Director: Christiane Helling (Astronomy)
Board members: Ben Sachs(Philosophy)     (interim for Katherine Hawley)
  Sami Mikhail (Earth Science)
  V. Anne Smith (Biology)
  Peter Woitke (Astronomy)
Dr Derek Ball
School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies
PURE
Philosophy of mind, Philosophy of language, Philosophy of science Derek's work is focused on the foundations of representation. He has written on concepts and concept possession, on theoretical issues about formal semantics, and on consciousness. He also has interests in the philosophy of science, including modelling and measurement. He is the editor, with Brian Rabern, of The Science of Meaning (Oxford University Press 2018).
Prof Andrew Cameron
School of Physics & Astronomy
PURE   ADS
Exoplanet Transit Search, Stellar Variability Andrew studies stellar magnetic fields and the discovery and characterisation of extrasolar planets. He is the UK Co-PI of the HARPS-North spectrograph project, analysing high-precision radial-velocity measurements and transit data to push the limits on planetary mass determination down towards the Earth-mass regime.
Dr Mark Claire
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
PURE
Early Earth, Atmospheric Chemistry, Stable Isotope Geochemistry, Astrobiology Mark studies the atmospheric chemistry, climate, biogeochemistry and habitability on Earth and the terrestrial planets in the solar system. His overarching motivation is to improve the models that will be used to interpret spectra of extrasolar planets.
Dr Claire Cousins
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
PURE
Planetary Analogue Research, Robotic Space Exploration, Geobiology Claire uses planetary analogues on Earth to inform the surface exploration of Mars and icy moons with regard to their past and present habitability, and potential for biosignature preservation. Her main interests lie in understanding volcanically-driven environments using a combination of geochemistry, spectroscopy, and microbial genomics.
Dr Martin Dominik
School of Physics & Astronomy
PURE   ADS
Exoplanet Search by Microlensing, incl. Exo-moons, Robotic Telescopes Martin exploits the effect of gravitational bending of light for determining the demographics of planets across the Milky Way as well as of the structure of the planetary systems they form. He is moreover interested in what their diversity and abundance means for life on planet Earth and beyond.
Dr Emily Finer
School of Modern Languages
PURE
Russian culture, Translation, Soviet Union, children's literature, Russian Formalism Emily studies culture on the move between the societies and languages of Russia and Eastern Europe and the English-speaking world. She is interested in early Soviet illustrated science books for children, fiction about interplanetary travel, mass produced Russian translations of Jules Verne and HG Wells, and attempts to make the study of literature "more scientific" by categorising plots and quantifying rhyme schemes. She contributed to BBC Radio 4's Red Mars Series.
Prof Andy Gardner
School of Biology
PURE
Social Evolution, Cosmological Natural Selection, Anthropic Bias Andy works on Darwinian adaptation. Natural selection explains the appearance of design in the living world, but at what level is this design expected to manifest – gene, individual, society – and what is its function? And does Darwin's logic extend outwith Biology, to concepts of cosmological natural selection and anthropic bias?
Prof Katherine Hawley
School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies
PURE
Science and Society, Trust and Cooperation Katherine's research spans ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics. She is interested in issues of trust and public engagement with exoplanet science; the role of experts in policy debate; communication challenges in cross-disciplinary research. She is a Professor of Philosophy and the author of Trust: A Very Short Introduction (2012).
Dr Christiane Helling
School of Physics & Astronomy
PURE   ADS
Atmosphere Modelling, Cloud Formation, Atmosphere Charge Processes, Lightning Christiane studies the chemical diversity of exoplanets and brown dwarfs as exoplanet analogues. This includes the study of cloud formation, charge processes and lightning, and how these processes enable the emergence of biomolecules. She works with virtual laboratories as tools to study complex models of 3D globally circulating atmosphere systems. She is also working on the concept of habitability on cosmological scales.
Prof Keith Horne
School of Physics & Astronomy
Exoplanet Search by Microlensing PURE   ADS
Dr Daniel M. Knight
School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies
PURE
History and Anthropology, Economic Anthropology, Anthropology of the Future, Anthropology of Crisis, Time and Temporality Daniel works on futures, emergent ecologies, time, and the limits of cosmopolitanism. He is interested in the Anthropology of Outer Space and science fiction. He is author of The Anthropology of the Future (CUP, 2019), a collection on Orientations to the Future, and is Director of the Centre for Cosmopolitan Studies.
Dr Sami Mikhail
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
PURE
Stable Isotope Geochemistry, Experimental and Theoretical Geochemistry & Petrology, Atmosphere-formation Sami's research is underpinned by a strong desire to understand the origin and evolution of planetary atmospheres. This means we need to understand the nature of the volatile elements (primarily C-N-Noble gases) in the interior of planets to ascertain how they behave during accretion, differentiation, and plate-tectonic cycling.
Prof Tim Mulgan
School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies
PURE
Future of Humanity, Purpose in the Universe, Ethics of Exploration Tim's research covers moral philosophy, metaphysics, and political philosophy. He is interested in how the discovery of extra-terrestrial life might affect philosophical and religious views about our place in the universe, and in the constraints that respect for extra-terrestrial environments might place on human expansion into space. He is the author of Ethics for a Broken World (2011) and Purpose in the Universe (2015).
Prof Nigel Rapport
School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies
Cosmopolitanism and Globalisation, Open Society, Freedom PURE
Dr Timothy Raub
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Dawn of Complex Life, Major Episodes of Environmental Change, Onset of Granitic Magmatism PURE
Dr Ben Sachs
School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies
PURE
Environmental Ethics, Climate Change, Our Responsibilities to Nonhuman Life,
Exoplanet Ethics
Ben specialises in ethics, political philosophy and philosophy of law. His research is aimed at examining how our ethical assumptions about the value of human life and of the earth's environment are made precarious by the possible discovery of extraterrestrial life and life-supporting environments. He is part of an RSE grant "Exoplanet Ethics", headed up by Katherine Hawley.
Dr Paul Savage
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
PURE
Stable Isotope Geochemistry, Meteoritics, Planetary Differentiation Processes Paul studies the formation and evolution of rocky planets (with a focus on our own solar system), from tracing the sources and types of material involved in planetary accretion, to the subsequent differentiation of planets into silicate mantles, metallic cores, and volatile-rich atmospheres and hydrospheres. Paul's main tools for this are the analysis of stable isotope variations in both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial samples.
Dr Kevin Scharp
School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies
PURE
Evidence and Explanation, Science and Religion, Origins of Life Kevin is interested in how discoveries about exoplanets affect our thoughts about the meaning of human life. This includes discovering life elsewhere of course, but many other discoveries might change the Drake equation for example. He also focuses on the ethics of space exploration, which has direct effects on exoplanet science.
Dr Aleks Scholz
School of Physics & Astronomy
PURE   ADS
Observations of Brown Dwarfs and Protoplanetary Disks Aleks is studying the origin of brown dwarfs, free-floating planets, and miniature planetary systems. Observing with ground- and space-based telescopes covering all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, he explores phenomena like disk evolution, grain growth, disk-planet interaction, gas accretion, angular momentum regulation, and magnetic activity.
Dr Aurora Sicilia-Aguilar
School of Physics & Astronomy, University of St Andrews, and
School of Science and Engineering, University of Dundee

PURE   ADS
Multi-wavelength Observation of Star- and Planet Formation Aurora works on star and planet formation using multi-wavelength, multi-telescope data including optical, Spitzer, Herschel, millimetre, and time-resolved photometry and spectroscopy. Her main interests are evolution of protoplanetary disks, star formation within different cluster environments, accretion onto young stars and the impact of accretion bursts on the star and its disk.
Dr V Anne Smith
School of Biology
PURE
Computational Biology, Complex Biological Networks, Simulation Framework for Evaluation of Algorithms Anne studies a range of complex biological networks: from genes, to neurons, to ecosystems. She develops machine learning tools for inference about biological systems; she evaluates algorithms and develops theory with both biologically-realistic and artificial life-based simulations. She complements her computational work with experimental evolution studies in living microbes.
Dr Eva Stüeken
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
PURE
Co-evolution of Earth and the Origin of Life, Biogeochemical Cycles, Astrobiology Eva's research is centred around reconstructing the environmental conditions that led to the origin and early evolution of life on Earth with implications for the habitability of other worlds. Major tools include field work in Precambrian terrains, isotope geochemistry, and simple geochemical models.
Dr Peter Woitke
School of Physics & Astronomy
PURE   ADS
Chemical Modelling of Planet Forming Disks, Multi-wavelength Observation Modelling Peter explores the physical and chemical structure of protoplanetary discs, brown dwarf atmospheres, and more recently exoplanet atmospheres. He has developed several modelling platforms and tools that are used world-wide to couple astrochemistry, non-LTE heating & cooling, cloud formation and radiative transfer. Peter collaborates in a large European team to collect observational data for protoplanetary discs from the latest instruments like ALMA and Herschel.
Dr Aubrey Zerkle
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
PURE
Stable Isotope Geochemistry, Geobiology, Early-Earth Atmospheric Chemistry Aubrey is interested in understanding the co-evolution of life with planetary environments over geologic timescales. She utilizes a multi-disciplinary approach, including stable isotope geochemistry, microbiology, trace element and nutrient analyses, to examine geosphere-biosphere interactions and possible feedbacks in modern and paleo-environments.

PostDocs and PhD students:

Dr Elyse Allender
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
PURE
Planetary Science, Remote Sensing, Planetary Analogue Research, Image Analysis Elyse's research at the University of St Andrews and Aberystwyth University focuses on the field and laboratory testing of the PanCam, ISEM, and CLUPI instrument emulators for the ESA/Roscosmos ExoMars rover, as well as the development of software tools which will exploit the wealth of visible and near-infrared data generated by these instruments and further their utility for detecting evidence of past habitability on Mars.
Dr Mark Fox-Powell
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
PURE
Geomicrobiology, Geochemistry, Planetary Science, Astrobiology Mark's interests lie in maximising scientific return from upcoming or current planetary missions, particularly those that are exploring potential habitats for extraterrestrial life. He applies a range of geochemical, spectroscopic and microbiological techniques to answer questions of habitability and biosignature detection in natural analogue environments and in the laboratory.
Dr Boris Laurent
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Planetary Sciences, UV Luminescence, Astrobiology, Experimental Astrophysics PURE
Dr Eleanor Mare
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Deep Nitrogen Cycle Atmospheres are essential for planetary habitability. Our atmosphere has changed a lot since life first evolved, but we don't know exactly how. Eleanor studies nitrogen (the main gas in air), because the atmospheric mass might have changed if nitrogen was gradually taken up by, or released from, the solid Earth.
Dr Thomas Wilson
School of Physics & Astronomy
PURE   ADS
Exoplanet transit detection, White dwarf planetary systems Thomas studies the detection and characterisation of exoplanets with the aim to utilise the ultrahigh precision photometry of the upcoming CHEOPS mission to probe Earth-like exoplanets. Previous and ongoing research include the discovery and surveillance of planetary systems around white dwarfs primarily using the Spitzer space telescope.
Patrick Barth
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, School of Physics & Astronomy
Miller-Urey experiment, kinetic gas phase modelling Patrick is working on the effect of lighting on the atmospheric chemistry of Earth and other planets and investigating its impact on the origin of life. This includes Miller-Urey like sparking experiments and simulations of chemical processes in planetary atmospheres.
Fran Bartolić
School of Physics & Astronomy
Exoplanet Search by Microlensing, Modelling Microlensing Events Fran is a PhD student working with Dr Martin Dominik on characterising populations of cool exoplanets by means of gravitational microlensing observations. His focus is on modelling microlensing events using advanced statistical and machine learning methods, and quantifying the evidence for the presence of a planet in noisy data.
Katharina Bernhard
School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies
Epistemology, Philosophy of Science, Social Epistemology of Science, Scientific Expert Testimony Katharina's research revolves around epistemological goings-on in scientific expert testimony (SET). Some of the questions she is trying to answer are: What is epistemically required for SET to be successful? How can inductive risk considerations play an epistemically legitimate role in communicating scientific results? What epistemic challenges for SET arise from various forms of uncertainty characteristic for (most) scientific research?
Elliott Fogg
School of Physics & Astronomy
Microlensing, Robotic Telescopes, Scheduling Elliott is a PhD student working with Martin Dominik on optimising scheduling algorithms for robotic telescope networks, specifically for the benefit of observing Microlensing and other transient events. He is currently focussing on developing alternative methods for the scheduling of global telescope networks.
Filippo Formoso
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Volatile Geochemistry, Deep Nitrogen Cycle, Experimental Petrology Filippo is a PhD student supervised by Dr Sami Mikhail. The purpose of his research is to study the behaviour of nitrogen in the Earth's mantle and the chemical and geochemical processes that may have influenced it during Earth's accretion and evolution, in order to better understand its potential role in the origin and evolution of life.
Bethan Gregory
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Atmospheric Chemistry, Isotope Geochemistry Bethan is developing a photochemical model to better understand triple oxygen isotope signatures in the geological record, and what they can tell us about the evolution of the atmosphere.
Oliver Herbort
School of Physics & Astronomy, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Exoplanet Atmosphere Modelling, Evolution and Structure of Atmospheres Oliver is a PhD student working on the evolution of atmospheres around rocky exoplanets. His interdisciplinary research combines geology and astrophysics to model the time evolution of atmosphere structures.
James Hitchcock
School of Physics & Astronomy
GravityCam lucky-imaging microlensing survey James's research focuses on high-resolution optical imaging, and the image processing methods which allow us to accurately measure the brightness of stars in very crowded environments. Of particular interest is how the state-of-the-art applications of these techniques can inform the observational strategies, and data processing challenges, associated with the next generation of wide-field microlensing surveys.
Ethan Landes
School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies
Applied Epistemology, Philosophy of Science Ethan is interested in applied epistemology. Paying attention to specific academic fields or specific instances of our ignorance, he investigates which sorts of things we can know given our evidence. Recently Ethan has been thinking about the particularly tricky case of astrobiology. Do we know what alien life is like, given that we've never seen any?
Arola Moreras Marti
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Geochemistry, Isotopes, Geomicrobiology, Astrobiology, Analogues
Dominic Samra
School of Physics & Astronomy
Exoplanet Atmospheres, Modelling, Cloud Formation Dominic is a PhD student whose work focuses on modelling the atmosphere of Gas-Giant and Mini-Neptune exoplanets. In particular he studies the formation of clouds on these planets and their impact on atmospheric structure and observable traits.
Nicole Schanche
School of Physics & Astronomy
Exoplanet Transit Detection, Machine Learning
Saranga Sudarshan
School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies
Saranga is interested in implications of human contact, research and use of expolanets on political institutions that have been developed for life on Earth.
Ashley Watkins
School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies
Theories of fiction, the metaphysics and semantics of fictional objects Ash is a PhD student working on the philosophy of fiction. His interests include definitions of life and how they do and ought to direct exoplanet research, what, if anything, science fiction can tell us about exoplanet exploration, and what our rights and ethical limitations are in our exploratory practices.
Natalya Zavina-James
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Early Earth, Geobiology, Stable Isotope Geochemistry, Co-evolution of Life and Atmosphere

Previous members:

Sarah Lewin, Annelies Mortier, Sarah Rugheimer, Carolina Villarreal D’Angelo, Duncan Forgan, Lotta Purkamo, Graham Lee, Gabriella Hodosán, Inna Bozhinova, Kirstin Hay.

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