I came to Manchester to do my PhD with what was then the Optical Astronomy group. Many years later I'm still here, although both the buildings and the research group are very different now. I've been fortunate enough to travel all over the world to use telescopes in remote regions and to present my research work at international conferences. My work-life balance, and the balance between the research and teaching parts of my job have changed during my career; after my PhD, I worked full-time and concentrated on research whereas now I work part-time and concentrate on teaching. No doubt the balance will shift again soon as my children fly the nest.
I study Planetary Nebulae, which aren't actually to do with planets, but are the beautiful nebulae formed as a normal, low-mass star - like our sun - reaches the end of its life.
Mainly, I do this by observing the optical spectra from these nebulae and trying to work out from the red or blue shift of the light their 3-d structure and motion. They are rarely spherical like their parent stars, and I am interested in what influence a binary central star can have on the formation and evolution of the surrounding nebula.
One of my career highlights was showing that the Etched Hourglass nebula is firing out bullets of gas at about 500km/s.
Reseach group: Sun, Stars and Galaxies
Most of my teaching takes place in the lab or tutorials, and for me the most important thing is to create an atmosphere where students feel comfortable in discussing their work with me so that I can guide them in learning to think their way through problems.
Day to day, one of the aspects of teaching I most enjoy is that moment when you're discussing a problem with a student and suddenly what had been an unfathomable mess becomes crystal clear to them.
I've stayed in touch with most of my former PhD students, and I enjoy seeing how their careers are progressing. For me, one of the measures of success when a student completes their course is that they have fulfilled - or exceeded - their potential.