Francis Keenan


  • Room 02.017 - New Physics

    United Kingdom

1991 …2020

Research output per year

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Personal profile


Member of Astrophysics Research Centre

Hot stars, interstellar medium, solar physics, atomic physics, plasma physics.

I was Head of School of Mathematics and Physics from 2004 to 2015, during which time I tried to fit in research whenever time permitted. My PhD was on the study of OB-type stars and the interstellar medium at high Galactic latitudes, and I still work in this area over 30 years later, in collaboration with Philip Dufton (QUB) and Jonathan Smoker (European Southern Observatory). 

Another of my research fields is solar physics, including the assessment of UV, EUV and X-ray line ratio diagnostics. In collaboration with Mihalis Mathioudakis, I work on high-cadence solar imaging - we built the state-of-the-art solar imager ROSA (Rapid Oscillations in the Solar Atmosphere), which is a common-user instrument on the US National Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak. More recently we are involved in a project with Andor technology PLC, plus other UK institutes, to build cameras for the new 4-metre DKIST solar telescope, due to have first-light in Hawaii in 2019. 

Linked to my work on solar physics is a collaboration with Cathy Ramsbottom and Connor Ballance of the Centre for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics at QUB on the calculation of atomic data for applications in astrophysics and plasma physics.

I also work with colleagues in the Centre for Plasma Physics at QUB (Dave Riley and Gianluca Sarri) on the creation of plasmas in the laboratory which mimic those found in astrophysics. 

Robert Ryans and myself have produced presentations for schools and the general public, which use clips from films and tv shows to illustrate how accurate the science is in science-fiction movies and shows such as Star Trek and Star Wars. These has proved to be a lot more popular than any of our research talks.


Employment history

1982 - 1986: Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Queen's University Belfast (QUB)

1986 - 1989: SERC Advanced Research Fellow, QUB

1989 - 1991: Lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Physics, QUB

1991 - 1994: Reader in the School of Mathematics and Physics, QUB

1994 - present: Professor in the School of Mathematics and Physics, QUB

1995 - 1996: Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Professor

1997 - 2004: Head of Astrophysics and Planetary Science Research Division, QUB

2003 - 2011: William Penney Research Professor, QUB

2004 - 2015: Head of School of Mathematics and Physics, QUB

2017 - present: Director of Astrophysics Research Centre, QUB


Research Statement

My research interests span a number of different areas in astronomy and physics, including the investigation of the UV, EUV andX-ray spectral emission of the Sun and other cool stars;spectroscopy of hot (B-type) stars; gaseous nebulae and the interstellar medium; tokamak plasma and X-ray laser physics;the calculation of atomic data for astrophysical and laboratory plasmas. To date, I have published over 400 papers ininternational refereed journals.


I have a wide experience of teaching and curriculum development within both the Physics & Astronomy and Applied Mathematics & Theoretical Physics Teaching Departments in the School of Mathematics and Physics.

I have always obtained excellent Teaching Evaluation Questionnaire (TEQ) returns for the courses I have taught. For example, I had a TEQ score of 4.6 (out of a possible 5.0) for the course I taught on Applicable Mathematics. This is a 1st-year support course (for scientists including chemists and physicists), and very high TEQ scores are unusual for these. I have also obtained excellent peer-review teaching evaluations by my academic colleagues in the School. These included an excellent evaluation by the Head of Physics Teaching.



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