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Prof Stephen Smartt is one of the global leaders in astronomy in the field of sky surveys and astrophysical transients.  He has led innovative international projects that survey the sky to find supernovae and exploding stars. Using the Hubble Space Telescope he has directly identified which stars explode as supernovae making a series of discoveries that advanced our understanding of what causes these brilliant flashes of light across the Universe.

He has discovered the most powerful of these explosions, called “super-luminous” supernovae and with his team proposed that the theory of magnetic neutron stars causes their extreme brightness. In 2017, he led one of the international teams to pinpoint the source of gravitational waves, showing that merging neutron stars can produce a brief but luminous explosion powered by radioactivity of the heavy elements. 

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Open to PhD applications in the field of 

  • Supernovae physics, kilonovae and developing models for lightcurves and spectra
  • Massive data processing and machine learning
  • Supernovae: observations and models of exotic transients
  • Machine learning and image recognition algorithms
  • Surveying the sky in the time domain – the new era
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Research students

PhD title: The electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational wave sources  

Name: Owen McBrien 
Years of Study: 2017 - 2020
Country: Northern Ireland


PhD title: Supernovae: observations and models of exotic transients 

Name: James Gillanders  
Years of Study: 2018 - 2021
Country: Northern Ireland


Alumni: where are they now?

Dr Giacomo Terreran 

PhD title: Energetic supernovae  

Years of Study: 2013 - 2017
Country: Italy
Current position: Postdoc at North Western University, Chicago




Dr Matt Nicholl 

PhD title: Superluminous supernovae   

Years of Study: 2012 - 2015
Country: UK
Current position: Postdoc at Harvard, winner of the 2015 Royal Astronomical Society's Penston for best astrophysics thesis in UK, winner of Royal Astronomical Society’s Fellowship for 2018



Dr Janet Chen 

PhD title: Host galaxies of superluminous supernovae

Years of Study: 2012 - 2015
Country: Taiwan
Current position: Humboldt fellow at Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics , Munich



Research at Queen's

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