Physics and Astronomy, University of St Andrews
Tenure since 2016
A Galactic scale theory for star formation
One of the main questions humanity has been asking itself, and the world around us, concerns origins. The focus of my project is to study how stars form in galaxies like our Milky Way, providing the visible light of our night sky, and the chemical elements which make up planets and any life forms. Research to date on star formation has been mostly limited to studies of small-scale regions of molecular clouds with idealised initial conditions. The goal of this project is to expand on such work to larger scales, and include additional physics.
I will be constructing models of how spiral galaxies provide the birth place for stars, and how these stars affect their environments and any subsequent star formation. Analytical models will be used to examine how these birth places arise due to the large-scale motions in our galaxy. Numerical simulations will then be used to study the interaction of gas clouds, the effects of self-gravity, magnetic fields and the radiation emitted from stars, and how these combine to give the full spread of observable properties of stars and gas in our galaxy.
I graduated from the University of St Andrews in June 2016 with a first class MPhys degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics. During my five years at the university I consistently earned a place on the Dean’s list as well as various medals and prizes for academic performance. The prizes include: the Margaret Stewart Prize, awarded to the best first year student in astronomy and astrophysics; the J F Allen Prize, awarded to the best student in second year physics; the William David Brodie Prize, awarded to the most outstanding students in the junior honours physics class and the Scott Lang Prize, awarded to the most outstanding student in the senior honours class in astronomy and astrophysics. Most notably, in 2015, I was one of the recipients of the principal’s scholarship for academic excellence
In 2014 I was given funding by the EPSRC to work on a summer project titled “Thermal instabilities in galactic scale shocks and the triggering of star formation”. The experience was positive and encouraged me to later on apply for a PhD.
My final year project focused on describing the formation of high-mass close binaries using semi-analytical models. For my work I was awarded a prize for the best final year astrophysics project. The project was supervised by Professor Ian Bonnell, who is now one of my two PhD supervisors, the other supervisor being Dr Kenneth Wood.