Dr Matt Nicholl PhD

Dr Matt Nicholl

School of Physics and Astronomy
Lecturer in Gravitational Wave Astronomy
Royal Astronomical Society Research Fellow

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Matt Nicholl is a lecturer in the School of Physics and Astronomy and the Institute of Gravitational Wave Astronomy, where he also holds a Royal Astronomical Society Research Fellowship.

His research looks at a wide range of explosive astrophysical phenomena including supernovae, tidal disruptions of stars by supermassive black holes, and neutron star mergers detected through their gravitational wave emission. He studies these events using observations across the electromagnetic spectrum from ground- and space-based telescopes.

Matt has published over 90 research papers with more than 6000 citations and an h-index of 40. He is an enthusiastic commentator on science stories in the media and can always be reached for comment.


  • PhD in Astrophysics 2015, Queen’s University Belfast
  • MPhys in Physics 2012, Oxford University


Y4 project supervision

Postgraduate supervision

Explosive astrophysics from time-domain surveys:

Every second, somewhere in the Universe a star explodes and briefly outshines an entire galaxy. With increasingly powerful sky surveys, we are finding more and more supernovae and other bright transient phenomena in real time, and discovering an extremely diverse zoo of observational properties. The goals of time-domain astronomy are to characterise how and why stars end their lives in such different ways in order to understand stellar evolution, the physics of neutron stars and black holes, and the creation of the chemical elements.

I am looking for students interested in ultra-bright supernovae, disruptions of stars by supermassive black holes, and/or searching for the electromagnetic signals of neutron star mergers detected through gravitational waves.


Time-domain astrophysics, multimessenger astronomy, superluminous supernovae, electromagnetic follow-up of gravitational waves, tidal disruption events, fast radio bursts, time-domain surveys, optical and near-infrared observations, spectroscopy, light curve modelling, transient host galaxies


Recent publications


Graur, O, Maguire, K, Ryan, R, Nicholl, M, Avelino, A, Riess, AG, Shingles, L, Seitenzahl, IR & Fisher, R 2020, 'A year-long plateau in the late-time near-infrared light curves of type Ia supernovae', Nature Astronomy, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 188–195. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-019-0901-1

Nicholl, M, Blanchard, PK, Berger, E, Chornock, R, Margutti, R, Gomez, S, Lunnan, R, Miller, AA, Fong, W, Terreran, G, Vigna-Gómez, A, Bhirombhakdi, K, Bieryla, A, Challis, P, Laher, RR, Masci, FJ & Paterson, K 2020, 'An extremely energetic supernova from a very massive star in a dense medium', Nature Astronomy. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-020-1066-7

Gutiérrez, CP, Sullivan, M, Martinez, L, Bersten, MC, Inserra, C, Smith, M, Anderson, JP, Pan, Y-C, Pastorello, A, Galbany, L, Nugent, P, Angus, CR, Barbarino, C, Carollo, D, Chen, T-W, Davis, TM, Della Valle, M, Foley, RJ, Fraser, M, Frohmaier, C, González-Gaitán, S, Gromadzki, M, Kankare, E, Kokotanekova, R, Kollmeier, J, Lewis, GF, Magee, MR, Maguire, K, Möller, A, Morrell, N, Nicholl, M, Pursiainen, M, Sollerman, J, Sommer, NE, Swann, E, Tucker, BE, Wiseman, P, Aguena, M, Allam, S, Avila, S, Bertin, E, Brooks, D, Buckley-Geer, E, Burke, DL, Carnero Rosell, A, Carrasco Kind, M, Carretero, J, Costanzi, M, da Costa, LN, De Vicente, J, Desai, S, Diehl, HT, Doel, P, Eifler, TF, Flaugher, B, Fosalba, P, Frieman, J, Garcia-Bellido, J, Gerdes, DW, Gruen, D, Gruendl, RA, Gschwend, J, Gutierrez, G, Hinton, SR, Hollowood, DL, Honscheid, K, James, DJ, Kuehn, K, Kuropatkin, N, Lahav, O, Lima, M, Maia, MAG, March, M, Menanteau, F, Miquel, R, Morganson, E, Palmese, A, Paz-Chinchón, F, Plazas, AA, Sako, M, Sanchez, E, Scarpine, V, Schubnell, M, Serrano, S, Sevilla-Noarbe, I, Soares-Santos, M, Suchyta, E, Swanson, MEC, Tarle, G, Thomas, D, Varga, TN, Walker, AR, Wilkinson, R & Collaboration, DES 2020, 'DES16C3cje: A low-luminosity, long-lived supernova', Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 496, no. 1, pp. 95-110. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/staa1452

Paterson, K, Fong, W, Nugent, A, Escorial, AR, Leja, J, Laskar, T, Chornock, R, Miller, AA, Scharwächter, J, Cenko, SB, Perley, D, Tanvir, NR, Levan, A, Cucchiara, A, Cobb, BE, De, K, Berger, E, Terreran, G, Alexander, KD, Nicholl, M, Blanchard, PK & Cornish, D 2020, 'Discovery of the Optical Afterglow and Host Galaxy of Short GRB 181123B at z = 1.754: Implications for Delay Time Distributions', The Astrophysical Journal Letters, vol. 898, no. 2, pp. L32. https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/aba4b0

Reynolds, TM, Fraser, M, Mattila, S, Ergon, M, Dessart, L, Lundqvist, P, Dong, S, Elias-Rosa, N, Galbany, L, Gutiérrez, CP, Kangas, T, Kankare, E, Kotak, R, Kuncarayakti, H, Pastorello, A, Rodriguez, O, Smartt, SJ, Stritzinger, M, Tomasella, L, Chen, P, Harmanen, J, Hosseinzadeh, G, Howell, DA, Inserra, C, Nicholl, M, Nielsen, M, Smith, K, Somero, A, Tronsgaard, R & Young, DR 2020, 'SN 2016gsd: an unusually luminous and linear Type II supernova with high velocities', Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 493, no. 2, pp. 1761-1781. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/staa365

Jacobson-Galán, WV, Margutti, R, Kilpatrick, CD, Hiramatsu, D, Perets, H, Khatami, D, Foley, RJ, Raymond, J, Yoon, S-C, Bobrick, A, Zenati, Y, Galbany, L, Andrews, J, Brown, PJ, Cartier, R, Coppejans, DL, Dimitriadis, G, Dobson, M, Hajela, A, Howell, DA, Kuncarayakti, H, Milisavljevic, D, Rahman, M, Rojas-Bravo, C, Sand, DJ, Shepherd, J, Smartt, SJ, Stacey, H, Stroh, M, Swift, JJ, Terreran, G, Vinko, J, Wang, X, Anderson, JP, Baron, EA, Berger, E, Blanchard, PK, Burke, J, Coulter, DA, DeMarchi, L, DerKacy, JM, Fremling, C, Gomez, S, Gromadzki, M, Hosseinzadeh, G, Kasen, D, Kriskovics, L, McCully, C, Müller-Bravo, TE, Nicholl, M, Ordasi, A, Pellegrino, C, Piro, AL, Pál, A, Ren, J, Rest, A, Rich, RM, Sai, H, Sárneczky, K, Shen, KJ, Short, P, Siebert, MR, Stauffer, C, Szakáts, R, Zhang, X, Zhang, J & Zhang, K 2020, 'SN 2019ehk: A Double-peaked Ca-rich Transient with Luminous X-Ray Emission and Shock-ionized Spectral Features', The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 898, no. 2, pp. 166. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/ab9e66

Blanchard, PK, Berger, E, Nicholl, M & Villar, VA 2020, 'The Pre-explosion Mass Distribution of Hydrogen-poor Superluminous Supernova Progenitors and New Evidence for a Mass-Spin Correlation', The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 897, no. 2, pp. 114. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/ab9638

Gomez, S, Nicholl, M, Short, P, Margutti, R, Alexander, KD, Blanchard, PK, Berger, E, Eftekhari, T, Schulze, S, Anderson, J, Arcavi, I, Chornock, R, Cowperthwaite, PS, Galbany, L, Herzog, LJ, Hiramatsu, D, Hosseinzadeh, G, Laskar, T, Müller Bravo, TE, Patton, L & Terreran, G 2020, 'The Tidal Disruption Event AT 2018hyz II: Light-curve modelling of a partially disrupted star', Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 497, no. 2, pp. 1925-1934. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/staa2099

Müller-Bravo, TE, Gutiérrez, CP, Sullivan, M, Jerkstrand, A, Anderson, JP, González-Gaitán, S, Sollerman, J, Arcavi, I, Burke, J, Galbany, L, Gal-Yam, A, Gromadzki, M, Hiramatsu, D, Hosseinzadeh, G, Howell, DA, Inserra, C, Kankare, E, Kozyreva, A, McCully, C, Nicholl, M, Smartt, S, Valenti, S & Young, DR 2020, 'The low-luminosity Type II SN 2016aqf: a well-monitored spectral evolution of the Ni/Fe abundance ratio', Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 497, no. 1, pp. 361-377. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/staa1932

Prentice, SJ, Maguire, K, Flörs, A, Taubenberger, S, Inserra, C, Frohmaier, C, Chen, TW, Anderson, JP, Ashall, C, Clark, P, Fraser, M, Galbany, L, Gal-Yam, A, Gromadzki, M, Gutiérrez, CP, James, PA, Jonker, PG, Kankare, E, Leloudas, G, Magee, MR, Mazzali, PA, Nicholl, M, Pursiainen, M, Skillen, K, Smartt, SJ, Smith, KW, Vogl, C & Young, DR 2020, 'The rise and fall of an extraordinary Ca-rich transient. The discovery of ATLAS19dqr/SN 2019bkc', Astronomy and Astrophysics, vol. 635, pp. A186. https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201936515

Gomez, S, Hosseinzadeh, G, Cowperthwaite, PS, Villar, VA, Berger, E, Gardner, T, Alexand er, KD, Blanchard, PK, Chornock, R, Drout, MR, Eftekhari, T, Fong, W, Gill, K, Margutti, R, Nicholl, M, Paterson, K & Williams, PKG 2019, 'A Galaxy-targeted Search for the Optical Counterpart of the Candidate NS-BH Merger S190814bv with Magellan', The Astrophysical Journal Letters, vol. 884, no. 2, pp. L55. https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/ab4ad5

Eftekhari, T, Berger, E, Margalit, B, Blanchard, PK, Patton, L, Demorest, P, Williams, PKG, Chatterjee, S, Cordes, JM, Lunnan, R, Metzger, BD & Nicholl, M 2019, 'A Radio Source Coincident with the Superluminous Supernova PTF10hgi: Evidence for a Central Engine and an Analog of the Repeating FRB 121102?', The Astrophysical Journal Letters, vol. 876, no. 1, pp. L10. https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/ab18a5

Doctor, Z, Kessler, R, Herner, K, Palmese, A, Soares-Santos, M, Annis, J, Brout, D, Holz, DE, Sako, M, Rest, A, Cowperthwaite, P, Berger, E, Foley, RJ, Conselice, CJ, Gill, MSS, Allam, S, Balbinot, E, Butler, RE, Chen, H-Y, Chornock, R, Cook, E, Diehl, HT, Farr, B, Fong, W, Frieman, J, Fryer, C, Garcia-Bellido, J, Margutti, R, Marshall, JL, Matheson, T, Metzger, BD, Nicholl, M, Paz-Chinchón, F, Salim, S, Sauseda, M, Secco, LF, Smith, RC, Smith, N, Vivas, AK, Tucker, DL, Abbott, TMC, Avila, S, Bechtol, K, Bertin, E, Brooks, D, Buckley-Geer, E, Burke, DL, Carnero Rosell, A, Carrasco Kind, M, Carretero, J, Castander, FJ, D'Andrea, CB, da Costa, LN, De Vicente, J, Desai, S, Doel, P, Flaugher, B, Fosalba, P, Gaztanaga, E, Gerdes, DW, Goldstein, DA, Gruen, D, Gruendl, RA, Gutierrez, G, Hartley, WG, Hollowood, DL, Honscheid, K, Hoyle, B, James, DJ, Jeltema, T, Kent, S, Kuehn, K, Kuropatkin, N, Lahav, O, Lima, M, Maia, MAG, March, M, Menanteau, F, Miller, CJ, Miquel, R, Neilsen, E, Nord, B, Ogando, RLC, Plazas, AA, Roodman, A, Sanchez, E, Scarpine, V, Schindler, R, Schubnell, M, Serrano, S, Sevilla-Noarbe, I, Smith, M, Sobreira, F, Suchyta, E, Swanson, MEC, Tarle, G, Thomas, D, Walker, AR, Wester, W & Collaboration, DES 2019, 'A Search for Optical Emission from Binary Black Hole Merger GW170814 with the Dark Energy Camera', The Astrophysical Journal Letters, vol. 873, no. 2, pp. L24. https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/ab08a3

Blanchard, PK, Nicholl, M, Berger, E, Chornock, R, Milisavljevic, D, Margutti, R & Gomez, S 2019, 'A hydrogen-poor superluminous supernova with enhanced iron-group absorption: a new link between SLSNe and broad-lined type Ic SNe  ', The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 872, no. 1, 90. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/aafa13

Margutti, R, Metzger, BD, Chornock, R, Vurm, I, Roth, N, Grefenstette, BW, Savchenko, V, Cartier, R, Steiner, JF, Terreran, G, Margalit, B, Migliori, G, Milisavljevic, D, Alexand er, KD, Bietenholz, M, Blanchard, PK, Bozzo, E, Brethauer, D, Chilingarian, IV, Coppejans, DL, Ducci, L, Ferrigno, C, Fong, W, Götz, D, Guidorzi, C, Hajela, A, Hurley, K, Kuulkers, E, Laurent, P, Mereghetti, S, Nicholl, M, Patnaude, D, Ubertini, P, Banovetz, J, Bartel, N, Berger, E, Coughlin, ER, Eftekhari, T, Frederiks, DD, Kozlova, AV, Laskar, T, Svinkin, DS, Drout, MR, MacFadyen, A & Paterson, K 2019, 'An Embedded X-Ray Source Shines through the Aspherical AT 2018cow: Revealing the Inner Workings of the Most Luminous Fast-evolving Optical Transients', The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 872, no. 1, pp. 18. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/aafa01

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