Dr Matt Nicholl PhD

Dr Matt Nicholl

School of Physics and Astronomy
Associate Professor
Royal Astronomical Society Research Fellow

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Matt Nicholl is an Associate Professor 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


Moran, S, Fraser, M, Kotak, R, Pastorello, A, Benetti, S, Brennan, SJ, Gutiérrez, CP, Kankare, E, Kuncarayakti, H, Mattila, S, Reynolds, TM, Anderson, JP, Brown, PJ, Campana, S, Chambers, KC, Chen, T-W, Della Valle, M, Dennefeld, M, Elias-Rosa, N, Galbany, L, Galindo-Guil, FJ, Gromadzki, M, Hiramatsu, D, Inserra, C, Leloudas, G, Müller-Bravo, TE, Nicholl, M, Reguitti, A, Shahbandeh, M, Smartt, SJ, Tartaglia, L & Young, DR 2023, 'A long life of excess: the interacting transient SN 2017hcc', Astronomy and Astrophysics, vol. 669, no. January 2023, A51. https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/202244565

Smith, GP, Robertson, A, Mahler, G, Nicholl, M, Ryczanowski, D, Bianconi, M, Sharon, K, Massey, R, Richard, J & Jauzac, M 2023, 'Discovering gravitationally lensed gravitational waves: predicted rates, candidate selection, and localization with the Vera Rubin Observatory', Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 520, no. 1, pp. 702-721. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stad140

Pasham, DR, Lucchini, M, Laskar, T, Gompertz, BP, Srivastav, S, Nicholl, M, Smartt, SJ, Miller-Jones, JCA, Alexander, KD, Fender, R, Smith, GP, Fulton, M, Dewangan, G, Gendreau, K, Coughlin, ER, Rhodes, L, Horesh, A, van Velzen, S, Sfaradi, I, Guolo, M, Castro Segura, N, Aamer, A, Anderson, JP, Arcavi, I, Brennan, SJ, Chambers, K, Charalampopoulos, P, Chen, TW, Clocchiatti, A, de Boer, T, Dennefeld, M, Ferrara, E, Galbany, L, Gao, H, Gillanders, JH, Goodwin, A, Gromadzki, M, Huber, M, Jonker, PG, Joshi, M, Kara, E, Killestein, TL, Kosec, P, Kocevski, D, Leloudas, G, Lin, CC, Margutti, R, Mattila, S, Moore, T, Müller-Bravo, T, Ngeow, CC, Oates, S, Onori, F, Pan, YC, Perez-Torres, M, Rani, P, Remillard, R, Ridley, EJ, Schulze, S, Sheng, X, Shingles, L, Smith, KW, Steiner, JF, Wainscoat, R, Wevers, T & Yang, S 2023, 'The birth of a relativistic jet following the disruption of a star by a cosmological black hole', Nature Astronomy, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 88-104. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-022-01820-x

Gompertz, BP, Ravasio, ME, Nicholl, M, Levan, AJ, Metzger, BD, Oates, SR, Lamb, GP, Fong, WF, Malesani, DB, Rastinejad, JC, Tanvir, NR, Evans, PA, Jonker, PG, Page, KL & Pe’er, A 2023, 'The case for a minute-long merger-driven gamma-ray burst from fast-cooling synchrotron emission', Nature Astronomy, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 67-79. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-022-01819-4

Charalampopoulos, P, Leloudas, G, Malesani, DB, Wevers, T, Arcavi, I, Nicholl, M, Pursiainen, M, Lawrence, A, Anderson, JP, Benetti, S, Cannizzaro, G, Chen, T-W, Galbany, L, Gromadzki, M, Gutiérrez, CP, Inserra, C, Jonker, PG, Müller-Bravo, TE, Onori, F, Short, P, Sollerman, J & Young, DR 2022, 'A detailed spectroscopic study of tidal disruption events', Astronomy and Astrophysics, vol. 659, A34. https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/202142122

Rastinejad, JC, Gompertz, BP, Levan, AJ, Fong, WF, Nicholl, M, Lamb, GP, Malesani, DB, Nugent, AE, Oates, SR, Tanvir, NR, de Ugarte Postigo, A, Kilpatrick, CD, Moore, CJ, Metzger, BD, Ravasio, ME, Rossi, A, Schroeder, G, Jencson, J, Sand, DJ, Smith, N, Fernández, JFA, Berger, E, Blanchard, PK, Chornock, R, Cobb, BE, De Pasquale, M, Fynbo, JPU, Izzo, L, Kann, DA, Laskar, T, Marini, E, Paterson, K, Escorial, AR, Sears, HM & Thöne, CC 2022, 'A kilonova following a long-duration gamma-ray burst at 350 Mpc', Nature, vol. 612, no. 7939, pp. 223-227. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-05390-w

Laha, S, Meyer, E, Roychowdhury, A, Becerra Gonzalez, J, Acosta-Pulido, JA, Thapa, A, Ghosh, R, Behar, E, Gallo, LC, Kriss, GA, Panessa, F, Bianchi, S, La Franca, F, Scepi, N, Begelman, MC, Longinotti, AL, Lusso, E, Oates, S, Nicholl, M & Cenko, SB 2022, 'A radio, optical, UV, and X-Ray view of the enigmatic changing-look active galactic nucleus 1ES 1927+654 from Its pre- to postflare states', The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 931, no. 1, 5. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/ac63aa

Leloudas, G, Bulla, M, Cikota, A, Dai, L, Thomsen, LL, Maund, JR, Charalampopoulos, P, Roth, N, Arcavi, I, Auchettl, K, Malesani, DB, Nicholl, M & Ramirez-Ruiz, E 2022, 'An asymmetric electron-scattering photosphere around optical tidal disruption events', Nature Astronomy, vol. 6, no. 10, pp. 1193-1202. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-022-01767-z

Wevers, T, Nicholl, M, Guolo, M, Charalampopoulos, P, Gromadzki, M, Reynolds, TM, Kankare, E, Leloudas, G, Anderson, JP, Arcavi, I, Cannizzaro, G, Chen, TW, Ihanec, N, Inserra, C, Gutiérrez, CP, Jonker, PG, Lawrence, A, Magee, MR, Müller-Bravo, TE, Onori, F, Ridley, E, Schulze, S, Short, P, Hiramatsu, D, Newsome, M, Terwel, JH, Yang, S & Young, D 2022, 'An elliptical accretion disk following the tidal disruption event AT 2020zso', Astronomy and Astrophysics, vol. 666, no. October 2022, A6. https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/202142616

Hosseinzadeh, G, Berger, E, Metzger, BD, Gomez, S, Nicholl, M & Blanchard, P 2022, 'Bumpy declining light curves are common in hydrogen-poor superluminous supernovae', Astrophysical Journal, vol. 933, no. 1, 14. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/ac67dd

Fiore, A, Benetti, S, Nicholl, M, Reguitti, A, Cappellaro, E, Campana, S, Bose, S, Paraskeva, E, Berger, E, Bravo, TM, Burke, J, Cai, Y-Z, Chen, T-W, Chen, P, Ciolfi, R, Dong, S, Gomez, S, Gromadzki, M, Gutiérrez, CP, Hiramatsu, D, Hosseinzadeh, G, Howell, DA, Jerkstrand, A, Kankare, E, Kozyreva, A, Maguire, K, McCully, C, Ochner, P, Pellegrino, C, Pignata, G, Post, RS, Elias-Rosa, N, Shahbandeh, M, Schuldt, S, Thomas, BP, Tomasella, L, Vinkó, J, Vogl, C, Wheeler, JC & Young, DR 2022, 'Close, bright, and boxy: the superluminous SN 2018hti', Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 512, no. 3, pp. 4484–4502. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stac744

Gompertz, BP, Nicholl, M, Schmidt, P, Pratten, G & Vecchio, A 2022, 'Constraints on compact binary merger evolution from spin-orbit misalignment in gravitational-wave observations', Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 511, no. 1, pp. 1454-1461. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stac029

Hajela, A, Margutti, R, Bright, JS, Alexander, KD, Metzger, BD, Nedora, V, Kathirgamaraju, A, Margalit, B, Radice, D, Berger, E, MacFadyen, A, Giannios, D, Chornock, R, Heywood, I, Sironi, L, Gottlieb, O, Coppejans, D, Laskar, T, Cendes, Y, Duran, RB, Eftekhari, T, Fong, W, McDowell, A, Nicholl, M, Xie, X, Zrake, J, Bernuzzi, S, Broekgaarden, FS, Kilpatrick, CD, Terreran, G, Villar, VA, Blanchard, PK, Gomez, S, Hosseinzadeh, G, Matthews, DJ & Rastinejad, JC 2022, 'Evidence for X-Ray emission in excess to the jet-afterglow decay 3.5 yr after the binary neutron star merger GW 170817: a new emission component', Astrophysical Journal Letters, vol. 927, no. 1, L17. https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/ac504a

Sheng, X, Ross, N & Nicholl, M 2022, 'Legacy Survey of Space and Time cadence strategy evaluations for active galactic nucleus time-series data in Wide-Fast-Deep field', Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 512, no. 4, stac803, pp. 5580-5600. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stac803

Irani, I, Prentice, SJ, Schulze, S, Gal-Yam, A, Teffs, J, Mazzali, P, Sollerman, J, Gonzalez, EP, Taggart, K, De, K, Fremling, C, Perley, DA, Strotjohann, NL, Kasliwal, MM, Howell, A, Dhawan, S, Tzanidakis, A, Hiramatsu, D, Kool, EC, Anderson, JP, Müller-Bravo, TE, Dekany, R, Gromadzki, M, Carini, R, Galbany, L, Drake, AJ, Burke, J, Pellegrino, C, Della Valle, M, Medford, MS, Rusholme, B, Young, DR, Gutiérrez, CP, Inserra, C, Omer, R, Shupe, DL, Chen, TW, Shin, KM, Yaron, O, McCully, C, Nicholl, M & Riddle, R 2022, 'Less than 1% of core-collapse supernovae in the local universe occur in elliptical galaxies', Astrophysical Journal, vol. 927, no. 1, 10. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/ac4709

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