these events.

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 the BPASS code (Binary Population and Spectral Synthesis). Observationally, I use data from across the electromagnetic spectrum to characterise the 'host galaxies' where the transients occur. By studying these galaxies, we learn about the stellar populations and conditions which are capable of producing the transients. These constraints are fed into the population synthesis codes and we see if our models can reproduce all of the observables that are associated with a specific class of transient. These include the event rates, host galaxy population age, metallicity, and offsets from the host. Once observation and theory converge on the same distributions of these parameters, the origin has likely been correctly identified.

I am also interested in a class of highly magnetised neutron star, or '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, are all unclear. Magnetars are interesting in their own right, but have also been invoked as playing a role in range of transient phenomena, including compact object merger (short) GRBs, collapsar (long) 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 evolution and chemical enrichment of galaxies. Several new facilities and large surveys across the electromagnetic spectrum and beyond are underway or due to start within 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: