Professor Stephen Smartt

Stellar astrophysicist appointed Wetton Chair

Astronomy and astrophysics

The Department of Physics is delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Stephen Smartt CBE FRS as Philip Wetton Chair of Astrophysics. Professor Smartt joins Oxford from his alma mater Queen’s University Belfast and takes over from Professor Roger Davies, who has held the Wetton Chair since its creation in 2002.

Pioneer and leader

Professor Smartt is a world-leading authority on exploding stars and unusual transients in the Universe and runs large sky survey projects to stretch our understanding of how stars die. He is a pioneer in the field of digital time domain sky surveys and has led several international projects to uncover an unexpected diversity in the physics of stellar death. He discovered some of the Universe’s most luminous supernovae and played a leading role in the discovery and physical understanding of the first electromagnetic counterpart to a gravitational wave source.

He was awarded the Royal Irish Academy Gold Medal in the Physical and Mathematical Sciences in 2018 as well as the Royal Astronomical Society’s George Darwin lectureship. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 2020.

World-leading astrophysics

Professor Ian Shipsey FRS, Head of Department comments: ‘Oxford Physics is proud to host an outstanding group of astrophysicists – one of the largest astrophysics groups in the UK – and internationally recognised for its observational and theoretical work in cosmology, galaxy evolution, compact objects, astrophysical fluids and exoplanets, world leading development of sub-mm, optical and IR instrumentation and home to Zooniverse, the world’s largest citizen science platform. Having invested in major international projects, which will deliver unprecedented datasets in the coming decade, including the European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) the field is ripe for major new discoveries and Stephen Smartt, with his track record of discovery is the perfect match for our program. We are eagerly looking forward to his arrival in Oxford in October and the discoveries that will follow.’

The Philip Wetton Chair of Astrophysics is one of eight statutory professorships in the Department of Physics. It was created in 2002 by Philip Wetton to attract a world-class experimental astrophysicist and is associated with Christ Church College.