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Published: 24 June 2020

Surrey lecturer stars at Royal Astronomical Society bicentenary

Dr Michelle Collins, an astrophysicist who works in our Department of Physics, will be giving a talk to mark the 200th birthday celebrations of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Originally planned as a public lecture as part of a series of events to mark the venerable institution’s bicentenary, the Covid-19 pandemic now means it will go ahead as a free online talk on 26 June at 12.30pm, which is then repeated at 6pm.

“The working title is Adventures in Galactic Archaeology,” says Michelle, who conducted research at the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, before coming to Surrey in 2014. “I’ll be talking about how I try to understand the way in which galaxies like the Milky Way form and grow.

“I use the stars in galaxies as a fossil record of their evolution, and try to pinpoint which processes are most important for forming a spiral galaxy.

“I’m hoping to give people insight into how messy and complicated galaxy formation is, and how, despite all the mess, we can end up with a beautiful spiral galaxy at the end.”

Michelle is a familiar face when it comes to encouraging wider public participation in astrophysics and astronomy. She won a SEPnet Public Engagement Award for this work in 2017 and she’s been a regular webinar presence discussing astronomy during lockdown. She’s also a keen runner who charts her progress in her online blog, The Running Astronomer.

When this most recent and prestigious lecture is over, though, it will be back to the day job and her latest area of research.

“I’m currently working on the evolution of the smallest galaxies in the Universe, and how their properties can tell us about what dark matter is made from,” adds Michelle.

Will this be a fascinating subject for another live talk? Watch this space…

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