I am an Assistant Professor in Astrophysics at Trinity College Dublin and currently hold an SFI-Royal Society University Research Fellowship. My research focuses on the discovery and characterisation of extra-solar planets, i.e. planets that orbit stars other than our Sun. I was previously a lecturer and Royal Society University Research Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, a research fellow and fellow support astronomer at the European Southern Observatory, and before that a postdoctoral research assistant at the University of Oxford. Prior to that I did my undergraduate degree and PhD at Queen's University Belfast.
I am an observational astrophysicist, primarily using optical and near-infrared telescopes, both ground- and space-based, to characterise extra-solar planets (or exoplanets for short). Thousands of these planets have been discovered over the last few decades, and the next step in our understanding of them is to look at their atmospheres to determine their compositions and the dominant physical processes that govern their formation and evolution.
In general, exoplanets are extremely challenging to observe as they are very faint and located right next to their extremely bright host stars. I mainly study transiting planets, those that periodically eclipse their host stars. I use advanced observational and statistical techniques to disentangle the exoplanet's signal from its host star. This enables us to extract spectra of the exoplanet, which reveals a wealth of physical information on the planet. Currently, we are primarily working on giant, close-in exoplanets (called 'hot Jupiters'), but are pushing these techniques to smaller and smaller systems. Next-generation facilities such as the James Webb Space Telescope and the European-Extremely Large Telescope are expected to push us towards characterisation of rocky exoplanets. Even the detection of 'biomarkers' (signs of life) on distant planets might soon be possible.
My publications can be found here on ADS.