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Professor Stephen J. Smartt is a world leader in the field of supernovae, astrophysical transients and time domain sky surveys. He has made seminal contributions to our physical understanding of supernovae and how stars explode, culminating in the discovery of the first confirmed electromagnetic signal from a gravitational wave source caused by merging neutron stars.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, he has pioneered the discovery of progenitor stars of supernovae, directly identifying individual stars before explosion. Professor Smartt and his team were the first to directly measure the mass and luminosity of the massive stars that die as core-collapse supernovae, these discoveries have led to tests of stellar evolution theory, explosion models and nucleosynthesis of the elements. The resulting series of papers has influenced theoretical work on how massive stars explode and the boundary between black hole and neutron stars.

Over the past decade, Stephen Smartt has been one of the pioneers of digital, time domain surveys of the sky, scientifically leading two major international projects involving several hundred international scientists: The Pan-STARRS survey for transient objects and PESSTO at the European Southern Observatory for supernovae.

In 2017, Smartt led an international team of scientists on discovery of the first electromagnetic counterpart to a gravitational wave source, proving for the first time that the source of the gravitational wave was the merger of two neutron stars. This recent discovery has already had major implications for physics, cosmology and astrophysics and it heralds a new field of multi-messenger astronomy.

Stephen Smartt is Professor of Physics in the School of Maths and Physics at Queen’s University Belfast where he was director of the Astrophysics Research Centre at 2011-2017. He is a founding member and the first Chair of the Governing Council of ENGRAVE. He is also the UK Project Scientist for the Large Synoptic Survey telescope, an international US led project that will build the world’s largest survey facility.

He has published over 250 refereed papers, with over 14,000 citations, producing important discovery papers including 9 letters in Nature (plus 2 more in Nature Astronomy) and 3 reports in Science.

Smartt was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2012, has won two early career awards (including a Leverhulme Prize), and was awarded the George Darwin Lecture 2018 by the Royal Astronomical Society. He has held two prestigious European 5-year grants (a European Young Investigator Award and an ERC Advanced Grant). His mentoring of his students and postdocs, academic leadership within Queen’s and lead roles within international projects are outstanding.