Dr Rhaana Starling

Associate Professor

School/Department: Physics & Astronomy, School of

Telephone: +44 (0)116 252 5388



I graduated from the University of St. Andrews with an MSci Astrophysics with honours. I worked as a research assistant investigating the role of viscosity in active galactic nucleus (AGN) accretion discs at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge Massachusetts before taking up a PhD position at Mullard Space Science Laboratory UCL. My thesis probed the central engines of AGN primarily using X-ray observations from the then recently launched XMM-Newton satellite. I began my research in the field of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) in an EU-funded postdoctoral position at the University of Amsterdam following the afterglows of these elusive high energy transients with ground-based optical telescopes. In 2006 I moved to Leicester joining the X-ray Telescope team providing satellite operations support for the top-ranked NASA Swift mission. In 2011 I was awarded a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship to further my work in the area of GRBs and high energy transient sources and subsequently joined the academic staff as a Lecturer and now Associate Professor.


I have three strands of research in astrophysics. The first is high energy transients such as gamma-ray bursts and gravitational wave events in which we can probe the physics of relativistic jets and the second is active galactic nuclei where we can study accretion processes onto supermassive black holes and the third is identification/characterisation of sources in X-ray surveys to provide a census of the high energy sky. I use a wide variety of observational facilities to rapidly follow-up transients and characterise transient and AGN populations; PI of observing time awarded on Swift, XMM-Newton, WHT, LOFAR. My work has recently been funded by STFC, The Royal Society and an ASTRON Helena Kluyver visiting fellowship. I am a Consortium/team member of Swift, GOTO, CTA, ENGRAVE@ESO, STARGATE@ESO, Athena X-ray Observatory and THESEUS.



High energy transients including GRBs, TDEs and GW e/m follow-up. AGN emission component analysis variability and population studies. Identification and characterisation of X-ray populations in survey data. I have supervised several PhD students to completion, and been local supervisor to visiting students on various programmes, most recently a Chinese Academy of Sciences scholarship. 


I teach on the BSc/MPhys Physics (with Astrophysics/Space Science) and STEM Foundation Year. I lead several modules and teach on several more, and offer BSc and MPhys research projects in observational astrophysics topics. I am Accessibility Tutor for the School and an Equality and Diversity Champion.

Press and media

Gamma-ray bursts, active galactic nuclei, tidal disruption events, the transient universe, Swift satellite, Cherenkov Telescope Array, Gravitational-wave Optical Transient Observer, THESEUS mission


MPhys Astrophysics (University of St. Andrews 1999)

PhD Astrophysics (University of London 2004)

Postgraduate Certificate of Academic Practice in Higher Education (University of Leicester 2015)

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Member of the International Astronomical Union

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