The University of Southampton

Peter Boorman PhD in astrophysics, fourth year MPhys Physics, 2015

My parents both did PhDs at Southampton and I’d done my undergraduate degree here, so when I was applying I was familiar with the location. The astronomy group was very welcoming when I first sought to apply which really helped me find a project I was interested in.

The access to expertise in my research area (astronomy) is truly first class here at Southampton.

The years I’ve spent studying for my PhD have been some of the best of my life. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being part of the Astronomy Group, as well as presenting my research at international conferences and networking with experts at multiple institutes across the world.

Collaborations with global institutions

The access to expertise in my research area (astronomy) is truly first class here at Southampton. There is very rarely someone in the department that can’t answer questions I have about work, but if that ever is the case, contacts I have made through networking and collaborations are always extremely helpful.

I have collaborated at three different institutes: Caltech, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Universidad Diego Portales. Each time, I learned work-based skills, as well as life skills involved with the travelling aspect. These trips also gave me the chance to experience other cultures and most importantly for me – food!

Academic achievements

I have been nominated twice for a University of Southampton Doctoral College awards, within the theme of Citizenship and Community. I’ll also be attending a Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting, in which approximately 600 researchers are selected from institutions across the world. The meeting is a chance for early-career researchers to engage and discuss science with Nobel Laureates (as well as other early-career researchers).

I’m probably most proud of a press release I gave for my first paper in my first year of study.

Growing as a person through PhD study

My PhD studies have enabled me to truly come out of my shell, and I feel I have grown in confidence throughout the entire process. I’ve learned lots of new programming techniques as well as transferrable skills such as leadership and time management.

I also founded a running group in the astronomy department, try to swim a few times every week and joined the University Pottery Society. I have also been a runner-up in the Bake your PhD competition twice! Being able to take a break from work has been vital for my studies and kept me sane!

My postdoctoral research position

I am starting a postdoctoral research position in Prague next year, to continue my research of supermassive black holes.

I have also been awarded the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) fellowship in Japan, Kyoto. This fellowship is an opportunity for me to work on my own project with world-leading experts in Japan, and I’m very much looking forward to working with an upcoming Japanese high-resolution X-Ray spectroscopy satellite whilst I’m there (named the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission). I love to travel, and this will be the first time that I’m living abroad for more than a month, so I’m also extremely excited to start exploring Czechia and Japan in my free time!