Prof. Gillian Wright, CBE, MBE, FRSE, is the Director of STFC’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre and a visiting professor of the Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh.
She is a graduate of the University of Glasgow and obtained her PhD in physics from Imperial College. She was a staff scientist at the United Kingdom InfraRed Telescope in Hawaii and then Head of Instrumentation from 1995 until 1997, when she returned to the UK to join the newly formed UK Astronomy Technology Centre UK ATC. She has 30 years’ experience of ground and space-based instrumentation for astronomy having provided scientific, technical and management leadership for projects ranging from observatory management software, through critical mechanism sub-systems, to entire flight instruments.
Her astronomical research interests are in the evolution of galaxies. Professor Wright is European Principal Investigator of the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) on JWST, leading a European consortium that developed the instrument in partnership with JPL and the University of Arizona. Alongside her research work, she is a strong supporter of public engagement in astronomy.
Current work at the UK ATC includes instrumentation and technology development for the European Extremely large Telescope, the MOONS instrument for the European Southern Observatory, Atacama Large Millimeter Array, the LISA mission, and the Square Kilometer Array as well as projects that apply techniques developed for astronomy to other areas such as environmental monitoring and health.
As the European PI for the James Webb Space Telescope Mid-IR Instrument (MIRI), Gillian brings UK leadership of a key scientific capability for this NASA flagship Mission. The Higgs Centre for Innovation facility opened in May 2018 and is run in partnership with the University of Edinburgh. The Centre applies business incubation best practice to enable start-ups to translate fundamental research and capabilities in data intensive science and space technology into wider commercial impact.
Professor Wright was awarded a CBE for Services to Astronomy in 2023 and an MBE for Services to Science in 2006 and is a member of a number of National and International Advisory Panels for astronomy and astronomical instrumentation. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s National Academy, in 2014.