How did you get interested in astronomy?
I was born in Elderslie, Scotland. You may not have heard of this place, but you've probably heard of 'Braveheart' (William Wallace), who was born there in 1272, aka Mel Gibson!
I first became interested in astronomy in 1985 when I was watching out for Halley's Comet, the famous comet which orbits the Sun every 76 years. Halley’s Comet didn't actually appear very bright in the skies above Scotland, compared to say Comet Hale-Bopp, but I spent a lot of time outside looking at the stars. That sparked my interest in astronomy. So, I applied to go to Glasgow University to study astronomy (as well as maths and physics). I stayed on at Glasgow to study solar physics, in particular solar sunspot cycle. With the launch of SOHO in December 1995, I moved to the University of Oxford and worked on trying to understand how the corona is heated.
What are you most famous for?
Breaking my jaw while attending a conference in Boulder, Colorado! Not that I had a fight with one of my colleagues, I hasten to add, but I did manage to come off second best in a disagreement with the pavement. Still, a lot more scientists at the meeting got to know my name through that incident, more than would probably have read about my work!
Spiral sunspot seen at Kitt Peak Observatory.
Away from work, what do you do?
I have several sports and hobbies, such as golf, snooker, tennis and squash. I also enjoy walking in the Scottish and Welsh hills. I enjoy travel and working in solar physics has certainly helped me to travel to different parts of the USA as well as Germany, Norway, Sweden, France and Greece. I quite often meet up with my colleagues in different locations around the world, where we have great fun, while working hard of course!