Dr Keir Birchall (they/them)

Astronomer & Science Writer at the University of Leicester

Email: klb69@leicester.ac.uk

Orcid ID: 0000-0001-6256-6710 

I use large-scale multi-wavelength surveys and statistical techniques to measure the underlying population of AGN. These measurements allow me to probe the relationship between SMBHs and their host galaxies. 

The full list of my published works, and those I have contributed to, can be found on the ADS

Current Work

My main role is as part of the 'Science Verification' work package in the XMM2Athena collaboration. I work with many researchers across the collaboration to produce reports detailing novel science goals acheived using the tools developed in other work packages. 

In addition, I am testing the effectiveness of numerous contemporary X-ray source detection algorithms on Athena images created using the SIXTE simulation software. This work will go on to inform the design of the future Athena WFI source detection algorithm.

Latest Publication

My most recent publication investigates the relationship between the incidence of X-ray selected AGN in nearby Universe and the star-formation rate of its host galaxy. In Birchall et al (2023), we find that AGN are twice as likely in in star-forming galaxies compared to their star-forming counterparts (after controlling for stellar mass and redshift related enhancements in star-formation rate). You can read the findings in detail on arXiv and MNRAS.


My current PhD student, James Jones, is studying the relationship between the incidence of AGN and the host galaxy's environment, as measured by the surface density of neighbouring galaxies. This work uses the incredible spectral completeness of the GAMA-DR4 fields, and X-ray data from eROSITA-eFEDS and 4XMM-DR12. 

Science Writing

Effectively communicating the results of our science to the public is of paramount importance for publicly funded researchers. For this reason, and many others, I try to take as many opportunities to communicate mine and others research in an accessible manner. My interest focuses mostly on the written word, which has allowed me to gain many years of experience writing about cutting-edge astronomy for numerous outlets including Astrobites, Massive Science and Advanced Science News.