UCL Department of Space and Climate Physics

Prof Silvia Zane

Prof Silvia Zane

Professor of Astrophysics

Dept of Space & Climate Physics

Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Feb 2001

Research summary

The main focus of my research is the study of the behaviour of matter and radiation in presence of extreme conditions: strong gravity, strong magnetic fields and strong velocity fields. Most of my research is in the field of compact objects (black holes and neutron stars): they provide ideal and unique laboratories, not reproducible at Earth, where our understanding of the fundamental laws of physics can be put to an ultimate test. My work in galactic compact objects, deal with the observation and interpretation of their X-ray and multi-wavelength emission and of the radiative processes responsible for it. I have 19 years research experience in X-ray Astrophysics, a substantial expertise in the numerical solution of radiative transfer problems under fully relativistic conditions, and a substantial track record in isolated neutron stars, magnetars and pulsar physics. At MSSL, we combine theoretical modelling with data acquisition and analysis from the world's leading observatories at wavelengths from radio to X-rays, and I am part of solid international collaborations with the most active groups in the field at worldwide level. We developed sophisticated physical models of crustal, atmospheric and magnetospheric emission from compact objects, some of them have been for the first time systematically applied to a quantitative comparison with data. Beside neutron stars, my research spans a very wide range of fields, from both the theoretical and observational point of view. I work in the fields of general relativity, X-ray binaries, diffuse emission, extragalactic X-ray sources,  gamma ray bursts.

I have been involved in the preparatory phase and in the observational science programs of several satellites and mission proposals (Swift, Edge, GRI, XIPE, IXPE, Athena).  From 2010 to 2014, I have been part of the ESA Science Team of the  Large Observatory for X-ray Timing (LOFT), one of the 5 M3 ESA candidates. I have been the PI of the Large Area Detector, the major instrument foreseen on board (the project was UKSA funded during the assessment phase).  I am member of the Science Team for the polarimetry missions IXPE (Nasa SMEX), XIPE (ESA M4 candidate) and for the eXTP Chinese mission on X-ray timing and polarimetry.

Scientific Area of research

Neutron Stars, Pulsars, High Energy Astrophysics, Radiative Transfer, Accretion, Gamma Ray Bursts, Black Holes

Teaching summary

  • 1997: Teaching Assistent for the course "The Physics of Compact Objects" at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champain, UIUC, US (with Professor: Stuart L. Shapiro.

  • 2003: Foundations of Astronomy (1B11) at UCL (together with Dr L. Puchnarewicz)

  • 2009-2010: Stellar atmospheres and stellar winds (PHASM318) at UCL (30 lectures,  4 problem classes, course and exams organization)

  • 2011-2012/2012-2013/2013-2014: 3th Year course “The Physics of Stars” (PHAS3135) shared with Prof. I. Howarth (responsible for 20 lectures, 2problems classes, course and exams co-organization).

  • 2014- onward: 4th Year Course PHASM315/SPCEG013 "High Energy Astrophysics" (30 lectures, tutorials, course and exams organization


University College London
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), Certificate in Learning and Teaching in HE Part 1 | 2010
Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati di Trieste
Doctorate, Dottorato di Ricerca | 1997
Universita degli Studi di Padova
First Degree, Laurea | 1992


  • 1982-1987 Liceo Scientifico G.B. Benedetti, Venice, Italy (“GCSE” and“A level” equivalent, mark: 58/60)
  • 19/11/92Degree in Physics (mark: 110/110 cum laude, highest distinction.Univ. of Padova, Italy
  • 29/10/97PhD in Astrophysics, International School for Advanced StudiesSISSA/ISAS, Trieste, Italy

ProfessionalHistory (in chronological order)

  • 11/96-05/97Visiting Scholar at Loomis Laboratory for Physics, UIUC, US (Prof.Stu Shapiro)
  • 09/97-10/97Visitng Scholar at Loomis Laboratory for Physics, UIUC, US (Prof.Stu Shapiro)
  • 29/10/93-29/10/97 PhD Student International School for Advanced StudiesSISSA/ISAS, Trieste, Italy
  • 11/97-05/00Violette and Samuel Glasstone Fellows, Dept of Astrophysics,University of Oxford
  • 01/06/00-30/09/2004 Postdoc Research Assistant at Mullard Space ScienceLaboratory, UCL
  • 01/10/04-30/09/2009 STFC Advanced Fellows at Mullard Space Science Laboratory,UCL
  • 01/10/09-01/10/2010 Lecturer at Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL
  • 01/10/10- 30/09/16 Reader at Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL 
  • 01/10/16- to date Professor of Astrophysics at Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL
  • 01/01/22- to date Head of Astronomy at Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL