Stephen M. Wilkins

Professor of Astronomy and Public Understanding of Science, University of Sussex

Deparmental Profile

I am a Professor in Astronomy and the Public Understanding of Science in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) at the University of Sussex. I currently serve as Head of Astronomy (Director of the Astronomy Centre), and the Director of Outreach and Public Egagement (DOPE).

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


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 JWST 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-Web, PRIMER, and NGDEEP, all of which have secured time on JWST. I am also a member of the Hubbl 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). I 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.

Research Culture


I am currently planning the STFC funded Advanced Cosmology and Extragalactic astronomy Summer school (ACES).


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.


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


Public Engagement

Since beginning my PhD I have been active in various public engagement activities. From 2018-2023 I was an STFC Leadership in Public Engagement Fellow. and I currently serve as Director of Outreach and Public Egagement (DOPE).