Since childhood I have been fascinated by astronomy. When I realised that I could use maths and computers to do fun things with astronomy, I knew I was hooked for life. I never grew out of it and now I am lucky enough to be a professional astrophysicist. As part of my role with Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT) I try to find novel ways to engage the public in science by using astronomy. This has taken the form of creating citizen science projects like Agent Exoplanet, interactive educational web apps like Star in a Box, and online community events like Show Me Stars.
The global education hub for LCOGT is based in Cardiff University where I am an honourary lecturer/adjunct faculty in the School of Physics and Astronomy. One of the enjoyably parts of this position is supervising BSc. and MPhys. level undergraduate projects. This year I had 4 project students investigating extrasolar planets. I am very proud that 2 of my former project students have gone on to do PhDs.
In addition, I am part of the Schools Engagement Team and assist with the outreach of the University. We have recently been awarded funding by the Welsh Government’s National Science Academy to run the programme Universe in the Classroom, inspiring children and teachers with Universe in a Box kits and stellar role models, across Wales. Universe in the Classrom is run in partnership with the international project Universe Awareness.
I co-chair the IAU task force for children and schools, under the guidance of the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD). Our aim is to help people in astronomically developing countries to engage with and inspire children and teachers.
I regularly appear on the BBC radio wales programmes, Science Cafe and Eleri Sion Show. I have served as guest judge for the national Debating Matters competition. Engaging with the public is fun and I have been lucky enough to do it in several pubs with Ignite Cardiff and Bright Club.
Being a life long fan of Doctor Who, I’ve been delighted to have give Science of Doctor Who talks in St Louis Science Center, and Cardiff Museum.
Currently I am working at how we make the LCOGT global telescope network exciting and accessible to a diverse audience, and what tools we need to make the most of its potential. What particularly concerns me is using the power of astronomy to inspire people who would not normally be interested in science.
I love music and play the lute. Part of me thinks that makes me closer to a renaissance astronomer, like Galileo.
You can find my blog over at Dark Matter Sheep, where I talk about science, music, films, coding, and silly things.