I am Professor of Gravitational Astrophysics and Cosmology in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Glasgow, where I was first appointed a faculty member in 1998, and where I am currently Head of School.
I am a member of the Institute for Gravitational Research and the Astronomy and Astrophysics research group (where I was a PDRA working in cosmology, from 1996 to 1998, and where I also completed my PhD in 1992).
I am a passionate enthusiast for public engagement in science and (until Oct 2012) was a Science in Society Fellow for the Science and Technology Facilities Council, leading an international programme of outreach with schools and the public entitled "Exploring the Dark Side of the Universe" engaging with some of the biggest questions in science: "Why are we here?", "What is the Universe made of?", "How did the Universe begin?", "How might it end?". I also co-organise Glasgow's monthly Cafe Scientifique at the Tron Theatre and from 2012-2015 I was chair of the West of Scotland branch of the British Science Association. I am currently chair elect of the Institute of Physics in Scotland
Information about some of my public outreach work can be found here.
In 2011 I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, in recognition of my contributions to research, teaching and the public understanding of science. In January 2015 I was awarded an MBE for services to public engagement in science in the Queen's New Year Honours list.
My main research interests are in gravitational wave astrophysics and cosmology. I am a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration: an international group of more than 800 scientists leading the efforts to detect the so-called 'ripples in spacetime' that were predicted by Einstein to be produced by some of the most violent events in the Universe, such as exploding stars, colliding black holes and even the Big Bang itself, but have not (yet) been detected directly.
My principal research activities in this field involve studying the prospects for combining electromagnetic and gravitational wave observations to constrain cosmological models and explore e.g. the nature and distribution of dark matter and dark energy. In particular I am interested in understanding the effect of gravitational lensing on observations of gravitational wave sources at cosmological distances, and how this might impact upon their usefulness as cosmological probes.
I am also very active in statistical astronomy, developing advanced Bayesian and robust tools for the analysis of very large datasets, mainly in cosmology, for the purposes of parameter estimation and/or characterisation of observational selection effects and incompleteness..
A significant part of my work within the LSC is as a member of the Education and Public Outreach group. In January 2012 I was appointed subchair of the EPO group, with responsbility for leading the LSC's public outreach activities worldwide. Since 2008 I have been co-Principal Investigator on a major NSF-funded project to design and create a travelling exhibition on gravitational wave astronomy - building upon our previous experience gained at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition.
Our new exhibit was featured prominently at the 2009 and 2010 World Science Festival in New York City, and in October 2010 was selected for display at the inaugural US National Science and Engineering Festival, held in Washington DC. LIGO will return there again for the 2nd Science Festival in April 2012.
From August 2008 until July 2012 I was Convenor of Learning and Teaching in the School of Physics and Astronomy. In 2010 I was invited by Learning and Teaching Scotland to join the Maths Excellence Group and Physics Qualfications Design Team for the Curriculum for Excellence. An index of my current and recent University teaching can be found here
Prior to joining the staff in Glasgow, I was a Research Fellow in the Astronomy Centre at the University of Sussex from 1991 - 1996.