My research is in the field of Galactic Archaeology, looking at ancient stars and what they can teach us about the early formation and evolution of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. I have been interested in astronomy from childhood when my brother first showed me the constellations. It was during my undergraduate studies in astronomy that I became fascinated by stars, by their rules and properties, their mass, colour and brightness.

One advantage of my Fellowship is the ability to connect and collaborate with so many different people in Cambridge who are involved in projects which drive progress in this field.

This Fellowship has put me at the forefront of research into the oldest stars in the galaxy, formed over 13 billion years ago. How many ancient stars are there? What are they made of? Do they move around with regular or random motion? My research team uses spectroscopic observations to derive the chemical and dynamical properties of stars, to help us locate the rarest, oldest ones. We have learnt that many ancient stars are found in the inner regions of the Milky Way, and they stay in the centre rather than moving around through the galaxy. It is amazing to think that I could be the first person to learn something new about the universe – if pristine stars from the first generation do exist, I would love to be the first person to find one. The thought of making this type of discovery excites me, and I’m grateful for the endowed funding for making this a possibility.

Exciting innovations in Galactic Archaeology include new hardware that make it easier and more efficient to scan the sky, and new techniques in machine learning which enable us to extract data from surveys more quickly and on a far larger scale. There are several important surveys of the sky planned over the next few years, and I’m looking forward to seeing the data.

Sometimes the nature of this work can feel abstract, but when I meet people on outreach visits to schools or at open evenings, they remind me what an interesting and fun subject this is.