Prof. Ian Bonnell

Research Theme:
St. Andrews
Email address:
Telephone number:
+44 (0)1334 463140
School of Physics & Astronomy, Physical Science Building, North Haugh, St Andrews, KY16 9SS, United Kingdom

Research interests

My research is focused on understanding how stars form in galaxies and how the young stars affect their natal environment. Star formation occurs in turbulent molecular clouds that are found in spiral arms of disc galaxies. The primary goal of this research is to  to develop a self-consistent model of star formation from the large-scale galactic dynamics (tens of kpcs) to sub-parsec scales of local star forming events, including feedback from the young stars back into the ISM. The link between the large-scale galaxy and the small-scale star formation through gravity and feedback is an essential element in developing a complete theory of star formation. 

I am using  numerical simulations to probe the gravitationally driven gas dynamics of flows in a Galactic context that can self-consistently form the dense molecular clouds in whcih star formation occurs. In collaboration woith my ERC grant team (ECOGAL), we are using both SPH and grid based simulations to answer the following questions: 

1. How is star formation initiated and why is star formation inefficient?

2. How do massive stars form and what determines the initial mass function?

3. What role does feedback play in stopping, or triggering star formation and how does it shape the ISM?

4. How do stars form in the Galactic centre and how does this relate to the growth of supermassive black holes?


I have taught many undergraduate modules in both physics and astrophysics, across all five levels of our undergraduate degree programmes. I have been an advisor of studies at the subhonours levels and am currently Junior Honours (3rd level) advisor. I am a member of the teaching commitee. My current teaching includes the 4th level Gravitational and Accretion Physics module.

Research outputs

  1. Classifying and modelling spiral structures in hydrodynamic simulations of astrophysical discs DOI
    D. H. Forgan, F. G. Ramon-Fox and I. A. Bonnell, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 476, 2 , p. 2384-2395 (2018)
  2. A clustered origin for isolated massive stars DOI
    William E. Lucas, Matus Rybak, Ian A. Bonnell and Mark Gieles, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 474, 3 , p. 3582-3592 (2018)
  3. Influence of galactic arm scale dynamics on the molecular composition of the cold and dense ISM DOI
    M. Ruaud, V. Wakelam, P. Gratier and I. A. Bonnell, Astronomy & Astrophysics, 611 (2018)
  4. Streaming motions and kinematic distances to molecular clouds DOI
    F. G. Ramon Fox and Ian A. Bonnell, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 474, 2 , p. 2028-2038 (2018)
  5. Fast and accurate Voronoi density gridding from Lagrangian hydrodynamics data DOI
    Maya A. Petkova, Guillaume Laibe and Ian A. Bonnell, Journal of Computational Physics, 353, p. 300-315 (2018)
  6. Formation of stellar clusters DOI
    Romas Smilgys and Ian Alexander Bonnell, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 472, 4 , p. 4982-4991 (2017)
  7. Simultaneous low- and high-mass star formation in a massive protocluster DOI
    C. J. Cyganowski, C. L. Brogan, T. R. Hunter, R. Smith, J. M. D. Kruijssen, I. A. Bonnell and Q. Zhang, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 468, 3 , p. 3694-3708 (2017)
  8. Can the removal of molecular cloud envelopes by external feedback affect the efficiency of star formation? DOI
    William E. Lucas, Ian A. Bonnell and Duncan H. Forgan, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 466, 4 , p. 5011-5019 (2017)
  9. On the fragmentation boundary in magnetized self-gravitating discs DOI
    Duncan Forgan, Daniel J. Price and Ian Bonnell, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 466, 3 , p. 3406-3416 (2017)
  10. Star formation in Galactic flows DOI
    Romas Smilgys and Ian A. Bonnell, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 459, 2 , p. 1985-1992 (2016)
Last updated: 17 Mar 2016 at 20:48