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Prof. Derek Ward-Thompson

Head of School of Physical Sciences and Computing

School of Physical Sciences and Computing

Leighton Building, LE007

+44 (0) 1772 89 3829

Derek is the Head of School for Physical Sciences and Computing and is research active within the area of astrophysics and is a member of the Stellar Astrophysics Research Group.

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Derek obtained his first degree from Oxford University in 1983 and his PhD from Durham University in 1987. He worked at Lancashire Polytechnic for three years and carried out postdoctoral research at Cambridge University for three years. He was a senior research fellow at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, for five years, before being appointed to a lectureship in Cardiff University in 1998. Derek was awarded a personal chair by Cardiff University in 2007, and promoted to Deputy Head of School in 2010. He was made Director of the Jermiah Horrocks Institute in July 2012. He currently leads a research group in Observational Star Formation, which has both post-doctoral and post-graduate members, partly funded through a consolidated grant from STFC.


Derek is currently President of the UK Society for Popular Astronomy.



Andre, P., Ward-Thompson, Derek and Greaves, J. (2012) Interferometric Identification of a Pre-Brown Dwarf. Science, 337 (6090). pp. 69-72. ISSN 0036-8075

Ward-Thompson, Derek, Kirk, J. M., André, P., Saraceno, P., Didelon, P., Könyves, V., Schneider, N., Abergel, A., Baluteau, J.-P., Bernard, J.-Ph., Bontemps, S., Cambrésy, L., Cox, P., Di Francesco, J., Di Giorgio, A. M., Griffin, M., Hargrave, P., Huang, M., Li, J. Z., Martin, P., Men'shchikov, A., Minier, V., Molinari, S., Motte, F., Olofsson, G., Pezzuto, S., Russeil, D., Sauvage, M., Sibthorpe, B., Spinoglio, L., Testi, L., White, G., Wilson, C., Woodcraft, A. and Zavagno, A. (2010) A Herschel study of the properties of starless cores in the Polaris Flare dark cloud region using PACS and SPIRE. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 518 (1). L92. ISSN 0004-6361

Simpson, R. J., Nutter, D. and Ward-Thompson, Derek (2008) The initial conditions of star formation - VIII. An observational study of the Ophiuchus cloud L1688 and implications for the pre-stellar core mass function. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 391 (1). pp. 205-214. ISSN 00358711

Goodwin, S. P., Nutter, D., Kroupa, P., Ward-Thompson, Derek and Whitworth, A. P. (2008) The relationship between the prestellar core mass function and the stellar initial mass function. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 477 (3). pp. 823-827. ISSN 0004-6361

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Derek has taught a second year course in 'Observational Techniques in Astronomy' and was responsible for the second, third and fourth year astronomy teaching laboratories and telescopes at Cardiff University. He has previously demonstrated in the first year computing laboratory and in the first year physics laboratory. Derek has also taught a fourth year course on Spectroscopy. He gave first and second year tutorials and supervised third and fourth year undergraduate projects. He also teaches a number of postgraduate PhD students.


Derek has been invited to give papers at many international conferences, including 'Protostars and Planets V' in Kona in 2005, and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Symposium on 'Star formation at high angular resolution' in Sydney in 2003. He has written a number of invited review papers for various publications, including for 'Science' in 2002, and for 'The ISO Science Legacy' in 2005.


Derek's research interests lie in the field of the formation of stars and planets. In particular he is interested in the very earliest stages of star formation. He co-authored the seminal discovery paper of Class 0 protostars, and also identified the even earlier evolutionary stage known as pre-stellar cores. Derek has appeared on the BBC 'Sky at night' programme on six occasions, and the Radio 4 'Today' programme once, talking about his research. He has published nearly 200 papers in total, including over 100 refereed publications, which have received over 4000 citations.

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Derek was awarded a visiting Professorship of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France, for academic year 2005/6, held jointly at the Observatoire de Bordeaux and Centre d'Etudes Nucleaires de Saclay. He also spent a Sabbatical Summer Research Associateship at the University of Illinois in 1997.

External Activities

Derek has sat on many Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC)/ Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) committees and other government body committees and panels, including James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) Board, Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) Council, International Astronomical Union Divisions VI & X, Panel for the Allocation of Telescope Time (PATT), UK ALMA Oversight Committee, UK Space Science Advisory Group, Cornell-Caltech Atacama Telescope (CCAT) Board, FIR Advisory Panel, Royal Observatory Greenwich Advisory Committee, Gemini UK Science Committee, UK Scientific Advisory Group of JWST, and PPARC Astronomical Computing Panel.