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Benjamin Stappers

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Please contact me if you have any interest in working on projects related to Pulsars, Radio Emitting Neutron Stars, Fast Radio Bursts, Machine Learning Applications to any of these, and next generation telescopes like MeerKAT and the Square Kilometre Array. 

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Biography

I am a Professor of Astrophysics in the Jodrell Bank Center for Astrophysics which is in the school of Physics and Astronomy. My primary research interests are radio pulsars, neutron stars and rapid radio transients. I am a member of the European Pulsar Timing Array (EPTA) and international Pulsar Tming Array (IPTA) projects which are attempting to use precision timing of radio pulsars to detect gravitational waves which have a freqeuncy in the nano-Hz regime. These waves are thought to have been generated by processes in the early universe, either inflation, cosmic strings or binary supermassive blackholes have been proposed.

I am also co-PI of the transients key science project of LOFAR and the head of the pulsar science working group for the same telescope. LOFAR is the LOw Frequency ARray which is a very large radio telescope working at frequencies between 10 and 240 MHz. It is the most sensitive telescope ever built at these frequencies and is the first of the next generation of radio telescopes which uses large numbers of small elements. I am also co-PI of the pulsars and fast transient project TRAPUM which will run on the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope pathfinder called MeerKAT. As well as using these next generation telescopes I am also involved in the specification of various aspects of the SKA itself which will be the world's larges telescope. We are currently undertaking the design work for the pulsar and fast transient search capabilities of the SKA.

 I am a New Zealander and did my undergraduate studies in Physics at the University of Canterbury. I then went on to do a Phd in Astronomy at the Australian National University in Canberra. I completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Amsterdam in the Netheralnds and then got a permenant position as a Senior Scientist at ASTRON in the Netherlands. I joined the University of Manchester in September. 

 As well as being interested in the science of radio astronomy and pulsars in particular I am interested in the hardware and software associated with their study. I have been involved in building and commissioing two pulsar machines for the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope in the Netherlands and have written a full software suite for analysing pulsar data. 

Research interests

I am interested in all manifestations of neutron stars although I presently work predominantly with radio pulsars. I am also interested in pulsar related hardware and computing.

I study pulsars both as tools to probe the physics of gravity and the interstellar medium but also to understand more about the process by which they emit. With a PhD student we have recently completed the largest ever study of the single pulses from radio pulsars. From this we were able to determine that there are some charateristics of the radio emission which appear to be common across the whole population. However, the physics behind what links these sources is something which is not yet clear.

In the continuing attempts to increase the known population of radio pulsars and thereby understand the population as a whole and also to find individually interesting objects which provide ever beter physical tools, I am leading the LOFAR pulsar effort. LOFAR is the first of the next generation radio telescopes to come online and it works in the relatively poorly studied frequency range from 30 to 240 MHz. This survey has the potential to find more than 1000 new pulsars, more than doubling the total number of pulsars known in the Northern sky. It will also be sensitive enough to find all the nearby pulsars and therfore will provide a unique probe of the radio pulsar population. 

I am also involved in the European Pulsar Timing Array project which uses the very precise clock like nature of the signals from radio pulsars to search for gravitational waves from early in the universe. The EPTA brings together those telescopes in Europe which undertake pulsar timing, Effelsberg, Jodrell Bank, Nancay, Sardinia and the WSRT, to combine all of our high precision pulsar timing data. This combined data set and data from the next 5 years will allows us to study with high detail individual sources but will allow us to possibility to detect gravitational waves directly for the first time. 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

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