Nicholas P. Ross

STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellow, University of Edinburgh


I am an STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellow and Data Scientist in the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh. My research is in observational extragalactic astrophysics, focusing on the study of quasars and their use as probes of cosmology and galactic physical processes. My goal is to investigate and connect the physical processes that link luminous AGN activity and the formation and evolution of massive galaxies. To achieve these aims, I work with researchers around the world, using world-class facilites on the ground and in space to perform state-of-art studies, using data-driven, machine learning and A.I. methods and techniques.

2013-2014   Research Assistant Professor, Drexel University

2009-2013   Project Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

2007-2009   Postdoctoral Research Scholar, Penn State University

2003-2007   Ph.D. Astrophysics, Durham University


Changing Look Quasars

Changing-look quasars are luminous AGN which have a dramatic appearance, or disappearance, of their broad emission-line component, and/or classical blue sloped continuum, on observed-frame month-to-year timescales. CLQs are important since they offer a direct observational probe into the physical processes dictating the innermost central engine. CLQs are ideal laboratories for studying accretion physics, as the entire system responds on a human timescale (Image credit: Jessica Rossier, Quanta Magazine)

Extremely Red Quasars

I discovered a new class of object, the "extremely red quasars", that have optical spectroscopy and are detected from their mid-infrared colour using the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). The ERQs are a unique obscured quasar population at high z=2-4 redshift, with dramatic physical conditions related to powerful outflows. These sources are the signposts of the most dramatic form of quasar feedback at the peak epoch of galaxy formation.

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The Spitzer IRAC Equatorial Surveyd (SpIES)

The Spitzer-IRAC Equatorial Survey (SpIES) is completed large-area survey of 115 deg2 carried out by the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope, in the Equatorial SDSS Stripe 82. SpIES achieves 5&sigma depths of 6.13 uJy (21.93 AB) and 5.75 uJy (22.0 AB magnitude) at 3.6 and 4.5 um, respectively. The SpIES Team is led by Gordon Richards, John Timlin and myself, and is designed to probe sufficient volume to perform measurements of quasar clustering and the luminosity function at z>3 to test various models for "feedback" from active galactic nuclei. The data and catalogues can be found at IPAC. (Image credit: NASA/JPL).

Quasars as cosmological tracers

For the past five billion years, the expansion of the Universe has been speeding up, powered by the mysterious repulsive force known as "dark energy". I was heavily involved in the first high (z>1) redshift measurement of the baryon acoustic oscillation feature in the three-dimensional structure of the distant Universe was made by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III) Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS). BOSS produce a catalogue of 300,000 spectroscopic quasars (184,000 of them at z>2.15), and the BOSS Quasar catalogs have been cited over 500 times. The future for spectroscopic surveys for cosmology is DESI.

Black Holes and Gravitation Waves

With the recent amazing detection of gravitational wave radiation from binary black holes and binary neutron stars, a brand new window of observation has been opened. A range of deep scientific questions connect to gravity are now accessible, and my recent research has involved thinking about EM pre-cursor signatures to ESA LISA GW events. (Image credit: SKA;

Outreach, Diversity and Inclusion

I am a white, male, cis person currently with no disability, and am now acutely aware that most people in the field are similar to me. However, it is absolutely critical for white cis men to be massively committed to, and active in, building a supportive and equitable academic environment as it can not be only up to the already over-burdened but under-represented groups to make progress. I believe that change comes from the `bottom-up' and over the last 3 years, along with my Outreach work, I have been advocating to policy makers for immigration reform both at the local and national level.



+44 (0)131-668 8351


npross [at] roe [dot] ac [dot] uk


Institute for Astronomy
Royal Observatory, Blackford Hill
Edinburgh EH9 3HJ, United Kingdom

Last modified: Mon Dec 31 12:59:28 GMT 2018