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

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

Scott, S, Nicholl, M, Blanchard, P, Gomez, S & Berger, E 2019, 'Bright type IIP supernovae in low-metallicity galaxies', Astrophysical Journal Letters, vol. 870, no. 2, L16. https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/aaf8ad

Hosseinzadeh, G, Cowperthwaite, PS, Gomez, S, Villar, VA, Nicholl, M, Margutti, R, Berger, E, Chornock, R, Paterson, K, Fong, W, Savchenko, V, Short, P, Alexander, KD, Blanchard, PK, Braga, J, Calkins, ML, Cartier, R, Coppejans, DL, Eftekhari, T, Laskar, T, Ly, C, Patton, L, Pelisoli, I, Reichart, DE, Terreran, G & Williams, PKG 2019, 'Follow-up of the neutron star bearing gravitational-wave candidate events S190425z and S190426c with MMT and SOAR', The Astrophysical Journal. https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/ab271c

Nicholl, M, Berger, E, Blanchard, PK, Gomez, S & Chornock, R 2019, 'Nebular-phase spectra of superluminous supernovae: physical insights from observational and statistical properties ', The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 871, no. 1, 102. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/aaf470

Gomez, S, Berger, E, Nicholl, M, Blanchard, PK, Villar, VA, Patton, L, Chornock, R, Leja, J, Hosseinzadeh, G & Cowperthwaite, PS 2019, 'SN 2016iet: the pulsational or pair instability explosion of a low-metallicity massive CO core embedded in a dense hydrogen-poor circumstellar medium', The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 881, no. 2, 87. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/ab2f92

Nicholl, M, Blanchard, PK, Berger, E, Gomez, S, Margutti, R, Alexander, KD, Guillochon, J, Leja, J, Chornock, R, Snios, B, Auchettl, K, Bruce, AG, Challis, P, D'Orazio, DJ, Drout, MR, Eftekhari, T, Foley, RJ, Graur, O, Kilpatrick, CD, Lawrence, A, Piro, AL, Rojas-Bravo, C, Ross, NP, Short, P, Smartt, SJ, Smith, KW & Stalder, B 2019, 'The tidal disruption event AT2017eqx: spectroscopic evolution from hydrogen rich to poor suggests an atmosphere and outflow', Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 488, no. 2, pp. 1878–1893. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stz1837

Guillochon, J, Nicholl, M, Villar, VA, Mockler, B, Narayan, G, Mandel, KS, Berger, E & Williams, PKG 2018, 'MOSFiT: Modular Open Source Fitter for Transients', Astrophysical Journal. Supplement Series, vol. 236, no. 1, 6. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4365/aab761

Nicholl, M, Blanchard, PK, Berger, E, Alexander, KD, Metzger, BD, Bhirombhakdi, K, Chornock, R, Coppejans, D, Gomez, S, Margalit, B, Margutti, R & Terreran, G 2018, 'One thousand days of SN2015bn: HST imaging shows a light curve flattening consistent with magnetar predictions', Astrophysical Journal Letters, vol. 866, no. 2, L24. https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/aae70d

Villar, VA, Nicholl, M & Berger, E 2018, 'Superluminous supernovae in LSST: rates, detection metrics, and light-curve modeling', The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 869, no. 2, 166. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/aaee6a

Moriya, TJ, Nicholl, M & Guillochon, J 2018, 'Systematic investigation of the fallback accretion-powered model for hydrogen-poor superluminous supernovae', The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 867, no. 2, 113. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/aae53d

Blanchard, PK, Nicholl, M, Berger, E, Chornock, R, Margutti, R, Milisavljevic, D, Fong, W, MacLeod, C & Bhirombhakdi, K 2018, 'The type I superluminous supernova PS16aqv: lightcurve complexity and deep limits on radioactive ejecta in a fast event', The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 865, no. 1, 9. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/aad8b9

LIGO Scientific Collaboration, Virgo Collaboration, 1M2H Collaboration, Dark Energy Camera GW-EM Collaboration, DES Collaboration, DLT40 Collaboration, Las Cumbres Observatory Collaboration, The VINROUGE Collaboration, MASTER Collaboration & Nicholl, M 2017, 'A gravitational-wave standard siren measurement of the Hubble constant', Nature, vol. 551, no. 7678, pp. 85-88. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature24471

Nicholl, M, Berger, E, Margutti, R, Blanchard, PK, Milisavljevic, D, Challis, P, Metzger, BD & Chornock, R 2017, 'An Ultraviolet Excess in the Superluminous Supernova Gaia16apd Reveals a Powerful Central Engine', Astrophysical Journal Letters. https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/aa56c5

Nicholl, M, Williams, PKG, Berger, E, Villar, VA, Alexander, KD, Eftekhari, T & Metzger, BD 2017, 'Empirical Constraints on the Origin of Fast Radio Bursts: Volumetric Rates and Host Galaxy Demographics as a Test of Millisecond Magnetar Connection', The Astrophysical Journal. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/aa794d

View all publications in research portal