This page provides more information about the PhD project I am offering and my supervising style.

About myself

My main work evolves around the scientific preparation of the PLATO mission and this is where I now spend most of my time.

I am however, also an active researcher who focuses on various topics related to exoplanets, exocomets and debris disks.

I am originally from Norway. I completed my PhD in 2014 and have previously worked as a postdoc in Paris and the Netherlands.

I consider myself to be an observational astronomer with over 100 nights of observing time experience. I have published a number of first author papers and contributed as co-author to a further 80+ papers. For links to some of my papers please have a look at: my research

Please note: Until a few years ago my surname was Wilson before I changed it to Strøm.

But enough about me! :)

The PhD

Aim: To explore ways of efficiently detecting and characterising unusual transit signatures using PLATO

Examples of unusual transits:

  • The star itself (the star may vary in brightness)
  • Cirumstellar material (debris)
  • Exocomets
  • Ringed planets
  • Exomoons

Please look at this paper which talks about various scenarios.


Is a ESA medium class exoplanet detection and characterisation mission set to launch at the end of 2026 (towards the end of the PhD).

One of the main scientific aims is to provide high quality light curves which can be used to characterise stars and to detect planets.

About the PLATO mission

PLATO will monitor over 250,000 stars over period lasting minimum 4 years. There is no question that some of the light curves PLATO generates will be unusual and won't always have a straight forward explanation.

This PhD will focus on understanding what causes the variations and how to best detect and characterise these type of objects.

The shape of the PhD

  • This is for us to decide together (e.g. observational, computational, mixture).
  • Important that it is something you are interested/passionate about.
  • Use your skills to your advantage

The observational PhD route

To gain experience in data analysis and to become familiar with various astrophysical techniques it advisable to get experience working with real data. This will also be useful for simulating PLATO data. You would be especially encouraged to write telescope proposals. This will be useful when you wish to verify or more likely rule out what is causing the unusual transits.

Examples of the type of observations you could propose:

  • Photometric (long baseline observations, multi-colour, ground or space)
  • Spectroscopy
  • Direct imaging (to look for companions)

There is also the possibility to analyse archival data (from photometric space missions such as TESS, Kepler/K2 and CHEOPS as well as GAIA, ALMA etc.)

There is some financial support we could ask for you to go on observing trips.

At Warwick we have people working on the NGTS project (image below). We also have have access facilities in La Palma.

The computational PhD route

Real data will always contain instrumental effects or data reduction artefacts at some level. Through the analysis of real data you will get experience with this.

The PhD can however be extended beyond data analysis should that be of interest to you.

Machine learning

Given the large amount of light curves, there is no way any person can look through the light curves. Instead a computer can be trained to look for certain shapes of patterns in the data. During the PhD you could embark on creating a machine learning algorithm for detecting certain unusual transits.


The continuous observations of over 250,000 objects over the duration of minimum 4 years is going to produce a lot of data. During the PhD you could embark on utilising the parallel processing capabilities of GPUs to optimise the search for unusual transits

At Warwick we have access to a range of powerful computers and through the PLATO consortium we have access to state of the art computing GPUs.

My style of supervision

  • I prefer to meet once a week. Preferably in person, but online can work too. I will treat you as a collaborator at the meetings.

  • I will encourage you to independently try and find solutions to problems you come across but give you advice and guidance when I think it would be helpful.

  • I will actively encourage you seek out opportunities for you to develop as a researcher. For instance I will suggest conferences you can attend, talks you could give, observing proposals you could write etc. I would never force you to do anything you were not comfortable with.