My undergraduate career was at Trinity College Dublin, where I obtained a BA and MSc in Theoretical Physics. In 1996, I moved to Oxford to study for a DPhil in Theoretical Astrophysics under the supervision of Wyn Evans. In my thesis, I studied the dark matter haloes of galaxies through a combination of gravitational lensing and kinematic modelling. I obtained what was then the most precise estimate of the mass of the Milky Way halo based on the motions of the satellite galaxies and star clusters that orbit within it.
In 2000, I took up a post-doctoral position at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, where I joined the Stellar Populations group. While at Cambridge, my research focussed on the dark matter in the dwarf galaxies that surround the Milky Way – despite their relatively small sizes compared to the Milky Way, they are important tests of galaxy formation models. I also carried out N-body simulations of star clusters using the special purpose GRAvity PipelinE (GRAPE) accelerator boards.
I moved to the University of Leicester in 2006 to take up a Royal Society University Research Fellowship in the Theory group in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, where I continued my work on the dynamical modelling of dwarf galaxies, supported by PhD students and post-docs. Over the past few years, I have become increasingly interested in the application of novel machine learning techniques to astrophysical problems and this is the main focus of my current research.
Following my move to Leicester, my research became increasingly computationally heavy, which led to my initial involvement in the writing of the proposal for HPC funding which became the Leicester component of DiRAC-1 in 2009. I became a founding member of the DiRAC Project Board in 2010. In 2011, I led the development of the Leicester bid to host the DiRAC-2 “Complexity” service, designed to support large-scale calculations of phenomena such as the formation of stars. Over the subsequent years, my involvement with DiRAC grew significantly. In 2013, I was elected as co-chair of the board. In 2015, I became Deputy Director of the facility and continued in that role until 2017 when I took on my current role as Director.
It is a great privilege to serve the DiRAC community as Director of their HPC facility. Indeed, it is the close relationship with the user community that has been at the heart of DiRAC’s success since its inception. I am supported in my role by a fantastic team of colleagues in the DiRAC Project Office, in particular my Deputy Clare Jenner, with whom I have co-authored numerous business cases to secure the funding needed to deploy and operate the DiRAC services.