We are thrilled to introduce the two newest members of the Southampton Supernova Research Group: Marcus Toy and Zoe Zontou, who have joined us this autumn to begin their PhD research. Whilst the circumstances of the beginning of their PhD journeys are a little unusual, we are confident that they will get off to a fantastic start and look forward to getting to know them and their research over the coming years.
So, to introduce themselves in their own words, Marcus and Zoe:
Hi everyone! My name is Marcus, and I'm joining the Supernova group at Southampton this year. I did both my Undergraduate and Master's degree here, so I'm excited to continue this year doing a PhD.
The reason I chose to focus on Supernovae is simply because they're so energetic - the fact they outshine entire galaxies blows my mind.
I'm excited to do first-hand research here at Southampton, and to meet some world-leading experts in this field.
Normally in my free time I'd be gaming online or playing boardgames with some friends, but recently I've gotten quite into running, and I am currently training for a 10k!
Hello! I’m Zoe, I’m first-generation postgraduate researcher and first year PhD at Southampton. I’m a Greek citizen born in the USA, and I’ve been living in the UK since 2017. I completed my BS in Space Physics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and subsequently moved to Cardiff to complete my MSc in Astrophysics at Cardiff University. Space, astronomy, the universe, etc. have always been my passions in life, and I’ve wanted to pursue a career in this field for as long as I can remember. My dream job — perhaps unsurprisingly — would be to become an astronaut either for NASA or the ESA, but I’m perfectly happy in research as well! My main interests and research focuses have been galaxy formation and evolution, cosmology (especially dark matter), the CMB, and supernovae. Supernovae are amazing phenomena that allow us to study different aspects of the cosmos; I will be delving into the world of supernovae cosmology and next generation surveys such as the LSST and 4MOST during my project. I am excited to embark on a PhD and continue my studies of understanding the universe and becoming an expert within my field. Outside of research, I love to devour endless cups of coffee and books as well as hike, dive, explore new places, and be outside as much as possible. I also enjoy dabbling in a bit of amateur photography and am an avid phytophile. Ad astra per aspera!
It is the time of year when, with a mixture of joy, pride and sadness, we must congratulate but also say goodbye to members of our group as they move on in their careers to exciting new opportunities.
First, we send our congratulations to Miika Pursiainen for a successful defence of his thesis "Peculiar Optical Transients in the Dark Energy Survey". This research involved the study of rapidly evolving optical transients (RETs) in the Dark Energy Survey (DES), which are difficult events to discover as despite being as bright as typical supernovae, they evolve on significantly shorter time scales. A particular highlight of his PhD was the discovery of 72 RETs – the largest number of such objects found to date! (Press release available here.) He is now taking up his first postdoctoral position at DTU Space in Copenhagen, Denmark, working with Giorgos Leloudas.
Also leaving us is postdoctoral researcher Claudia Gutiérrez, who is moving to a Fellowship position with the Finnish Centre for Astronomy with ESO (FINCA) at University of Turku, Finland. Whilst in the Southampton Supernova group, her focus has been on core-collapse supernovae and peculiar supernovae. She is a specialist in spectra and spectral properties of CCSNe and their host galaxies. A particular publication highlight is her 2018 paper "Type II supernovae in low-luminosity host galaxies", comparing the spectral and photometric parameters of type II supernova (SN II), and studying the influence of metallicity on SN II properties.
Finally, we are also saying goodbye to postdoctoral researcher Mat Smith, who is taking up an exciting new position working with Mickael Rigault at CNRS/IN2P3 in Lyon, France. In his time in the Southampton Supernova group, he has been a key member of the team, utilising type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) to determine the content, nature and eventual fate of the Universe. A member of DES, he studied the diversity of SNe Ia, by considering how the galactic environment, spectral and colour information of the supernovae affects their inferred distances. He also studied rare superluminous supernovae (SLSN), using spectra and light-curve information to understand their physical nature, and in 2018 published the discovery of the most distant supernova ever detected, SLSN DES16C2nm! (Press release available here.)
They will all be greatly missed, but we wish them the very best of luck and success in their new endeavours.
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