Planets form in cold discs of dust and gas around young stars like the sun. We know, however, that only a small fraction of material in these discs ends up in planets; most of the disc is either accreted on to the star or blown away in winds or jets. Much of my research looks at the evolution of these protoplanetary discs, and the influence they exert on forming planetary systems. The figure to the right, from my PhD thesis, shows a numerical simulation of disc clearing by photoevaporation.
More recently, I have begun to look in detail at how the interaction between planets and their parent discs shapes the formation of planetary systems. I have built detailed numerical models of how these systems evolve, and used high-performance computing facilities to run large numbers of models in order to make statistical predictions for the properties of both protoplanetary discs and exoplanets. With PhD student Alex Dunhill, I looked into how disc-planet interactions alter planetary orbits, particularly the planets' eccentricity. With PhD student Tom Hands, I am studying the formation and dynamics of multi-planet systems. Recently I have also begun to model the evolution of discs around binary stars, with the aim of understanding the formation and evolution of circumbinary planets such as Kepler-16b.