Professor Derek Ward-Thompson MA (Oxon), PhD, FRAS, MInstP

Director of Jeremiah Horrocks Institute of Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy


Email: dward-thompson at



For my most recent research, please see:


I am a member of the Council of the Royal Astronomical Society.

I am the Chair of the Publication Committee of the Event Horizon Telescope that has taken pictures of the black holes SgrA* and M87*.

Black hole SgrA*

Black hole M87*

I was part of the team that took the first ever picture of a black hole. See a video of my public lecture on this topic here:

News bulletin interviews with Sky & the BBC about the black hole picture.

sky-news video link

bbc-world video link

I was President of the UK Society for Popular Astronomy.

Click here to find out more about the SPA.

To see my July 2013 lecture to the SPA about the latest results on star formation from the Herschel Space Observatory

click here.

I am a member of the Herschel SPIRE Consortium, which won the RAS Group Achievement Award in Astronomy for 2014.

Click here for details.

I wrote a text-book on An Introduction to Star Formation in 2011 with my colleague, Professor Anthony Whitworth of Cardiff University. This book is aimed at final year under-graduate students and was published by Cambridge University Press.

Click here to find out more.

I ran the Great North Run in 2013.
Click here to see some pictures.


I obtained my first degree from Oxford University in 1983 and my PhD from Durham University in 1987. I worked at Lancashire Polytechnic for 3 years and carried out post-doctoral research at Cambridge University for 3 years. I was a senior research fellow at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, for 5 years, before I was appointed to a lectureship in Cardiff University in 1998. I was awarded a personal chair by Cardiff University in 2007, and promoted to Deputy Head of School in 2010. I was made Director of the JHI in July 2012. I currently lead a research group in Observational Star Formation, which has both post-doctoral and post-graduate members, partly funded through a consolidated grant from STFC.

My research interests lie in the field of the formation of stars and planets. In particular I am interested in the very earliest stages of star formation. I co-authored the seminal discovery paper of Class 0 protostars, and I also identified the even earlier evolutionary stage known as pre-stellar cores. I have appeared on the BBC ‘Sky at night’ programme on six occasions, and the Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme once, talking about my research. I have published over 200 papers in total, including over 150 refereed publications, which have received over 7000 citations between them.

I have taught a 2nd-yr course in ‘Observational Techniques in Astronomy’ and was responsible for the 2nd, 3rd & 4th year Astronomy Teaching Laboratories and Telescopes at Cardiff University. I have previously demonstrated in the 1st year Computing Laboratory and in the 1st year Physics Laboratory. I have also previously taught a 4th-year course on Spectroscopy. I gave 1st and 2nd year tutorials and supervised 3rd and 4th year undergraduate projects. I also teach a number of post-graduate PhD students at any one time.

I currently supervise a post-doctoral research assistant. I was the PI of the THUMPER 200-micron camera and supervised the team which built it. I have previously supervised the astronomy research computer management. I supervise 2-4 PhD students at any one time.

I was awarded a visiting Professorship of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France, for academic year 2005/6, held jointly at the Observatoire de Bordeaux and Centre d Etudes Nucleaires de Saclay. I also spent a Sabbatical Summer Research Associateship at the University of Illinois in 1997. I have been invited to give papers at many international conferences, including Protostars and Planets V in Kona in 2005, and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Symposium on Star formation at high angular resolution in Sydney in 2003. I have written a number of invited review papers for various publications, including for Science in 2002, and for The ISO Science Legacy in 2005.

I have sat on many Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC)/ Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) committees and other government body committees and panels, including James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) Board, Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) Council, International Astronomical Union Divisions VI & X, Panel for the Allocation of Telescope Time (PATT), UK ALMA Oversight Committee, UK Space Science Advisory Group, Cornell-Caltech Atacama Telescope (CCAT) Board, FIR Advisory Panel, Royal Observatory Greenwich Advisory Committee, Gemini UK Science Committee, UK Scientific Advisory Group of JWST, and PPARC Astronomical Computing Panel.