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Dr Simon Stevenson

ARC DECRA Fellow and OzGrav Associate Investigator


On 14th September 2015 the Advanced LIGO detectors observed gravitational-waves from a merging binary black hole for the first time. There are many theories of how one can form a binary of two black holes orbiting one another close enough that they can collide and give off a burst of gravitational-waves. Broadly, these are through dynamical interactions in extremely dense stellar environments such as globular clusters, and the evolution of a massive binary star system in isolation. I study both of these formation channels, trying to understand how we might be able to distinguish between these scenarios (or measure the fraction of evens originating from each) using gravitational-wave observations. These theories also contain many uncertainties pertaining to poorly understood physical processes such as supernovae and common envelope evolution. I try to understand how gravitational-wave observations may help shed some light on these processes, informing our understanding of massive stellar evolution.

Dr Simon Stevenson is currently an ARC DECRA Fellow in the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology. He is also an Associate Investigator of OzGrav, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery. He is originally from the UK.


PhD candidate and honours supervision

Higher degrees by research

Accredited to supervise Masters & Doctoral students as Principal Supervisor.

PhD topics and outlines

Discovering the origin of gravitational waves: We now have a large catalogue of gravitational waves from merging binary black holes. One of the most pressing open questions is how these systems form; is it from the evolution of massive binary stars, or from black holes in dense stellar environments like globular clusters. This project will involve modelling one or both of these scenarios using state-of-the-art tools. 


Available to supervise honours students.

Honours topics and outlines

Improved modelling of the progenitors of gravitational waves: Gravitational waves from merging neutron stars and black holes are now regularly being observed. In this project, you will study the formation of these systems from the isolated binary evolution of pairs of massive stars using COMPAS. 

Studying the companions of accreting neutron stars and black holes: Neutron stars and black holes in binaries can accrete from their companion stars, powering X-ray binary phases and potentially spinning up the compact object. In this project, you will perform detailed binary evolution calculations using MESA to study the formation of accreting millisecond X-ray pulsars and 'spider' binaries (black widows and redbacks).

Fields of Research

  • Astronomical Sciences - 510100
  • Space Sciences - 510900


  • 2020, Swinburne, Vice-Chancellor’s Research Excellence award, Swinburne University of Technology
  • 2020, Swinburne, FSET ECR Award 2020, Swinburne University of Technology
  • 2016, International, Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, Breakthrough Prize


Also published as: Stevenson, Simon; Stevenson, S.
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Recent research grants awarded

  • 2022: Discovering the origin of gravitational waves *; ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA)

* Chief Investigator

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