DISCnet Students Profiles

Lisa Kelsey - 2017 Entry
The University of Southampton

The Next Generation of Supernovae Surveys


About Lisa

I did my BSc Physics at the University of Surrey, before undertaking MSc Astrophysics at University College London. At both universities, my research projects focused on the computational modelling of different aspects of supernovae, so I knew that I wanted to undertake a computationally-intensive PhD in this field. My PhD research focuses on host galaxies, primarily those of Type Ia Supernovae, in order to aid in understanding how the properties of the host affect the nature of the supernova. The physical parameters defining type Ia supernova (SN Ia) host galaxies are known to correlate with the observed properties of the supernovae themselves.

As an example, SNe Ia found in late-type galaxies are typically brighter than those found in early-type galaxies.  Accounting for such relationships is vital when continuing to use SNe Ia as standardisable candles, as otherwise they can produce a bias in our understanding of cosmological parameters, such as the dark energy content driving the accelerating expansion of our universe. In order to do this, I collect and analyse data from large observational surveys, such as DES, with the aim that my work will be scaled-up to analyse the immense amounts of data from future surveys.

What is your research?

Supernovae impact upon many diverse areas of astrophysics, from galaxy formation, to stellar evolution, to cosmology and studies of dark energy. The next few years will see a revolution in this field, with the number of objects available to study rising from the hundreds to thousands and tens of thousands per year. In particular, two major new facilities will revolutionise the study of supernovae: the first is the billion-dollar Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), an 8-m survey telescope that will image the whole sky every 3 days, and which will find new supernova explosions at an unprecedented rate. The second is the 4MOST multi-object spectrograph, which will study thousands of supernova explosions in great detail as part of its TIme Domain Extragalactic Survey (TIDES). This combination will provide the ultimate cosmological sample of type Ia supernovae, probing completely new parts of time-domain parameter space.

This project uses scientific results based on existing samples of supernovae - from the Dark Energy Survey (DES), the OzDES survey, and the Palomar Transient Factory - to prepare for the advent of these new facilities.

What have you done in the first 6 months?

I currently use Python to create a variety of star formation scenarios, which I then use to generate theoretical galactic photometric data and match to observed supernova host galaxies, allowing the properties of the host to be determined. I also work with reducing and manipulating DES images and raw data in order to aid with the detection and classification of supernovae.

I will be presenting my work at the EWASS conference in April.

Supervisory Team

Prof. Mark Sullivan, Dr. Mike Childress

Why did you chose a DISCnet funded PhD?

When the PhD was offered to me, I was given the choice of a standard STFC funded studentship, or a DISCnet one. As the project is highly data-intensive, it was a natural fit for DISCnet and the additional training was very attractive. This also puts me in a good position once the PhD is complete, as I will have the skills for jobs in both academia and industry.

 Keep up with Lisa's research on LinkedIn and her university profile.