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Professor in the Department of Physics+44 (0) 191 33 43614


After gaining my PhD from Cambridge on X-rays from black holes, I went to NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center on an NRC fellowship for two years, where a highlight was being part of ground control flying an X-ray telescope in the payload bay of the space shuttle! I returned to the UK on a junior (2 year) and then senior (5 year) research fellowship from the UK research council before getting tenure at the University of Durham in 2000. I was promoted to full professor in 2006, becoming one of the first women to hold this post. I am also a non-stipendiary Visiting Professor at the Kavli Institute for Physics and Mathematics of the Universe of the University of Tokyo, having spent the academic year 2016/2017 in Tokyo on a sabbatical working with the Japanese Space Agency.

Marks of my standing in the community are that I am one of only two European scientists supported by the European Space Agency to be part of XRISM, the next Japanese/US X-ray telescope. I chair of one of the Science Working Groups for this mission as well being a member of the Science Management Office which advises the mission Principal Investigator. I also chair of one of the Science Working Groups for the Athena X-ray satellite (due for launch by the European Space Agency in 2030) and have served as overall chair (Chair of chairs) of the NASA Chandra time allocation committee in 2016. Other indications of esteem include being awarded the Royal Astronomical Society George Darwin Lectureship for a distinguished and eloquent speaker in 2019 and being invited on the Stephen Murray Distinguished Visitor Program, Harvard, USA in 2018. 

For more information and links, see my

personal web page

Responsibilities within department

Director of Research (till August 2021)

Teaching activity

I now teach the L1 sections on Special Relativity and Quantum Mechanics as part of the Foundations of Physics module.

I used to teach the L2 course on Quantum Mechanics, and the L4 course on  general relativity

Research interests

I am interested in anything with a decent gravitational field,especially black holes formed from stellar evolution in our Galaxy and the supermassive black holes in the centres of other galaxies which are thought to power the Quasars and Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN). An enormous amount of gravitational potential energy can be released in the form of high energy X-ray radiation where these capture (accrete) any nearby material. I use this X-ray emission to study the radiation mechanisms and environment of these extreme gravitational objects, but X-rays do not penetrate through our atmosphere, so this can only be studied from space - so I'm a rocket scientist!!

Research interests

  • Black holes


Chapter in book

Conference Paper

Journal Article


Supervision students