Mathew Smith

I was born and brought up in London, and loving the city so much, I studied Mathematics at Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, before making a large jump to completing an MSc in Astronomy at the University of Sussex. Having experienced the outside world, I then completed a PhD from the ICG at the University of Portsmouth in 2008. Feeling daring, and well travelled, I am now an SKA postdoctoral fellow in the Astrophysics, Cosmology and Gravitation centre at UCT.

What inspired you to study science, and astrophysics?

My mother.

Do you have a role model in science?

Hmmm, tough one. I’ve loved the stars and the thought of “space” since I can remember, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of my Pure Mathematics teacher for my A-levels, Mrs Conner. She took me from an average student, to one inspired by Maths and Astronomy.

A quote that inspires you?

There are so many famous quotes, but the one that always springs to mind is “Don’t Panic”, from the front cover of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It encapsulates my outlook on life.

Research interests

  • Type Ia Supernovae – basically everything to do with utilising them as cosmological probes.
  • Non-standard Cosmological models
  • What are the true constraints on the nature of the Universe?
  • Robust, model independent tests of cosmology
  • Galaxy population models
  • Radio Astronomy

Measurements of distant Type Ia Supernova (SNe Ia) have dramatically altered our perception of the Universe. These “standard candles” have shown that the Universe appears to be undergoing an accelerated period of expansion, resulting in the inference that 75% of the Universe is comprised of “Dark Energy”; a mysterious component about which little is understood. However, the physical nature of these cosmological distance indicators is uncertain and they show considerable diversity in their spectral and photometric features. My research focusses on interpreting the observed properties and diversity of these events, with regards to their local environment, thus reducing their observed scatter and allowing us to improve upon our understanding of the nature of Dark Energy and cosmology. I am also interested in how to combine SNe Ia datasets with other cosmological measurements to determine the true constraints on the physical properties of our Universe, without assuming a particular model.

Favourite reference papers:

  • Rates and Properties of Type Ia Supernovae as a Function of Mass and Star Formation in Their Host Galaxies – M. Sullivan, et al. 2006 (arXiv:astro-ph/0605455)
  • The Effect of Host Galaxies on Type Ia Supernovae in the SDSS-II Supernova Survey – H. Lampeitl, et al. 2010 (arXiv:1005.4687)
  • Model independent tests of the standard cosmological model – A. Shafieloo, C. Clarkson 2009 (arXiv:0911.4858)
  • Radio weak gravitational lensing with VLA and MERLIN – P. Patel, et. al. 2009 (arXiv:0907.5156)


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4 Responses to Mathew Smith

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