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School of Physical and Chemical Sciences

Professor Richard Nelson


Professor of Astronomy and Mathematics

Room Number: G. O. Jones Building, Room 501


In the academic year 2019/20 I taught the Masters level module SPA7023 Stellar Structure and Evolution and the first-year undergraduate module SPA4101 Our Universe.


Research Interests:

My research is focussed primarily on the theory of planet formation, with particular emphasis on understanding how planets and planetesimals interact with the protoplanetary discs within which they form, and how this interaction affects the formation and global architecture of planetary systems. Broadly speaking my current research may be divided into two different strands. The first consists of detailed studies of the interaction between planets and planetesimals with protoplanetary discs, using state-of-the-art hydrodynamic and magnetohydrodynamic simulations of protoplanetary discs. The second utilises global N-body simulations combined with prescriptions for disc-planet interactions to model the formation of complete planetary systems. The long-term goal of this research is to develop models capable of reproducing in a statistical sense the observations of extrasolar planets.

Examples of research funding:

  • £1,300,000 Consolidated Grant from STFC for Astronomy Research 2020-2023 (PI: Malik): 01.04.2017 to 31.03.2020
  • £195,629 Leverhulme Grant Empirical Evidence and theoretical investigations on circumbinary planets (QMUL PI Nelson): 01.10.2019 to 30.09.2023
  • £1,246,943 Consolidated Grant from STFC for Astronomy Reserach 2017-2020 (PI: Nelson): 01.04.2017 to 31.03.2020
  • £50,000 per annum 2017-2020 from the Univrsity of London Perren Fund (PhD studentship, QMUL-Perren Visiting Professorship, UG student internship at Skinakas observatory, travel funds to support CARMENES and SKA visits)
  • £30,000 per annum 2013-2016 from the University of London Perren Fund (PhD studentship, QMUL-Perren Visiting Professorship)
  • £170,000 from the University of London Perren fund to join the CARMENES consortium and build the QMUL Astronomical Observatory
  • £1,237,644 Consolidated Grant from STFC for Astronomy Reserach 2015-2018 (PI: Nelson): 01.04.2015 to 31.03.2018
  • £1,632,102 Consolidated Grant from STFC for Astronomy Research 2012-2015 (PI: Burgess); 01.04.2012 to 31.03.2015
  • £385,000 Standard Grant from STFC for Planet Formation in Realistic Protostellar Disc Models: 01.10.2008 to 01.01.2012
  • £60,000 Standard Grant from STFC to support the Isaac Newton Research Programme Dynamics of Discs and Planets: 15/08/2009 to 15/12/2009
  • £350,000 Standard Grant from STFC for Planet Formation and Ring-Satellite Interactions (PI:Nelson, co-I C. Murray): 01/04/2006 to 31/03/2009


My publications are listed on ADS and may be seen by clicking here


I am currently supervising the PhD students Sanson Poon (thesis topic: Formation and dynamical evolution of compact systems of Super-Earths) and George Turpin (thesis topic: Hydrodynamical modelling of circumbinary discs and planets)

The following PhD projects are available but please note this is not an exhaustive description and a range of PhD projects in the theoretical modelling of planet formation of planet forming discs can be offered.

Project Title

Planetary formation and migration

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