The Postgrads

Juan Hernandez


Hi, I have been actively involved in several outreach societies and events, mostly in my hometown of Mexico City. I am a member of SAFIR since 2008, which I joined during my undergraduate studies at the Engineering Faculty at UNAM. Recently, I joined the Sociedad Astronomica de Mexico, SAM, (founded in 1902) in an effort to return this historic society to it's prime, after several years (decades) of decadence. I'm currently the administrator of the Society's website and social networks (due to my absence from Mexico, it's the best way I can contribute).

I have given several outreach talks to basically every kind of public, from kindergarden kids and up. I have found a great satisfaction in transmitting what astronomers do and presenting the mysteries of the Universe in many different ways. I have also teached physics and mathematics to kids in middle and high school. I've presented on several astrodome visits in the local Southampton area and I love it :)

Juan's Website

Sam Connolly


Hi, I'm Sam, I'm an Astronomy PhD student, doing research into supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies, and how nearby gas behaves as it orbits them before eventually being sucked in. I mostly look the X-rays that are emitted by this gas, but also look at UV and radio emission. My supervisor is Professor Ian McHardy. I also did my undergraduate degree at the University of Southampton, including a year abroad at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Boston, USA, where I worked with Dr Saku Vrtilek on X-ray binaries. X-ray binaries consist of either a neutron star (very dense, dead star) or black hole which has a normal star similar to the sun orbiting around it. Because they are so close together and the black hole/neutron star is so dense, gas is sucked off the normal star and onto the dense object.

I love doing outreach because I love astronomy, so love talking about it and getting everyone interested in it! Non-scientists often ask the best questions, so talking to school students and members of the public is always great!

Sam's Website

Chris Frohmaier


Hello, I'm Chris Frohmaier.

I'm a PhD student in the Astro group, I also did my Master's degree here in Southampton. My research is currently focussed on measuring the Supernova rate in the Local Universe. Supernovae are the biggest explosions in the Universe and are the dying act of massive stars. They are the primary source of heavy elements in the universe and knowing the supernova rate helps Astronomers to put constraints on stellar evolution models.

During my Undergraduate studies I was lucky enough to run the Physoc Outreach program. I started a group to get children involved in science through ambitious space based projects. We successfully launched a high altitude into the stratosphere with a school's experiments on board. We captured some fantastic pictures of the curvature of the Earth. The project has since grown to new heights, literally!

More recently I co-founded the University of Southampton Spaceflight Society (SUSF) with my Physoc Outreach successor. We now work on realising our dream of reaching Space with our team of talented Physicists, Engineers and other students.

I also present a weekly radio show, Science Hour, with Cait Percy. We broadcast on Surge Radio at 5pm every Tuesday. Tune in for science news, discussions and games .

On 26th September 2013 I was named as the Best Young Physicist in Europe by the Institute of Physics at an award ceremony in London. I am extremely proud of this award and I hope to use it to inspire young people to get involved in Science.

Chris's Website

Rob Firth


Hi, I'm Rob and I am a Postgraduate Student at the University of Southampton. My supervisor is Dr Mark Sullivan and my PhD involves studying Type Ia Supernovae.These are stellar explosions that, due to their uniformity, can be used to chart the accellerating expansion of the universe and probe the most mysterious component of our universe; dark energy. At the moment I am focused on the progenitors of such systems, and how this may change the photometric light-curves that we see, particularly at early times. To do this I use large datasets from transient surveys such as PTF and PESSTO. I did my undergraduate studies at The University of Sheffield and started my PhD in October 2012. Outside of my studies, I am a keen ice hockey player; which, like any team sport, is just like physics- all about time and space.

I love having my mind boggled, which is one of the reasons I really enjoy outreach as well as my research. Sometimes as astronomers we forget how off the wall some of the concepts that we deal with day-to-day can seem to the non-expert; and explaining them in terms that anyone can understand brings back that feeling of wonder!

James Matthews


Hi, my name's James and I'm an Astronomy PhD student working on modelling outflows in Supermassive Black Hole systems called Quasars. My supervisor is Professor Christian Knigge. I also did my undergraduate degree at Southampton, and as part of that spent a year abroad at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics , where I worked with Dr Rosanne Di Stefano on exoplanets and microlensing.

James's Website

Chris Boon


Hi, I'm Chris and I'm a PhD student at the University of Southampton. I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Warwick and moved to Southampton to start my PhD in October 2013. My supervisor is Dr Tony Bird and my PhD involves studying a class of High Mass X-Ray Binaries called Supergiant Fast X-Ray Transients. These are typically a neutron star and a supergiant companion star with about 20 times the mass of the Sun.

The neutron star lives in the extreme stellar wind of the massive companion and material from this wind eventually is pulled on to the neutron star, causing intense flashes of X-rays. These flashes last from a few minutes to a few hours and are detected by X-ray telescopes in orbit. Observations of these systems with space based telescopes allow us to deduce properties of the systems. My work is based around the use of the INTEGRAL space telescope along with XMM-Newton and Swift to understand the nature of these systems.

I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in with outreach and especially with Astrodome.

Liz Bartlett


I'm an ex-undergraduate, now postgraduate student at the University of Southampton. My supervisor is Prof. Malcolm Coe. My PhD involves studying the environments and characteristics of High Mass X-ray Binary systems in Small Magellanic Cloud and similar dwarf galaxies in the Local Group.

I'm also involved in astronomy outreach, and tour local (and not so local!) schools and groups with a big blow up planetarium, the astrodome! The aim is to inspire young people to look up and enjoy the stars and maybe even think about studying astronomy in the future. We can do tours of the constellations with links to mythology, take you to famous astronomical objects like the Crab Nebular and pulsar, and even have a show on what the modern day astronomer does!

Seb Drave


I am a post graduate student at the University of Southampton currently working in the Astronomy research group. I was also an undergraduate at Southampton and got to participate in the Astronomy placement program, moving to Boston in America to spend a year at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (Cfa) . During my time at the Cfa I worked on an instrument being developed to search for planets orbiting distant stars, the TRES spectograph . The technology being developed in TRES is going to be used to help confirm new planet candidates discovered by NASAs Kepler Space telescope.

These days I am doing my PhD with Dr Tony Birdhere in Southampton. My project is centered on developing our understanding of 'Supergiant Fast X-ray Transients (SFXTs).' These systems are a new class of high mass X-ray binary star that have only been discovered in the last decade. The systems consist of a massive supergiant star, approximately 20 times the mass of our own Sun, and a neutron star or black hole. The extreme environment experienced by the neutron star or black hole as they orbit these supergiant stars creates incredibly fast and bright X-ray outbursts which we observe as intense flashes of X-ray radiation here at Earth. Understanding how these systems generate such X-ray outbursts is key to determining their physical nature. My project is mainly based around data from ESAs INTEGRAL satellite, however we also use many other ESA , NASA and ground based telescopes to investigate these intriguing binary stars.

In addition research I have also been involved with the Southampton Astrodome since its beginning, along with Sadie and Liz. The program gives us a great opportunity to communicate our work and expand peoples knowledge of modern day astronomy. By taking the astrodome to schools we hope to generate interest in astronomy in the youngest generation and give a helping hand to the next generation of astronomers, whilst learning a few new and interesting things about the night sky ourselves in the process!

My personal website contains more information on my research, as well as links to past work.

As part of my postgraduate studies I am a demonstrator for a computing course in Python, and I really enjoy getting involved with teaching and outreach in parallel with my research. Outside of astronomy, I am also a qualified squash coach, which I find similarly rewarding. I'm hoping to do as much Astrodome outreach as possible, and hope that I can help Sadie and the team inspire the next generation of stargazers!

Nick Higginbottom



I am a postgraduate student at the University of Southampton. My supervisor is Dr Christian Knigge. The project I am involved in is carrying out radiative transfer simulations of Quasars to try to understand the strucure of BAL QSO's.

I am also an ex-teacher. My last teaching job was at Poole Grammar School where I set up the GCSE Astronomy. I am involved with Star Parties at the school.

Email Sadie

for more information on school visits.