Prof Peter Coles

Theoretical Physics


Science Building, North Campus
Ground floor


I am a theoretical astrophysicist and my research is in the area of cosmology and the large-scale structure of the Universe.  For further details about my research, click the `Research' tab.

I was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in England and educated at its Royal Grammar School. After that I went to Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge to study Natural Sciences, eventually specializing in Theoretical Physics. After graduation I started a doctorate in the Astronomy Centre at the University of Sussex under the supervision of Prof. John D  Barrow. After completing my DPhil in 1988, I stayed for two years in Sussex as a postdoctoral research fellow. I then moved to London, where I held a number of positions in the School of Mathematical Sciences at what is now Queen Mary, University of London. I was awarded an SERC Advanced Fellowship in 1993 which I held for five years during which I was promoted to the position of Reader.

In 1998 I was appointed Professor of Astrophysics in the School of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Nottingham, a position I took up on 1st January 1999. I helped set up an Astronomy group there, and stayed about eight years in Nottingham until, in 2007, I moved to a position as Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University. From February 2013 until the end of July 2016 I was Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex  In 2016 I returned to Cardiff in a part-time capacity split between the School of Physics & Astronomy and the Data Innovation Research Institute. In 2017 decided to move to Ireland to take up my current position at Maynooth.

Research Interests

My primary research interest is in cosmology and the large-scale structure of the Universe, specifically on theoretical models that try to account for the properties of the observable universe, including the cosmic microwave background and galaxy clusters. I also research cosmological models that feature magnetic fields, non-Gaussianity and asymmetries, as well as models based on theories of gravity other than Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

I also have general interests in the application of probability and statistics in astronomy and physics.

More specifically my current work lies in the following areas.

1. Cosmic Anomalies. The current standard cosmological model fits most currently available cosmological observations, but some of this data suggests features that may require revisions or additions to the standard model in order to explain them. Among the questions being addressed by this research are: is there evidence of departures from the standard model in the Planck observations of the cosmic microwave background; and how can we resolve the apparent tension between different determinations of cosmological parameters (e.g. the Hubble constant) from different data sets?

2. Wave Mechanics and Large-scale Structure. This work investigates the application of an idea originally suggested by Widrow & Kaiser that involves representing the large-scale distribution of matter using a wave-mechanics, specifically using the Schrödinger-Poisson description. This approach has numerous technical advantages over the standard methods but is far less widely studied. We will be applying it to problems involving dark matter in the form of ultra-light particles as well as the problem of redshift-space distortions and velocity-density reconstruction.

3. Euclid. The European Space Agency's Euclid mission, launched in July 2023, is intended  to better understand dark energy and dark matter by accurately measuring the acceleration of the universe using a number of complementary approaches. I am a member of the Euclid Consortium in which I participate in the Science Working Group on Galaxy Clustering, which is currently preparing for the survey The analysis of data from Euclid will take many years after the survey is itself completed so this will become my main focus in the medium to long term.


Year Publication
2010 Coles, P (2010) From Cosmos to Chaos: The Science of Unpredictability. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2002 Coles, P; Lucchin, F (2002) Cosmology: The Origin and Evolution of Cosmic Structure. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.
2001 Coles, P (2001) Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Peer Reviewed Journal

Year Publication
2022 Aoibhinn Gallagher and Peter Coles (2022) 'Evolution of Cosmic Voids in the Schrödinger-Poisson Formalism'. The Open Journal of Astrophysics, 5 . [Link]
2022 Mark N Brook and Peter Coles (2022) 'Gravitational Stability of Vortices in Bose-Einstein Condensate Dark Matter'. The Open Journal of Astrophysics, 5 . [Link]
2019 Coles, P. (2019) 'A revolution in science: the eclipse expeditions of 1919'. Contemporary Physics, 60 . [Link] [DOI]
2017 Munshi, D.; Coles, P. (2017) 'The integrated bispectrum and beyond'. Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, 2017 (2). [DOI] [Full-Text]
2016 Gosenca, M; Coles, P (2016) 'Dynamical Analysis of Scalar Field Cosmologies with Spatial Curvature'. The Open Journal of Astrophysics, 1 (1). [Link] [DOI] [Full-Text]
2016 Munshi, D.; Pratten, G.; Valageas, P.; Coles, P.; Brax, P. (2016) 'Galaxy clustering in 3D and modified gravity theories'. Monthly Notices Of The Royal Astronomical Society, 456 (2):1627-1644. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2016 Munshi, D.; Hu, B.; Matsubara, T.; Coles, P.; Heavens, A.F. (2016) 'Lensing-induced morphology changes in CMB temperature maps in modified gravity theories'. Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, (4). [DOI] [Full-Text]
2016 Munshi, D.; Iliev, I. T.; Dixon, K. L.; Coles, P. (2016) 'Extracting the late-time kinetic Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect'. Monthly Notices Of The Royal Astronomical Society, 463 (3):2425-2442. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2015 Harnois-Déraps, J.; Munshi, D.; Valageas, P.; van Waerbeke, L.; Brax, P.; Coles, P.; Rizzo, L. (2015) 'Testing modified gravity with cosmic shear'. Monthly Notices Of The Royal Astronomical Society, 454 (3):2722-2735. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2014 Munshi, D.; Hu, B.; Renzi, A.; Heavens, A.F.; Coles, P. (2014) 'Probing modified gravity theories with ISW and CMB lensing'. Monthly Notices Of The Royal Astronomical Society, 442 (1):821-837. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2014 Munshi, D.; Coles, P.; Kilbinger, M. (2014) 'Tomography and weak lensing statistics'. Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, 2014 (4). [DOI] [Full-Text]
2014 Munshi, D; Joudaki, S; Coles, P; Smidt, J; Kay, S.T. (2014) 'Cross-correlating Sunyaev-Zel'dovich and weak lensing maps'. Monthly Notices Of The Royal Astronomical Society, 442 (1):69-91. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2014 Munshi, D.; Corasaniti, P. S.; Coles, P.; Heavens, A.F. Pandolfi, S. (2014) 'Reionization and CMB non-Gaussianity'. Monthly Notices Of The Royal Astronomical Society, 442 (4):3427-3442. [DOI] [Full-Text]

Other Journal

Year Publication
2021 Peter Coles (2021) 'Obituary: John David Barrow (1952-2020)' The Observatory, 141 (1281) :93-96.
2019 Peter Coles (2019) 'Einstein, Eddington and the 1919 eclipse' Nature, 568 :306-307. [Link]
2017 Coles, P. (2017) 'Building baby universes' Physics World, 30 (8) :34-35. [DOI]
2014 Coles, P. (2014) 'Planck Perspectives' Physics World, 27 (1) :24-30. [DOI]

Book Review

Year Publication
2019 Peter Coles (2019) Data Analysis for Scientists and Engineers by Edward L. Robinson. Singapore: [Book Review] [Link]

Electronic Publication

Year Publication
2019 Peter Coles (2019) How Albert Einstein became a household name 100 years ago. [Electronic Publication] [Link]

Electronic Article

Year Publication
2023 Peter Coles (2023) All you need to know about Euclid. Ireland: [Electronic Article] [Link]
Certain data included herein are derived from the © Web of Science (2023) of Clarivate. All rights reserved.