Stephen Wilkins

Observational and theoretical astronomer

I am a Reader in Astronomy (equivalent to Associate Professor) in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) at the University of Sussex. I am also a STFC Leadership in Public Engagement Fellow, Head of Astronomy (Director of the Astronomy Centre), and the Director of Outreach and Public Egagement (DOPE) for MPS.

In my free time I am also the founder and chair of Curiosity Sussex a local science education charity as well as being a trustee of Science Projects a non-profit organisation bringing science to the public through interactive exhibits.

Teaching & Adminstration

Since moving to Sussex in 2013 I have carried a full teaching and adminstrative load.


In addition to supervising a team of PhD students engaged in research I also teach several undergraduate or MSc modules (of parts of modules):

  • Current teaching:
    • Mechanics and Relativity (0.3) [Y1]
    • Introduction to Astronomy [Y1]
    • Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics (0.4) [Y4]
    • BSc Research Project [Y3]
    • MPhys Research Project [Y4]
    • Research Project [MSc Astronomy]
    • Research Project [MSc Data Science]
  • Previous teaching:
    • Quarks to Cosmos (0.1) [Y1]
    • Extragalactic Astronomy [Y3]
    • Wider Topics in Data Science [MSc Data Science]


  • Current adminstrative responsibilities:
    • Director of Outreach and Public Engagement (2019-)
    • Head of Astronomy (2020-)
  • Previous adminstrative responsibilities:
    • Astronomy PGR Admissions Tutor (2018-2019)
    • Senior Admissions Tutor (2014-2017)
    • [Institutional] Director of Research Staff Development (2017)


My research predominantly concerns understanding the process of galaxy formation and evolution especially in the early Universe. I use both observations (e.g. from Hubble, Spitzer, VLT, ALMA, and in the future Webb) and galaxy formation simulations.

You can see a list of publications (via ADS) here.


I previously worked extensively with Hubble observations, particularly immediately after Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) was installed as part of the final servicing mission to Hubble in 2009. Observationally, I am currently focussed on the Webb Telescope which should launch by the end of 2021. See this article on the Conversation about how Webb will transform our view of the distant Universe.

I am a member of various observational teams, including the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS), COSMOS-Webb, PRIMER, and Webb-DEEP, all of which have secured time on Webb. I am also a member of the Hubble COS Legacy Archive Spectroscopic SurveY (CLASSY), the Euclid Consortium, and the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) survey.


I also work extensively with galaxy formation simulations, particularly hydrodynamical simulations which follow the co-evolution of dark matter, gas, stars, and black holes.

I was previously extensively involved in the Massive Black and Bluetides projects (PI Tiziana Di Matteo). More recently I am involved in EAGLE-XL, an evolution of the original EAGLE project based on the SWIFT code via the Virgo Consortium. I also currently co-lead the First Light and Reionisation Epoch Simualtions (FLARES) project a suite of simulations based on EAGLE but applying an innovative strategy allowing us to simulate a much larger effective volume of the Universe.


During the COVID-19 pandemic I established the SAZERAC: the Summer All Zoom Epoch of Reionisation Astronomy Conference alongside Steve Finkelstein. SAZERAC was established to provide the opportunity for early career researchers to promote their work. The first SAZERAC meeting attracted almost 400 participants with a series of spin-offs (SIPS) and a second summer meeting in 2021.

Outreach and Public Engagement

Since beginning my PhD I have been active in various public engagement activities and I am currently an STFC Leadership in Public Engagement Fellow and also Director of Outreach and Public Egagement (DOPE) for the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences.


As DOPE I oversee a wide programme of activities inccluding the Sussex Universe lecture series. As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic we took Sussex Universe online, offering pre-reocrded talks and live Q&A sessions via Zoom, and expanded to other subjects.


I have given talks on a variety of topics to a wide number of audiences from primary school students, astronomy societies across the UK, to more general public audiences at large events. Notably, I have spoke at the Bluedot festival in 2018 and 2019 and at Gresham College about the Origin of the Elements (available online). You can also find several of my talks on the Sussex Universe lecture series website.

For talk requests please email me at

Hubble and Webb

Much of my public engagement work has focussed on promoting both the Hubble Webb Space Telescopes. Notably, in 2018 I led an exhibit at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition. I led a second exhibit in 2020 (postponed to 2021) based on the Hubble Space Telescope. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this was postponed to 2021 and moved completely online. You can find some of the core material here.

Diversifying Science Through Outreach

I've also spent a lot of time promoting astronomy and space Science to underrepresented groups. Most recently I established the Guide Stars programme to engage members of the Guiding community with astronomy and space science.

Luminarium | Museum of Quantum

Working with several partners I am currently developing a proposal for a science and discovery centre in Brighton with the working name of the the Luminarium. This would feature the world's first Museum of Quantum. In parallel I've begun developing a virtual Museum of Quantum which you can find here.

Curiosity Sussex

Beyond Astronomy I helped establish two branches of the British Science Association. Under the aegis of the Lewes branch I established the Lewes STEM Fair, an annual free science fair held in Lewes. In 2019 this event attracted almost 1000 visitors. With the demise of the British Science Association branches in 2019 I helped establish Curiosity Sussex to continue organising events in Sussex. Curiosity Sussex runs Brighton WonderFest which in 2019 attracted >2000 people as well as the Lewes STEM Fair.

Science Projects

Since 2021 I have also been a trustee of Science Projects a non-profit organisation bringing science to the public through interactive exhibits.

Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion

I am strongly committed to improving representation in physics and astronomy and changing the academic culture. Much of my public engagement work focuses on engaging under-represented groups with science.


Postal Address

  • Department of Physics and Astronomy
  • University of Sussex
  • Brighton
  • BN1 9QH
  • United Kingdom