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Dr. Brian Espey

Associate Professor
School of Physics
Trinity College Dublin
Phone: +353 (0)1 896 2680


Brian Espey is an Associate Professor in Astrophysics in the School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin. He received a B.A. (Mod) Experimental Physics from Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin in 1983, and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Cambridge in 1990.

Brian was the first astrophysics staff member in the School of Physics and acted as Course Director for the Astrophysics programme for a number of years, and steered it towards denominated degree status. His current duties are as Junior Sophister Year Head. He is active in the Irish astronomy community and has been involved in a number of projects, including the bid to get Ireland to join the European Southern Observatory (ESO), including organising the ESO Industry Day. For a brochure assembled by the Institute of Physics, Ireland outlining the advantages for Ireland of membership in ESO.

Previous Employment

Nov 2001 - present School of Physics, University of Dublin and also Research Associate, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies
May 1998 - Oct 2001 Assistant Astronomer, European Space Agency, stationed at Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, USA and also adjunct Associate Research Scientist, Department of Physics & Astronomy, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA as well as Academic Visitor, Queen's University of Belfast, Northern Ireland
Jan 1994 - Apr 1998 Associate Research Scientist, Department of Physics & Astronomy, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA and also Adjunct Research Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
Oct 1990 - Dec 1993 Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Oct 1989 - Sep 1990 Royal Society European Science Exchange Fellow, Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands
Oct 1983 - Dec 1985 Scientific Officer, Laser Division, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Chilton, UK


Oct 1989 - Sept 1990 Royal Society European Science Exchange (Leverhulme) Fellow - position held at Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands

Research Positions

Competitive funding for Ph.D. positions is available from the Irish Research Council with a deadline in February each year. Information is available at:

If you are interested in research with me, please contact me directly at Brian.Espey@TCD.IE

Research experience

I am primarily an observer experienced with multi-wavelength datasets, though also have experience with the tools required to analyse and model the data. I have worked with instruments covering the infrared through to the X-ray regions of the spectrum, and have an intimate knowledge of spectroscopy and diagnostics and tools (e.g., XSTAR, CLOUDY) as well as data reduction software (STARLINIK, IRAF, STSDAS etc.). In particular, I have worked on the instrument teams for the Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope [HUT], and Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph [STIS]) and have recently specialised in data from STIS and the Far-Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE). Although UV and far-UV astronomy may be reduced in scope in the next few years, the tools and techniques have application to the spectra reaching us from the high-redshift Universe, since they originate in the rest-frame UV and far-UV portions of the Universe. The relevance of this is due to the ionising nature of the photons from these portions of the spectrum - not only for the immediate neighbourhood of hot stars and active galactic nuclei, but also for the ionisation of the interstellar and intergalactic material, controlling star formation as well as what we can observe in the distant Universe.

Current research

My current centres on four main themes which make use of my expertise in emission and absorption line spectroscopic diagnostics as well as statistical methods:

  • Studies of mass loss from evolved stars in symbiotic star binaries;
  • The physical properties and abundance of gas in active galactic nuclei (AGN);
  • The application of machine intelligence to the interrogation of large databases (in particular the spectroscopic data of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey) in order to identify new samples for statistical, as well as more detailed, study;
  • Light at night and light pollution issues in an Irish context.