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Walter Gear

Professor Walter Gear

Honorary Professor
Astronomy Instrumentation Group
Cardiff Hub for Astrophysics Research and Technology

School of Physics and Astronomy

Media commentator


  • Former Dean for International, College of Physical Sciences & Engineering
  • Former Head of Astronomy Instrumentation Group


  • Global Properties of Star Formation in Galaxies: in particular, M31 and local galaxies and the Kennicutt-Schmidt Law
  • Observational Cosmology: Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), in particular CMB polarization, High Z Submillimetre Galaxies.
  • Astronomical Instrumentation at millimetre and submillimetre waveleghts.
  • The QUAD experiment.
  • The CLOVER experiment.
  • The SPIRE instrument on the Herschel satellite.
  • Physics of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN): in particular understanding the structure and dynamics of relativistic jets.


I have taught:

  • PX4215: High-energy Astrophysics
  • PX2220: Planetary Systems
  • PX2224: Electromagnetism


I graduated from Queen Mary, University of London with First Class BSc Astrophysics in 1981, and with a PhD in Millimetre and Submillimetre studies of AGN in 1985. I moved to a postdoc at the then Preston Polytechnic (now University of Central Lancashire) in 1984, continuing to work in the same field and then joined the Royal Observatory Edinburgh in 1986 where I proposed and led the construction of the SCUBA camera for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, which was commissioned in 1996 and began operations in 1997.

After returning to Edinburgh in 1997 I moved to University College London Mullard Space Science Laboratory and then in 1999 moved to take up a new chair in Astronomical Instrumentation in Cardiff. What started with just myself and a technician is now the largest group in the School with over 40 members. I was co-PI with Prof Sarah Church (Stanford) of the QUaD CMB polarisation experiment, and am also a co-I for the SPIRE instrument on the Herschel satellite, as well as being co-chair of the SPIRE local galaxies group.

In August 2005 I became Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy and was renewed in August 2010. I stepped down as Head at the end of 2013. From 2013-15 I was International Dean for the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, with cross-college responsibility for International Research. After a sabbatical year in 2015, spent in large part in Hawaii at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope I returned to duties as Dean for Postgraduate Research in the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering.

In 2019, I became an Honorary Professor at Cardiff University after taking a position at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Professional memberships

Over the years I have sat on many national and international peer review committees and telescope boards.

I am currently:

  • Member of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope International oversight Board.

In 2009 I stood down after 2 years being:

  • Chair, Particle Physics, Astronomy and Nuclear Physics Science Committee (PPAN)

For more information about STFC and the role of PPAN, visit the Science and Technology Facilities Council website.

I was also Member and STFC representative, European Science Foundation Standing Committee on Physical Science and Engineering.

External profiles