About me

I am a postdoctoral scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, working in the time-domain group of Edo Berger. Before moving to the ‘States, I completed my PhD at Queen’s University Belfast under the supervision of Stephen Smartt. My interest in astronomy research really took off during my physics undergraduate degree at Oxford University.

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I study the dynamic sky: transient and explosive phenomena that evolve on human timescales, including the core-collapse supernovae that mark the deaths of massive stars. Of particular interest are the rare and mysterious ‘superluminous’ supernovae, which (through an as-yet unknown mechanism) emit as much light as the entire Milky Way does in a year. These super-duper-novae can provide a unique window into the evolution and fate of some of the most massive stars to have lived and died in our Universe. More recently, I’ve got excited about working on all kinds of violent space events including fast radio bursts, tidal disruption events, and gravitational wave sources. Turns out the Universe is a busy place!

My more terrestrial interests include sport (especially football i.e. soccer), alternative music, reading and travel. I grew up in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, which I recommend to all potential tourists.

On a side note — Nickel-56 is a very important radioactive nucleus produced in supernova explosions, hence my social media handle: @mattnicholl56!

Clockwise from top: Supernova 2016 conference, Easter Island; La Silla Observatory, Chile; Helen’s Bay, Northern Ireland; Peace Bridge, Derry/Londonderry; Botanic Gardens, Belfast.