We’re all in the physics department, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Astronomy, along with the majority of scientific fields, is currently undergoing a revolution due to computing advances. As we enter this new era of ‘big data’ we face extraordinary challenges in using the vast amounts of information intelligently. My research interests involve building software for the analysis of images and catalogues from current and upcoming telescopes. In particular I am interested studying the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time using large area surveys. I also work on building multi-wavelength galaxy catalogues and combining astronomy data in general.

I am now working at the University of Southampton. I have previously worked at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias in Tenerife, Spain and was a Daphne Jackson research fellow at the Astronomy Centre, University of Sussex.


Observing run at Roque de los Muchachos, 13 – 15 June 2019

This weekend I was observing at the William Herschel Telescope at the Roque de los Muchachos observatory on La Palma, Canaria shown. You can see a picture of the telescope in figure 1 below. We were using the Long-slit Intermediate Resolution Infrared Spectrograph (LIRIS) instrument which can be used for both imaging and spectroscopy. Figure …


I am interested in extragalactic astronomy. I am particularly interested in large statistical samples for understanding galaxy formation and evolution. I do this using multiwavelength studies involving data from a large number of instruments.

I have been involved in a software development in data science in addition to astronomy. You can see all my latest software work on my GitHub page here.

Publications can be found here.


Publication list here.

Download a public version of my CV here.

2023-Present: Postdoctoral researcher, Max Planck Institute of Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany.

2020-2023: LSST Survey Scientist; postdoctoral researcher at the University of Southampton. Developing pipeline software for the VISTA Telescope and Vera C. Rubin Observatory.

2020-2023: Visiting researcher, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge.

2019-2020: Space Infrared Mission; postdoctoral researcher at Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. Following up supernovae with the Liverpool Telescope and Grab Telescopio Canarias.

2016-2019: Daphne Jackson Fellowship at the Astronomy Centre, University of Sussex. Junior Research Associate Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Herschel Extragalactic Legacy Project scientist working on a multi-wavelength database for Herschel data and future surveys.

2011-2016: Management and co-ownership of family run transport company.

2007-2011: PhD: Theoretical Insights into the Combustion Synthesis of Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles, The Computational Modelling Group, Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology and St Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge. Supervised by Prof Markus Kraft. More information here.

2002-2006: BA/MSci: Natural Sciences (specialising in theoretical physics) at St John’s College, University of Cambridge. Final year masters research project on Radio Astronomy with Focal Plane Arrays for the Square Kilometre Array.


You can email me at R.A.B.Shirley at soton.ac.uk.