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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Professor Ian Smail, MA Physics (Cantab), PhD Astronomy (Dunelm)

Personal web page

Professor in the Department of Physics
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 43605
Room number: ocw112
Head of Section in the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy

(email at


Highly Cited Reseacher

I first came to Durham as a graduate student in 1989 after completing an M.A. in Cambridge. I spent three and a half years here on my thesis (Gravitational Lensing by Rich Clusters) with Richard Ellis as my advisor. In 1993, having submitted my thesis, I left Durham for sunny southern California to take up a NATO Advanced Fellowship in the Physics, Math and Astronomy Division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. I spent 18 months at Caltech before moving my fellowship two miles up the hill to the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington on Santa Barbara Street. When my NATO Fellowship finished I stayed on at OCIW as a Carnegie Fellow for a year and then took up a PPARC Advanced Fellowship back in Durham at the beginning of 1996. In 1998 I traded in the PPARC AF for a Royal Society University Research Fellowship which was renewed until 2008 when I moved onto the academic staff of the Physics Department. I was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize Fellowship in 2001 in recognition of my research and a Chair in the Department of Physics at Durham in 2004.

I am a Professor of Physics in the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy within the Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics. I was the Founding Director of the Centre, as well as Managing Director of the Durham Astronomy Research Cluster (DARC). I was awarded a Leverhulme Fellowship in 2011. In 2012 I was awarded an European Research Council Advanced Programme grant to support my DustyGal research programme until 2018, along with a Royal Society/Wolfson Merit Award. I have been ranked as one of the most highly-cited researchers in Space Sciences since 2015.

Research Groups

Department of Physics

Research Interests

  • Galaxy Formation and Evolution
  • Gravitational Lensing
  • Submillimeter Astronomy

Selected Publications

Journal Article

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Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Physics: Observational studies in the areas of Astronomy and Cosmology (e.g. galaxy formation and evolution).
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics: Observational studies in the areas of Astronomy and Cosmology (e.g. galaxy formation and evolution).


Selected Grants

  • 2020: Astronomy Consolidated Grant 2020-2023 CEA (£2408347.17 from Ernest Rutherford Fellowship)
  • 2014: Durham Astronomy Consolidated Grant (CfAI) (£896451.20 from STFC)
  • 2011: Extragalatic Astonomy at Durham 2011-2016 (£2715798.82 from STFC)
  • 2011: In Darkness Born: The formation of massive galaxies in the distant Universe (£38612.00 from The Leverhulme Trust)
  • 2001: PHILIP LEVERHULME PRIZE (£50000.00 from The Leverhulme Trust)
  • 2000: FRANCO-BRITISH JOINT RESEARCH PROGRAMME 2000 (£1080.00 from )
  • 1998: RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP-SMAIL (£159162.86 from The Royal Society)