Prof Ian Bonnell

Prof Ian Bonnell

Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy

Researcher profile




I have taught many undergraduate modules in both physics and astrophysics, across all five levels of our undergraduate degree programmes. I have been an advisor of studies at the subhonours levels and am currently Junior Honours (3rd level) advisor. I am a member of the teaching committee. My current teaching includes the 4th level Gravitational and Accretion Physics module.

Research areas

My research is focused on understanding how stars form in galaxies and how the young stars affect their natal environment. Star formation occurs in turbulent molecular clouds that are found in spiral arms of disc galaxies. The primary goal of this research is to  to develop a self-consistent model of star formation from the large-scale galactic dynamics (tens of kpcs) to sub-parsec scales of local star forming events, including feedback from the young stars back into the ISM. The link between the large-scale galaxy and the small-scale star formation through gravity and feedback is an essential element in developing a complete theory of star formation. 

I am using  numerical simulations to probe the gravitationally driven gas dynamics of flows in a Galactic context that can self-consistently form the dense molecular clouds in which star formation occurs. In collaboration woith my ERC grant team (ECOGAL), we are using both SPH and grid based simulations to answer the following questions: 

1. How is star formation initiated and why is star formation inefficient?

2. How do massive stars form and what determines the initial mass function?

3. What role does feedback play in stopping, or triggering star formation and how does it shape the ISM?

4. How do stars form in the Galactic centre and how does this relate to the growth of supermassive black holes?

PhD supervision

  • Cheryl Lau
  • Katerina Klos
  • Emma Puranen

Selected publications


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