Michael Merrifield

Professor of Astronomy at the University of Nottingham


Our ambassador Michael Merrifield is a professor of astronomy at Nottingham University. His specialist areas include the formation and evolution of galaxies; the next generation of extremely large telescopes; public outreach in astronomy. He is a full member of the American Astronomical Society and Fellow at the Royal Astronomical Society.

My role comes in four parts: teaching, administration, research and outreach. Teaching involves everything from lectures to 250 students to individual supervision of PhD students and undergraduate projects. This year, I taught a module on the structure of stars to astronomy specialists, and contributed to the first year core physics teaching with lectures on special relativity and quantum mechanics. Administration involves a wide variety of activities from the truly mundane form-filling to the exceptional such as representing the University on a delegation to Brazil.

I am also undergraduate admissions tutor in Physics, so spend a lot of time on recruitment activities. When time allows, I fit in some research, which involves observing at facilities around the world, then analysing and publishing the results to try and understand better how galaxies formed in the Universe around us.

On the outreach side, I give many talks at schools and astronomical societies all around the country as well as regularly here in Nottingham, and I make monthly appearances on BBC Radio Nottingham to describe what is new in astronomy. I am also involved in reaching a wider audience through YouTube videos, and am part of the University’s successful “Sixty Symbols” team that has produced physics videos on a channel followed by 399,170 people. Oh, and in my spare time I set up and run a small company, Crystal Nebulae, which makes glass sculptures of astronomical objects.

Having spent a decade living in Nottingham, I have grown very fond of the City and its surroundings. I was immensely frustrated by the spurious bad press that the City received a few years ago, and the misleading use of statistics based on incomparable authority boundaries, and I am keen to do whatever can be done to dispel such myths. Overall, though, I have no particular agenda, and am happy to help promote the area in any way I can be helpful. Nottingham is a city full of life and smart people: what more could you ask?

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