1996-2000: University of Wisconsin Madison (USA), degree in Astronomy and Math; 2000-2005: Doctoral Studies at Utrecht University (The Netherlands) and the European Southern Observatory (Germany)
Bachelors degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics, PhD in Astrophysics
After my PhD I worked at University College London for 1.5 years, Harvard University for 1.5 years, Cambridge University for 2 years, University of Exeter for 1 year, “Excellence Cluster” in Munich for 2 years, and now I’m a Professor of Astrophysics in Liverpool
Professor of Astrophysics in Liverpool
Liverpool John Moores University
Favourite thing to do in my job: Having a question in the morning, finding the data needed to answer the question during the day, and knowing the answer before I leave in the evening.
I use the Hubble Space Telescope to study massive bursts of forming stars that happen when galaxies collide.
When galaxies collide, it takes hundreds of millions of years for the collision to happen. Of course this means that we can’t simply wait and see what will happen during the collision. Instead, we only see a single “snap shot” of each collision, which means that we need to study tens or even hundred of such collisions to gain a full understanding of what happens. One thing that often (although not always) happens during galactic train wrecks is that the collision causes millions of stars to form in a relatively (for astronomers anyway) short period, just tens of millions of years. My work focussing on these “starburst”, when and why they triggered, and how they affect their host galaxy.
My Typical Day
Generally spent behind a computer, analysing data taken with the Hubble Space Telescope or the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile.
What I'd do with the prize money
Contribute to a “Primary Space Talk” programme this December, to engage primary school students in science.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
curious, adventurous, energetic
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Many people, from teachers in high school to Carl Sagan on tv, and the books of Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes, for talking too much.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
If I couldn’t be an astrophysicist, I’d be a biologist.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Mumford and Sons
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Swimming in the “Devil’s Pool” on the rim of Victoria falls and looking over the edge, 108m down.
Tell us a joke.
I tried water polo but my horse drowned.