Dr Catherine Walsh

Dr Catherine Walsh


  • 2021 - present: UKRI Future Leader Fellow (Seeding life on habitable planets), University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  • 2021 – present: Associate Professor, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  • 2016 - 2021: University Academic Fellow (Protoplanetary disks and exo-planetary atmospheres), University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  • 2013 - 2016 NWO Veni Fellow (PI of research programme “From molecules to planets: exploring the chemical heritage of solar systems”), Leiden Observatory, NL
  • 2012 - 2013: Postdoctoral Research Fellow (ALMA studies of star and planet formation),  Leiden Observatory, NL
  • 2010 - 2012: Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Astrochemistry of star and planet formation and exoplanetary atmospheres), Queen’s University Belfast, UK
  • 2006 - 2010: PhD in Astrophysics (The chemical structure of protoplanetary disks), Queen's University Belfast, UK

Research interests

I study molecules in space across the spectrum of molecular sources: from interstellar clouds, the birth places of stars, through to protoplanetary disks and planetary atmospheres, and even on to circumstellar envelopes around dying stars. Molecules have huge prebiotic significance since they are the elementary building blocks of planetary systems. I am interested in fundamental astrochemical processes, i.e., how molecules are formed and destroyed in different environments, and how they can be used to probe the physical conditions in the diverse range of extreme environments in which they survive.

Molecules are a unique and powerful tool in astronomy. I make use of high-spatial and high-spectral resolution observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array which is currently revolutionising the field of star and planet formation. I am principal investigator of four ALMA programs, two of which concern the investigation of the gas and dust structure of protoplanetary disks around intermediate-mass stars that also show signatures of embedded planets and ongoing planet formation. The second two programs are a deep search for the complex organic ice reservoir in disks around nearby Sun-like stars, to help answer questions regarding the origin of complex molecules in planetary systems.

I am always pleased to hear from potential post-doctoral research fellowship candidates (for, e.g., RAS, ERF, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions, or Newton) with related research interests, and that are interested in coming to work with my group in Leeds.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://eps.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD in Astrophysics
  • MSc in Applied Mathematics and Physics

Student education

I currently tutor at Level 1 and lecture at Level 3 and I also supervise BSc and MPhys research projects in astrophysics.

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>