Jeremiah Horrocks Institute

Theoretical Star Formation & Exoplanets



The question about the origin of planets and life has fascinated humanity since ancient times. Until two decades ago we knew just the planets in our Solar System. Since then thousands of planets have been discovered around other stars. To our surprise these exoplanets have properties that are much different from the properties of the planets of our Solar System, challenging our understanding of how planets form. This is a vibrant and exciting field with many more discoveries to come from observing facilities like e.g. Kepler, GAIA, ALMA and the upcoming TESS and JWST.

The primary focus of our research is to understand the link between star and planet formation by developing computational models to study how protostellar discs, the cradles of planets, form and evolve under different conditions, and how giant planets form and evolve in them.

How do exoplanets form? How their formation relates to the formation of their parent stars? How do they evolve in the first few thousand years of their lives? What do they tell us about the formation of our Solar System? Do they influence the formation of terrestrial planets? Is our Solar System unique? These are some of the exciting open questions that we are trying to answer with our research.


Group Leader

Dr. Dimitris Stamatellos (theoretical star formation, exoplanets, brown dwarfs, protoplanetary discs)


Alex Dunhill (protoplanetary discs, dynamics of circumbinary discs, planet formation)

PhD Students

Adam Fenton (“Planet formation by disc instability”)

Anthony Mercer (“A numerical study of the gravitational instability in protostellar disc”)

Raeesa Parker (“Radio observations of disks around young stellar objects”; co-supervised with D. Ward-Thompson)

Seung-Won Yang (“The dynamics of planets in young discs”; Seoul National University, co-supervised with Woong-Tae Kim)

Master/MPhys Students

Adam Fenton (“Nbody simulations of young planetary systems in stellar clusters”)

Jack Bell  (“Hydrodynamic models of protoplanetary discs”)

Previous members

Ben MacFarlane (PhD 2019: “Episodic accretion in young protostars: Simulations and observational characteristics”)

Kate Robinson (MSc 2017: “The migration of planets in protoplanetary discs”)

Tom Halpin (MPhys Project  2015-2016: “The evolution of circumplanetary discs”)

Anthony Mercer (MPhys Project 2014-2015: “The thermal history of protostellar discs”)

Ben Miller (MPhys Project  2014-2015: “Gap formation in protostellar discs”)

Tom Halpin (Summer Intern 2014: “The properties of young protostars”)

Andrew Barr (Summer Intern 2014: “The role of metallicity in disc fragmentation”)

Star Formation & Exoplanets @ UCLAN

JHI researchers have a wide range of interests that cover theoretical and observational aspects of star formation, exoplanets, and life in the Universe