Bethan James

ESA-AURA Astronomer

Since joining the institute in 2016 as an ESA/AURA Astronomer, Dr James has been a member of the instrument division. Here Dr James makes full use of her expertise in UV-optical spectroscopy as calibration lead for HST’s UV spectrograph, the Cosmic Origin Spectrograph (COS). Her research focuses on star-forming galaxies throughout the Universe, with particular emphasis on metal-poor starburst galaxies. Dr James specializes in using spatially resolved UV/optical IFU-based observations to explore their chemical and physical properties. The main aim of her research is to understand how metals, star-formation, and the in/outflow of gas interplay with one another as galaxies form and evolve. Her work harnesses the magnification of gravitational lenses to map and explore these properties at high-redshift, or uses local analogues of unevolved systems (e.g. metal-poor dwarf galaxies) to conduct highly detailed studies. Dr James has a particular interest in using local star-forming systems to develop spectroscopic diagnostics for the high-z observations that will be offered by JWST and the ELTs.

Before starting her position at STScI Dr James was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, where she worked on IFS observations of gravitationally lensed star-forming galaxies and helped discover a new sub-class of dwarf galaxies called ‘Blue Diffuse Dwarfs’. At Cambridge Dr James also supervised PhD and Masters students, while also assisting several lecture classes. Her first postdoctoral position was here at STScI, when Dr James studied the ISM of local starburst galaxies using COS under the supervision of Dr Alessandra Aloisi. Dr James obtained her PhD in 2009 at University College London, supervised by Professor Mike Barlow, which focussed on optical and infrared studies of Blue Compact Dwarf Galaxies.

Dr James pursues an active research career, regularly publishing in MNRAS, ApJ and A&A, for whom she is also a reviewer. She is a member of the IAU and AAS, and frequently presents her work at conferences and seminar series worldwide. Dr James leads and participates in both ground- and space-based observing programs, with particular emphasis on UV spectroscopy with HST/COS and optical integral field spectroscopy (with e.g., VLT/MUSE and Keck/KCWI). Dr James also enjoys participating in outreach programs and is currently the focus of the Girls Day School Trust bursary campaign which aims to promote educational equality amongst social-classes and encourage female students to follow physics-based careers.


PhD in Astrophysics, University College London
MSci in Physics with Astrophysics, University of Bristol


Science Interests:

  • Chemical abundance mapping and (in)homogeneity of star-forming galaxies
  • Mapping kinematics, stellar populations, ionization mechanisms, and outflows using UV-optical absorption/emission lines
  • Understanding feedback processes/mechanisms through the multi-phase medium surrounding starbursts (e.g. neutral vs. ionized gas kinematics, densities, temperatures, metal-content).
  • UV diagnostics for temperature/density/ionization field hardness
  • Spatially resolved observations of gravitationally lensed star-forming galaxies
  • Extremely metal-poor analogues to high-z galaxies and their discovery
  • Extreme star-forming environments: blue compact dwarfs, green-peas, extremely metal-poor galaxies, LyC emitters, super-star clusters, extreme emission line objects etc.


Research Topics: Star Formation, Histories, and Evolution; High-Redshift Galaxies; Galaxy Formation and Evolution; Interstellar Medium; Stellar Populations; Astrochemistry, Chemical Abundances; Galaxy outflows; IFU spectroscopy


Professional Websites:

Professional Website


ORCID ID: 0000-0003-4372-2006


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