Catalyst Fellows at Oxford

The Department of Physics at Oxford is thrilled to participate in the LSSTC Catalyst Fellowship programme and warmly welcome applications as a Host Institute.

A world top-10 Physics department, our international research environment (most of the 132 professors, 210 fellows and 406 PhD students are from outside the UK) is stimulating and creativity thrives. Oxford's interest in Rubin stretches from the moment photons hit the detector to the final scientific results. Groups play leading roles in instrument and hardware development, software, database development, and citizen science (Zooniverse), cosmological pipelines and analysis, strong lensing, galaxy evolution, cosmological theory, and multi-messenger transients. See list of potential advisors and mentors below who can provide support in developing your research proposal.

We also benefit from close interaction with the Departments of Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science, which have stimulated a fruitful interdisciplinary research environment. Fellows will benefit from this joint expertise, allowing them to tackle Rubin-related challenges from a wide range of angles. Our deep involvement in different aspects of the project allow fellows, from the beginning, to insert themselves at the core of the work carried out within the different science collaborations to prepare for the data. An Oxford strength is our leadership and prominent roles in a range of facilities and surveys operating across the electromagnetic spectrum. We are the largest UK Rubin group and are also leading members of Euclid, SKA, the Simons Observatory, the Extremely Large Telescope and CTA. 

We have a track record of providing high quality mentorship: of the 71 (17) postdoctoral fellows of the Beecroft Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (Hintze Centre for Astrophysical Surveys) since 2001, 57 (14) are now in academic positions or are working in research in national and international laboratories. All fellows have at least one experienced lead mentor, with specialized mentors (e.g. in public engagement) also available, and the opportunity to teach and participate in world-leading public engagement.

Catalyst fellows will be encouraged to pursue their own scientific interests, while receiving support from any of the advisors below. Fellows will be able to supervise graduate students who have an experienced co-supervisor but work on a day-to-day basis with the fellow. Fellows can also supervise Master’s research projects. Our research facilitation team will provide  support to fellows to develop their own research proposals. Fellows are encouraged to participate in our courses on research management, grant writing, communication, leadership, teaching and engagement. A full-time public engagement team supports academic staff in developing and delivering their own innovative and wide-reaching public engagement programs, with a focus on underrepresented communities.

Applicants to the Catalyst Fellowship program will receive support in developing their research programmes and writing their applications. If you are interested in Oxford as a host institution for your application, please get in touch with David Alonso (david.alonso@physics.ox.ac.uk) and any of the potential advisors and mentors listed below by November 1st (draft applications will be needed by Nov. 5th).

Potential advisors and mentors

Due to our profound involvement in the Rubin Observatory, fellows will be able to receive support from a wide range of advisors and mentors at Oxford. Fellows will also be encouraged to interact with other researchers at Oxford. Feel free to get in touch with one or several of the potential advisors and mentors listed below. We would also welcome applications with more than one advisor/mentor from this llst.

  • David Alonso (david.alonso@physics.ox.ac.uk): My work takes place at the interface between theory and data analysis in cosmology. I am active in the Dark Energy Science Collaboration, where I have co-led the Large-Scale Structure (LSS) working group and currently co-lead the External Synergies group. I am particularly interested in "static science probes" (LSS, weak lensing, clusters), as well as the science that can be extracted from their joint analysis with CMB secondary anisotropy data available from ground-based experiments such as the Simons Observatory (which I am also a member of).
  • Pedro G. Ferreira (pedro.ferreira@physics.ox.ac.uk): I am broadly interested in using cosmological surveys to place constraints on the physics of the early Universe and the nature of the late time acceleration. I have primarily focussed on constraints on dark energy and extensions to General Relativity using a range of observations: large scale clustering and the CMB, galaxy morphology and structure and, more recently black hole merger events and gravitational waves. Of particular, recent, interest is how to use innovative statistical methods (such hamiltonian monte carlo methods, machine learning, etc) to learn about models with a large number of parameters. This will be of particular importance for LSST data where it will be necessary to include a wide range of fundamental, astrophysical and instrumental parameters.
  • Peter Hatfield (peter.hatfield@physics.ox.ac.uk): I am an extragalactic astronomer interested in what we can learn about galaxy evolution and cosmology from deep wide field surveys. Within Rubin I am active in both the Dark Energy Science Collaboration (DESC) and the Galaxies Science Collaboration, within which I am co-chair of the Galaxy Environment working group. My research focuses on the connection between galaxy environment, galaxy host dark matter haloes, and cosmological large-scale structure, and I am also interested in the use of machine learning for astronomy, in particular working within Rubin to develop tools for photometric redshift calculation and cosmological tomographic binning.
  • Matt Jarvis (matt.jarvis@physics.ox.ac.uk): I am an extragalactic multi-wavelength astronomer with interests across multiple science collaborations. In particular, I am interested in linking up research on AGN and Galaxies to better understand the systematic issues around Dark Energy Science. As such, I aim to utilise all the information available from X-ray through to radio wavelengths to tackle a large variety of questions across these Science Collaborations. My main contribution to Rubin thus far has been in developing the photometric redshift code (GPz) and how we can combine machine learning with template fitting to improve photometric redshifts for all science questions. However, my focus is on applying these photo-zs to science questions and I’d be keen to work with fellows in applying such methods on deep field data in hand over the Rubin Deep Drilling fields.
  • Chris Lintott (chris.lintott@physics.ox.ac.uk): I’m interested in developing methods to get the most out of data, whether through citizen science involving millions of volunteers via Zooniverse.org, or novel applications of machine learning, or the combination of the two. My scientific interests are broad, ranging from understanding galaxy evolution through morphology, detecting exoplanets and optical transients, and most recently interstellar objects in a galactic context, and I have a particular interest in techniques for serendipitous discovery. In a Vera Rubin Observatory context, my group is working with the project EPO office to integrate Zooniverse into scientists’ workflow, allowing everyone to collaborate on making the most of the data the telescope will provide, and I’m active in the galaxies and transient collaborations.
  • Chiara Spiniello (chiara.spiniello@physics.ox.ac.uk): My research aims to advance our understanding on the formation and cosmic evolution of the most massive and oldest galaxies in the Universe. For the LSSTC Catalyst Fellowship, I will be happy to support projects mainly focussing on galaxy formation, evolution, and internal structure. I am an active member of the Kilo Degree Survey, and the TDCOSMO collaborations, where I focus on searching new strong gravitational lenses via machine learning techniques, and confirm them via spectroscopic follow-up. I am PI of the VEXAS Project, which is currently the largest and most uniform publicly available multi-wavelength photometric catalogue, and of the INSPIRE Project, an on-going ESO Large programme targeting ultra-compact massive galaxies at z<0.5. Both these projects might have interesting expansions with Rubin data.
  • Aprajita Verma (aprajita.verma@physics.ox.ac.uk): I am an extragalactic astrophysicist using surveys spanning the optical to the sub-millimetre. I am keen to support Rubin projects in any aspect of galaxy formation and evolution. I am interested in galaxies, both starburst and AGN, at all redshifts, and particularly the properties of galaxies being discovered at the earliest times (within a Gyr of the Big Bang).  I am also very interested in the phenomenon of strong gravitational lensing and I am keen to support projects within this area. I lead the Citizen Science project Space Warps that is focussed on strong gravitational lens discovery, including the complementarity and connections between machine learning and visual inspection. This will be highly relevant to Rubin. I am active in the Dark Energy, Galaxies and Strong Lensing Science Collaborations. I was co-chair of the latter collaboration and retain a leading role. I am also part of the Rubin Director's Office and I am Project Scientist for the UK's Extremely Large Telescope Programme.