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An ultimate speed limit for cooling

How cold can it get? That depends how long you are willing to wait. The third law of thermodynamics, conjectured in 1912 by the Nobel laureate Walter Nernst, states that it takes an infinite time to cool a system to absolute zero – the coldest temperature possible.

Galaxy A2744_YD4

Ancient stardust sheds light on the first stars

A huge mass of glowing stardust in a galaxy seen shortly after the Universe’s formation has been detected by a UCL-led team of astronomers, providing new insights into the birth and explosive deaths of the very first stars. More...

Disc of rocky debris

First evidence of rocky planet formation in Tatooine system

Evidence of planetary debris surrounding a double sun, ‘Tatooine-like’ system has been found for the first time by a UCL-led team of researchers.Published on the 27th Feb 2017 in Nature Astronomy and funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the European Research Council, the study reports on the remains of shattered asteroids orbiting a double sun consisting of a white dwarf and a brown dwarf roughly 1000 light-years away in a system called SDSS 1557. More...

Panasas aisle (Credit: STFC)

UCL secures STFC funding to teach next generation of data-science experts

After a very competitive selection process, UCL has been chosen by STFC to host the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Data Intensive Science (DIS) and Technologies, the first CDT funded by STFC.

Group Support and Policies

The Astrophysics Group is committed to providing an inclusive, safe and respectful work environment, and to actively supporting all its group members. This page summarizes the resources available to staff, postdocs and students, and the different policies in place regarding harassment and bullying.

Creating a positive and inclusive work environment is a responsibility shared by all, and therefore all group members should educate themselves. Please do not ask or expect the survivors of harassment to do it for you. There is a large body of professional literature on harassment in the workplace, with this review recommended as a possible starting point. There are also numerous informative blogs tackling sexism in science, for example Women in Astronomy.


  • The Department of Physics has endorsed the UCLU zero tolerance pledge for sexual harassment, making it official departmental policy.
  • The UCL Dignity at Work statement applies to all staff members (including postdocs) and covers all aspects of bullying, intimidation, harassment and victimisation.

Reaching out:

There are many routes to reporting any form of bullying or harassment. Group members can choose whichever route they feel most comfortable with.

  • All staff members, including postdocs, have a responsibility under the Dignity at Work guidelines to challenge unacceptable behaviours (whether on or off UCL premises) and support the targets of such behaviour. If you are targeted, you can approach any staff member that you feel comfortable talking to.
  • Four group staff members have received some training on listening and supporting. They are Jay Farihi, Hiranya Peiris, Andrew Pontzen and Amelie Saintonge. They will listen in complete confidence. They will offer whatever support they can but will not take any further action or tell anyone else unless you specifically ask them to.
  • Students can approach Ruth Siddall who is UCL's student mediator and independent of any department. Everything that you tell Ruth is in strict confidence and she will not take any further action unless you ask her to.
  • Students can seek advice from the Student Union for advice and support.
  • Anyone can make a formal complaint directly to the Head of Department, Prof Jon Butterworth, to the UCL Registrar (students) or to the UCL Director of Human Resources (staff)
  • Anyone can arrange to talk to UCL's community police officer. The first point of contact for anyone wishing to arrange a meeting is Ruth Siddall.
  • All group members can also contact the Departmental Equal Opportunities Liaison Officer, Julie Smith.


Should anyone decide to place a formal complaint (we stress again that this will only happen at the explicit request of someone coming forward), procedures will take place as prescribed by UCL Human Resources if the complaint is made against a staff member (including postdocs), or by the Academic Manual (in the case of complaints against students). Questions can be addressed to the UCL Registrar or to the UCL director of human resources.


Group members are encouraged to request that conferences they are contributing to as invited speakers or SOC members put in place a code of conduct that spells out clear guidelines and the consequences for not following them (examples from UCL cosmology conference, Bash Symposium, STFC Summer School). 

Page last modified on 28 jan 16 14:02