Simon Vaughan

Simon Vaughan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and a University Distinguished Teaching Fellow (2015) of the University of Leicester (UK).

photoAssociate Professor

BSc (Hons), PhD (Leicester)

Tel: 0116 252 2074

Email: sav2 (

Office: Room G52, Physics & Astronomy building


He obtained a BSc from the University of Southampton in 1997, and a PhD from the University of Leicester in 2001. He held postdoctoral research positions at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge (2000-2003), and the University of Leicester (2003-2007), before joining the academic staff at Leicester in 2007. He was promoted to Reader in 2013 (renamed Associate Professor in 2016).


Simon is Programme Director (Head of Teaching) for the Physics department. Among other things this means he is

  • Chair of the Physics department's Learning & Teaching Committee
  • Member of College Academic Committee
  • Member of the Student Staff Liaison Committee
  • Member of the Mitigating Circumstances panel
  • Co-author department reports such as the Annual Departmental Review (ADR)
  • Member of the IOP Directors of Teaching & Learning network
  • jointly responsible for annual curriculum planning, programme development, timetable planning, etc.
  • charged with liaising with External Examiners
  • Chair of the Exams Panel meetings

During the 2016/17 academic year Simon is involved in the teaching of several modules:

  • PA1710 - Mathematical Physics 1.1 (module leader; teach multiple integrals, probability)
  • PA1720 - Mathematical Physics 1.2 (workshops, revision classes)
  • PA1900 - Laboratory Physics 1 (lead computing workshops)
  • Tutorials with Y1-4 students
  • PA2250 - Scientific Inference (module leader)
  • PA3920 - 3rd Year Pair Project (supervisor)
  • PA4480 - Advanced Core Physics 1 (module leader)
  • PA4312 - Further Scientific Inference (course leader - part of PA4480)
  • PA4970 - 4th Year Specialist Research Project (supervisor)
  • PA4440 - 4th Year Advanced Study Project (supervisor)

Research interests

Dr Vaughan's research includes the study active galactic nuclei (AGN), gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and black hole X-ray binaries in our Galaxy. His particular research interests include probes of strong gravity, time series astronomy, Bayesian data analysis in astronomy, and dust-scattering from GRBs (he discovered the first known example of the latter phenomenon in 2004).

He has published more than 85 refereed papers, and received nearly 5,000 citations to date. He has extensive experience with data from ESA's Cornerstone X-ray mission XMM-Newton (including being PI or Co-I on several "Large Programmes"), NASA's Great Observatory Chandra, NASA's RXTE and the joint US-UK-Italy mission Swift as well as many previous high-energy astronomy missions. Dr Vaughan has been awarded guest observer time as PI on all these missions. He is a member of a Working Group and Science Team for future ESA mission Athena.

One of Dr Vaughan's research areas is astrostatistics, especially time series analysis. He has published several papers on the use (and misuse) of statistical analysis in astronomy, and has published an undergraduate textbook about using statistical reasoning in physics - Scientific Inference: Learning from Data (Cambridge University Press).


As part of my research I often develop software tools for data analysis. Where possible I make the more useful ones publicly available. See my Github page.

Selected Publications

Some recent papers

  • False periodicities in quasar time-domain surveys. Vaughan S., et al., 2016, MNRAS, 461, 3145. DIO: 10.1093/mnras/stw1412
  • Evidence for changes in the radiative efficiency of transient black hole X-ray binaries. Eckersall A. J., Vaughan, S., Wynn, G. A., 2015, MNRAS, 450, 3410. DIO: 10.1093/mnras/stv739
  • X-ray time delays from the Seyfert 2 galaxy IRAS 18325-5926. Lobban, A. P.; Alston, W. N.; Vaughan, S., 2014, MNRAS, 445, 3229. DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stu1888
  • Discovery of a ~5 Day Characteristic Timescale in the Kepler Power Spectrum of Zw 229-15. Edelson, R.; Vaughan, S.; Malkan, M.; Kelly, B. C.; Smith, K. L.; Boyd, P. T.; Mushotzky, R., 2014, ApJ, 795, 2. DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/795/1/2
  • The iron K line profile of IRAS 18325-5926. Lobban, A. P.; Vaughan, S., 2014, MNRAS, 439, 1575. DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stu002
  • X-ray time delays in the narrow line Seyfert 1 galaxy PG 1244+026. Alston, W. N.; Done, C.; Vaughan, S., 2014, MNRAS, 439, 1548. DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stu005
  • Black Holes in Short Period X-ray Binaries and the Transition to Radiatively Inefficient Accretion. Knevitt, G., Wynn, G., Vaughan, S., Watson, M., 2014, MNRAS, 437, 308. DIO: 10.1093/mnras/stt2008
  • The flux-dependent X-ray time lags in NGC 4051. Alston W. N., O, Vaughan S., Uttley P. 2013, MNRAS, 435, 1511. DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stt1391
  • Quasi-Periodic Oscillations and broadband variability in short magnetar bursts. Huppenkothen D, Watts A. L., Uttley P., van der Horst A. J., van der Klis M., Kouveliotou C., Gogus E., Granot J., Vaughan S, Finger M. H. 2013, ApJ, 768, 87. DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/768/1/87
  • Kepler observations of rapid optical variability in the BL Lac object W2R1926+42. Edelson R., Mushotzky R., Vaughan S, Scargle J, Gandhi P., Malkan M., Baumgartner W., 2013, ApJ, 766, 16. DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/766/1/16

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