Dr Nigel Bannister

photoAssociate Professor

MPhys, PhD (Leicester)

Tel: +44 (0)116 223 1043

Email: nb101@le.ac.uk

Office: Room 201a, Space Research Centre, Michael Atiyah Building

Office hours: Students should email to arrange meetings.


MPhys, PhD

Dr Bannister obtained his PhD from the University of Leicester, working on the development and flight of J-PEX, an Extreme Ultraviolet spectrometer which was flown on two NASA sounding rockets launched from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, USA. He was involved with both flight campaigns, and conducted the reduction and analysis of data from the flights, which were targeted at observations of white dwarf stars.

Following completion of the project, he became the Instrument Scientist for the Lobster-ISS X-ray Telescope project during its Phase-A study. He was appointed to a lectureship in Detector Physics in 2003, and became Senior Lecturer in 2009.


The work I am conducting in collaboration with ophthalmologists at the Leicester Royal Infirmary on methods of diagnosing problems affecting the eye may be of significant value in early detection of sight-threatening conditions and has commercial potential. Work to bring this technology into use is ongoing.

Professional Activities

Member of Science & Technology Facilities Council Education Training & Careers Committee (ETCC).

Membership of Professional Bodies

Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society

Science Communication

Apollo 13 Flyer Cover
Apollo 13 Documentary Flyer (Courtesy: Free Spirit Film And TV)
I am a regular speaker at astronomical societies, schools and other special interest groups. I have contributed to a number of television documentaries and radio programmes. These include:

  • Thirteen Factors That Saved Apollo 13. Elliot & Zander Weaver, Free Spirit Film & TV
  • The Saturn V Story. Elliot & Zander Weaver, Free Spirit Film & TV
  • Channel 4 Dispatches: The Mobile Phone Rip-Off. Phil Wright, Smokefall


Office hours: Students should email to arrange meetings.

I teach extensively within the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and I am a member of the academic team responsible for the Department's MSc/PGDip course in Space Exploration Systems. I teach the following modules:

  • PA1601: Observational Astronomy
  • PA1605: Space Technology
  • PA1902: Telescope (Laboratory Group Research Project)
  • PA2612: Space Mission Design
  • PA3614: Astrodynamics
  • PA3633: Advanced Propulsion Systems
  • PA3830: Group Industry Research Project
  • PA7013: Spaceflight Dynamics & Propulsion
  • PA7091: Major Project (UK Based)
  • PA7092: Major Project, International Placement - Space Exploration Development Systems in collaboration with Politecnico di Torino (Italy), ISAE (Toulouse)
  • PA7412: Systems Engineering & Spacecraft Systems


  • Bannister NP, Wakefield MJ, Tatham A, Bugby SL, Molyneux PM, Prydal JI. Spectroscopic measurements in scleritis: Bluish-red or deep red? British Journal of Ophthalmology, 2014. DOI: 10.1136/ bjophthalmol-2013-304086
  • Bannister NP, Fraser GW, Lindsay ST, Martindale A, Talboys DL. Astrophysical objects observed by the MESSENGER X-ray spectrometer during Mercury flybys. Planetary & Space Science, Vol. 69, Issue 1, Pages 28-39, 2012. DOI: 10.1016/j.pss.2012.05.006
  • Bannister NP. Communication challenges for solar system exploration missions. J. Aerospace Eng., Vol. 225, Issue 2, Pages 213-238, 2011. DOI: 10.1177/09544100JAERO899
  • Bannister NP, Bunce EJ, Cowley SWH, Fairbend R, Fraser GW, Hamilton FJ, Lapington JS, Lees JE, Lester M, Milan SE, Pearson JF, Price GJ, Willingale R. A wide field auroral imager (WFAI) for Low Earth Orbit missions. Annales Geophysicae, Vol. 25, Issue 2, Pages 519-532, 2007
  • Bannister NP, Harris KDM, Collins SP, Martindale A, Monks PS, Solan G, Fraser GW. Dichroic filters for astronomical X-ray polarimetry. Experimental Astronomy, Volume 21, Pages 1-12, 2007. DOI: 10.1007/s10686-006-9054-1


My research interests include activities in space instrumentation development, mission analysis, observational astronomy and a number of technology developments for terrestrial applications. I am Co-Investigator on J-MAG (Principal Investigator Prof. Michele Dougherty, Imperial College London) the Magnetometer instrument selected for flight on ESA's JUICE mission to Jupiter. My role in this project is the radiation design of the instrument, working with the teams at Imperial College London, Technical University Braunschweig, and the Space Research Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, to ensure that the instrument is capable of surviving in the extreme radiation environment around Jupiter and its moons.

I am Principal Investigator on a project funded by the US Navy Office of Naval Research, concerned with the use of commercial satellite systems to improve knowledge of maritime traffic movements, with particular relevance to improving the safety and security of life at sea. And in collaboration with Ophthalmologists at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, I am the Principal Investigator on project concerned with the use of spectroscopic techniques to permit early identification and treatment of eyesight-threatening conditions (clinical lead: Jeremy Prydal).

Spectroscopic Methods for Cancer Detection

A summary of our current research in Excitation Wavelength Resolved Autofluorescence Spectroscopy (EWRAS).

A PhD research studentship is currently being offered in this project. For further information, see the studentship description here. Contact Nigel Bannister for further information, and visit the web page here to make an application.

When exposed to ultraviolet light, biological materials exhibit an intrinsic fluorescence (“autofluorescence”) mostly due to the presence of fluorescent amino acids and co-enzymes in the cells. The colour of the autofluorescence depends on the composition of the target and its surrounding environment and so, in principle, constitutes a signature unique to a particular tissue.

Several existing clinical techniques use broadband, short-wavelength light for excitation, recording the response either as a simple (broadband) intensity or as a spectrum. Our work is exploring developments of this technique, including design and construction of new instrumentation and associated data analysis processes, to significantly increase the amount of information which can be obtained. The objective is to provide a system which can be used by health care professionals in hospital laboratories, operating theatres, and GP surgeries, to provide rapid, non- or minimally-invasive diagnostics for conditions including cancer and sight-threatening infections.

Our most recent published work in this area appeared in the journal Cornea:

Molyneux, Philippa M., et al. "Autofluorescence Signatures of Seven Pathogens: Preliminary in Vitro Investigations of a Potential Diagnostic for Acanthamoeba Keratitis." Cornea 34.12 (2015): 1588-1592.

The early stages of our project were published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology:

Bannister, N.P., Wakefield, M.J., Tatham, A., Bugby, S.L., Molyneux, P.M. and Prydal, J.I., 2014. Spectroscopic measurements in scleritis: Bluish-red or deep red?. British Journal of Ophthalmology, pp.bjophthalmol-2013.

Our latest results are the subject of a new paper which has been submitted for publication.

The project is a collaboration between the Department of Physics & Astronomy (N Bannister / P Molyneux), the Department of Cancer Studies (J LeQuesne), and University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust (J Prydal / M Wakefield)..

For further information, contact Nigel Bannister.

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Tel.: +44 (0)116 252 3506
Fax: +44 (0)116 252 2770

Department of Physics & Astronomy,
University of Leicester,
University Road,
Leicester, LE1 7RH,
United Kingdom.


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