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


Cannizzaro, G, Wevers, T, Jonker, PG, Pérez-Torres, MA, Moldon, J, Mata-Sánchez, D, Leloudas, G, Pasham, DR, Mattila, S, Arcavi, I, French, KD, Onori, F, Inserra, C, Nicholl, M, Gromadzki, M, Chen, T-W, Müller-Bravo, TE, Short, P, Anderson, JP, Young, DR, Gendreau, KC, Arzoumanian, Z, Löwenstein, M, Remillard, R, Roy, R & Hiramatsu, D 2021, 'Accretion disc cooling and narrow absorption lines in the tidal disruption event AT 2019dsg', Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 504, no. 1, pp. 792–815. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stab851

Suzuki, A, Nicholl, M, Moriya, TJ & Takiwaki, T 2021, 'Extremely energetic supernova explosions embedded in a massive circumstellar medium: the case of SN 2016aps', The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 908, no. 1, 99. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/abd6ce

Fiore, A, Chen, T-W, Jerkstrand, A, Benetti, S, Ciolfi, R, Inserra, C, Cappellaro, E, Pastorello, A, Leloudas, G, Schulze, S, Berton, M, Burke, J, McCully, C, Fong, W, Galbany, L, Gromadzki, M, Gutiérrez, CP, Hiramatsu, D, Hosseinzadeh, G, Howell, DA, Kankare, E, Lunnan, R, Müller-Bravo, TE, O’ Neill, D, Nicholl, M, Rau, A, Sollerman, J, Terreran, G, Valenti, S & Young, DR 2021, 'SN 2017gci: a nearby Type I Superluminous Supernova with a bumpy tail', Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 502, no. 2, pp. 2120–2139. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/staa4035

Fong, W, Laskar, T, Rastinejad, J, Escorial, AR, Schroeder, G, Barnes, J, Kilpatrick, CD, Paterson, K, Berger, E, Metzger, BD, Dong, Y, Nugent, AE, Strausbaugh, R, Blanchard, PK, Goyal, A, Cucchiara, A, Terreran, G, Alexander, KD, Eftekhari, T, Fryer, C, Margalit, B, Margutti, R & Nicholl, M 2021, 'The broadband counterpart of the short GRB 200522A at z = 0.5536: a luminous kilonova or a collimated outflow with a reverse shock?', The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 906, no. 2, 127. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/abc74a

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

Nicholl, M, Wevers, T, Oates, SR, Alexander, KD, Leloudas, G, Onori, F, Jerkstrand, A, Gomez, S, Campana, S, Arcavi, I, Charalampopoulos, P, Gromadzki, M, Ihanec, N, Jonker, PG, Lawrence, A, Mandel, I, Schulze, S, Short, P, Burke, J, McCully, C, Hiramatsu, D, Howell, DA, Pellegrino, C, Abbot, H, Anderson, JP, Berger, E, Blanchard, PK, Cannizzaro, G, Chen, T-W, Dennefeld, M, Galbany, L, González-Gaitán, S, Hosseinzadeh, G, Inserra, C, Irani, I, Kuin, P, Müller-Bravo, T, Pineda, J, Ross, NP, Roy, R, Smartt, SJ, Smith, KW, Tucker, B, Wyrzykowski, Ł & Young, DR 2020, 'An outflow powers the optical rise of the nearby, fast-evolving tidal disruption event AT2019qiz', Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/staa2824

Vinciguerra, S, Neijssel, CJ, Vigna-Gómez, A, Mandel, I, Podsiadlowski, P, Maccarone, TJ, Nicholl, M, Kingdon, S, Perry, A & Salemi, F 2020, 'Be X-ray binaries in the SMC as indicators of mass-transfer efficiency', Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/staa2177

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

Gomez, S, Berger, E, Blanchard, PK, Hosseinzadeh, G, Nicholl, M, Villar, VA & Yin, Y 2020, 'FLEET: A Redshift-agnostic Machine Learning Pipeline to Rapidly Identify Hydrogen-poor Superluminous Supernovae', The Astrophysical Journal. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/abbf49

McBrien, OR, Smartt, SJ, Huber, ME, Rest, A, Chambers, KC, Barbieri, C, Bulla, M, Jha, S, Gromadzki, M, Srivastav, S, Smith, KW, Young, DR, McLaughlin, S, Inserra, C, Nicholl, M, Fraser, M, Maguire, K, Chen, T-W, Wevers, T, Anderson, JP, Müller-Bravo, TE, Olivares E, F, Kankare, E, Gal-Yam, A & Waters, C 2020, 'PS15cey and PS17cke: prospective candidates from the Pan-STARRS Search for kilonovae', Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/staa3361

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

Working paper

Ackley, K, Amati, L, Barbieri, C, Bauer, FE, Benetti, S, Bernardini, MG, Bhirombhakdi, K, Botticella, MT, Branchesi, M, Brocato, E, Bruun, SH, Bulla, M, Campana, S, Cappellaro, E, Castro-Tirado, AJ, Chambers, KC, Chaty, S, Chen, T-W, Ciolfi, R, Coleiro, A, Copperwheat, CM, Covino, S, Cutter, R, D'Ammando, F, D'Avanzo, P, De Cesare, G, D'Elia, V, Della Valle, M, Denneau, L, De Pasquale, M, Dhillon, VS, Dyer, MJ, Elias-Rosa, N, Evans, PA, Eyles-Ferris, RAJ, Fiore, A, Fraser, M, Fruchter, AS, Fynbo, JPU, Galbany, L, Gall, C, Galloway, DK, Getman, FI, Ghirlanda, G, Gillanders, JH, Gomboc, A, Gompertz, BP, González-Fernández, C, González-Gaitán, S, Grado, A, Greco, G, Gromadzki, M, Groot, PJ, Gutiérrez, CP, Heikkilä, T, Heintz, KE, Hjorth, J, Hu, Y-D, Huber, ME, Inserra, C, Izzo, L, Japelj, J, Jerkstrand, A, Jin, ZP, Jonker, PG, Kankare, E, Kann, DA, Kennedy, M, Kim, S, Klose, S, Kool, EC, Kotak, R, Kuncarayakti, H, Lamb, GP, Leloudas, G, Levan, AJ, Longo, F, Lowe, TB, Lyman, JD, Magnier, E, Maguire, K, Maiorano, E, Mandel, I, Mapelli, M, Mattila, S, McBrien, OR, Melandri, A, Michałowski, MJ, Milvang-Jensen, B, Moran, S, Nicastro, L, Nicholl, M, Nicuesa Guelbenzu, A, Nuttal, L, Oates, SR, O'Brien, PT, Onori, F, Palazzi, E, Patricelli, B, Perego, A, Torres, MAP, Perley, DA, Pian, E, Pignata, G, Piranomonte, S, Poshyachinda, S, Possenti, A, Pumo, ML, Quirola-Vásquez, J, Ragosta, F, Ramsay, G, Rau, A, Rest, A, Reynolds, TM, Rosetti, SS, Rossi, A, Rosswog, S, Sabha, NB, Sagués Carracedo, A, Salafia, OS, Salmon, L, Salvaterra, R, Savaglio, S, Sbordone, L, Schady, P, Schipani, P, Schultz, ASB, Schweyer, T, Smartt, SJ, Smith, KW, Smith, M, Sollerman, J, Srivastav, S, Stanway, ER, Starling, RLC, Steeghs, D, Stratta, G, Stubbs, CW, Tanvir, NR, Testa, V, Thrane, E, Tonry, JL, Turatto, M, Ulaczyk, K, van der Horst, AJ, Vergani, SD, Walton, NA, Watson, D, Wiersema, K, Wiik, K, Wyrzykowski, Ł, Yang, S, Yi, S-X & Young, DR 2020 'Observational constraints on the optical and near-infrared emission from the neutron star-black hole binary merger candidate S190814bv'. https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/202037669

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