Autobiography of Shaun Cole
I was born in the Northwest of England in November 1963. Until the age of 19, I lived in the rural Lancashire village of Chipping, with my sister Carolyn (1958–) and our parents Vic (1921–) and Marion (1933–1999). My father worked as a weaving technologist and travelled daily around weaving mills of Lancashireand beyond. My interest and aptitude for maths and physics began to develop early on as a pupil at the local, traditional state school, Clitheroe RoyalGrammar School. My teachers encouraged me to apply for a university place at Oxford and I gained a place at Jesus College to read physics. Having grown up with the Apollo moon landings and Star Trek, I was fascinated by space and astronomy and opted to take all the astronomy options offered in the Oxford physics degree. I graduated with first class honours in 1985.
Keen to continue learning more astronomy and physics, I managed to gain a place on the one-year “Part III” of the Mathematics Tripos at Clare College and the Department of Applied Maths and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge (turning down an opportunity to start a PhD with John Peacock in Edinburgh!). A distinction in Part III enabled me to secure a studentship to read for a PhD at Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy. My PhD supervisors were Nick Kaiser and George Efstathiou. They guided me through a series of projects on galaxy clusters, gravitational lensing and galaxy formation which became the basis for my thesis, “The Evolution of Large Scale Structure and Galaxy Formation”. The final year of my PhD was spent back in Oxford as George Efstathiou had moved from Cambridge to Oxford to take up the Savilian Chair of Astronomy, while Nick Kaiser had moved to the Canadian Institute of Theoretical Astronomy in Toronto. This was an important year in my life. Not only did I complete my PhD, but I also met Maggie, my wife to be. Soon after I took up a two-year postdoctoral position at the University of California in Berkeley which I enjoyed greatly.
In 1991 Maggie and I moved to Durham, a small, beautiful medieval city in the North of England, where I was appointed to a combined postdoc and teaching position working with Carlos Frenk and Richard Ellis. Maggie and I were married the following year and still live happily in Durham. Our children, Hannah and Daniel, were born there in 1993 and 1999 respectively. I have had various positions during my career in Durham. I was a PPARC Advanced Fellow from 1994 to 2001 when I was appointed to the Durham Physics Department faculty. During this time I worked with my Durham colleagues on developing a useful analytic model of the way galaxies form and evolve through repeated mergers of small fragments over cosmic time. We used this model as a backbone for building the GALFORM computer code to model the formation of galaxies in a full cosmological setting. GALFORM is still widely used today. In 2005 I was promoted to Professor.
My involvement in the “2-degree galaxy redshift survey”, the 2dFGRS, began when I joined a breakout meeting during a lunch break at the 1994 National Astronomy Meeting in Edinburgh. The meeting included Richard Ellis, John Peacock, George Efstathiou, Carlos Frenk and fellow former students of George Efstathiou: Will Sutherland and Steve Maddox whom I knew well from our Cambridge and Oxford days. This group soon grew into the 30 strong Anglo-Australian collaboration which designed and implemented the 2dFGRS utilizing the innovative 400 fibre robotic 2dF spectrographic instrument on the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT). The then unique ability of this instrument to measure 400 galaxy spectra simultaneously and the pre-existing “APM galaxy catalogue”, produced by Steve Maddox and George Efstathiou, enabled us to measure 220,000 galaxy redshifts between 1995 and 2003. The resulting 3-dimensional map of the large scale galaxy distribution was 10 times larger than pre-existing surveys — though it was soon to be overhauled by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The 2dFGRS team was a wonderfully productive collaboration. Innovative analysis led by a wide range of team members led to a stream of important results that pushed the study of the largest scale structure of the Universe to a new level.
Throughout my time at Durham I have enjoyed the mentorship of my colleague Carlos Frenk. Together we have worked on numerous projects and jointly supervised many excellent PhD students. When I started in Durham the theory group led by him consisted of just two students and two postdocs. I have had the pleasure of seeing the steady growth of the group which came of age with the founding of the Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC), housed in the Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics in 2002. Currently, I am the Deputy Director of the ICC. The institute has continued to expand and has outgrown the original Ogden building. I am now looking forward to moving with the group into an iconic new building, designed by the internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, in 2016.
24 September 2014 Hong Kong