I’m a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. I work on exoplanets, astrobiology and biosignatures using models of the Earth’s atmosphere, which means that I work somewhere between the School of GeoSciences and the School of Physics and Astronomy. I am a part of the Palmer Group and the recently-formed Center for Exoplanet Science.
I am interested in the factors that affect planetary habitability; if we slightly change some parameter of the Earth - its size, say - how does this change the planet’s climate? The Earth is a complex system and even small changes can have unpredictable consequences. As we edge towards a detection of a true Earth analogue, these questions will become ever more important.
In addition, I’m interested in detectable signals that could indicate the presence of life or a habitable atmosphere. These signals will likely be chemical in nature, so it’s important to understand how chemistry on an extrasolar planet will differ from that on Earth or in the Solar System. This is best achieved through modelling.
The bulk of my work involves the Met Office Unified Model and the UKCA, which I am currently adapting for use with simulations of exoplanets (with significant help from staff at the Met Office and the Universities of Exeter and Cambridge). However, in a departure from this theme I recently published a speculative paper on the habitability of brown dwarf atmospheres.
Models like the UM take a long time to run, and so must be heavily optimised and/or run on some sort of supercomputer. Consequently, I also have a passing interest in high performance computing and optimisation.
Other stuff about me
Before I started my PhD, I studied Physics and Astronomy for four years at the University of Durham. My MPhys project focused on the detectability of gases (and other spectroscopic features) in exoplanet atmospheres. In particular, I was interested in the use of KMOS for transmission spectroscopy. For this project I developed a model (in C) to estimate signal-to-noise ratios during transit observations for a large number of exoplanets in several optical bands.
Since I moved to Scotland I have developed an enthusiasm for the outdoors; I greatly enjoy running (I recently ran my first marathon, in a terrible time of around 5 hours), cycling, hiking and camping.