About me

I am a Royal Astronomical Society Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. In past lives, I was a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard, working with Prof Edo Berger, and a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast, with Prof Stephen Smartt. My interest in astronomy research 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 twitter handle: @mattnicholl56!

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