School of Physical Sciences



Additional Roles:

  • Dean of Sciences (2011-2016)

External Activities:

  • Member of STFC Astronomy Grants Panel (currently Chair for Planetary Studies) 2013 - 2018


Professor Burchell was an undergraduate at Birmingham University (1978-1981) obtaining a Bsc(Hons) 1st class. He then received a research council studentship to study for a PhD in experimental particle particle physics at Imperial College (London) (1981 – 1984). This was followed by post-doc positions at Imperial (1984 – 1986),  Univ. California Santa Cruz (1986-1989) and as a CERN fellow (1989-1992). In 1993 he obtained a lectureship in Space Science at the Univ. of Kent. In 2000 he was promoted Senior Lecturer, to Reader in 2002 and Professor of Space Science in 2007.

Professor Burchell has published over 200 journal papers and given over 90 research talks at conferences and meetings. He is a member of the American Physical Society, member of the Meteoritical Society and Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. From 2006-2008 and again from 2008-2010 he was Chair of the Astrobiology Society of Britain.He has sat on the organising committees (local and scientific) of several scientific conferences, and for example, has organised five 1 day meetings at the Royal Astronomy Society (London), with the most recent being in 2014 (Comets after Stardust) and is helping organise a further RAS meeting in Dec 2015 (Dust in Solar Systems).

Inside the Univ. of Kent, Professor Burchell was Acting Head of the School of Physical Sciences in 2004-2005 and 2011 - 2012. He was deputy Head of Department of the School from 2000-2004 and 2005-2006. He was Director of Undergraduate Studies in Physics for several years until 2007.

Professor Burchell has been Dean of the Faculty of Sciences since 2010. Previously he was Sub-Dean of the Faculty (2008-2010) and Faculty Director of Graduate Studies (2008 - 2010).

Contact Information


Room 224, Ingram Building

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Harriss, K. and Burchell, M. (2017). Hypervelocity impacts into ice‐topped layered targets: Investigating the effects of ice crust thickness and subsurface density on crater morphology. Meteoritics and Planetary Science [Online] 52:1505-1522. Available at:
Burchell, M. and Morris, A. (2017). Laboratory tests of catastrophic disruption of rotating bodies. Icarus [Online] 296:91-98. Available at:
Burchell, M. et al. (2017). Survival of Fossilised Diatoms and Forams in Hypervelocity Impacts with Peak Shock Pressures in the 1 – 19 GPa Range. Icarus [Online] 290:81-88. Available at:
Hicks, L. et al. (2017). Magnetite in Comet Wild 2: Evidence for parent body aqueous alteration. Meteoritics and Planetary Science [Online]. Available at:
McDermott, K. et al. (2016). Survivability of copper projectiles during hypervelocity impacts in porous ice: A laboratory investigation of the survivability of projectiles impacting comets or other bodies. Icarus [Online] 268:102-117. Available at:
Showing 5 of 166 total publications in KAR. [See all in KAR]
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Research Interests

My research is in hypervelocity impacts, the very violent events typical of Solar System impacts. Using our two-stage light gas gun I achieve impact speeds in the laboratory of over 8 km/s. 

Key areas investigated are:

  • Impact cratering in ices
  • Intact capture in aerogel
  • Impact disruption of target bodies
  • Oblique incidence impacts
  • Astrobiology (survival of microbial life and complex organics in impact events)
  • Hydrocode modelling of impacts

This has supported work on various space missions, most recently the NASA Stardust mission to comet 81P/Wild 2. We also simulated the impact of Smart 1 on the lunar surface for ESA. Currently work continues on Stardust data analysis (jointly with various US and UK groups), developing new impact sensors for use on the Moon (jointly with NASA and various US groups), catastrophic disruption of icy small bodies in the Solar System and hydrocode modelling.

Recent key results are:

World firsts include:
Microbial life can survive impacts at 5 km/s but that survival falls exponentially with increasing shock pressure.
Raman techniques are suitable to identify materials captured in aerogel
Obtaining craters in ammonia rich ices
Highest speed impacts in porous ices

Work is currently (until 2019) funded by a grant from STFC.
As well as pure science we also conduct industrial and enterprise related work involving high speed impacts and financed by small grants/contracts from various sources.

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Lectures on (currently): Martian Planetary Science and Experimental Particle Physics.

Lectures courses previously include: Spacecraft Systems, Rocket Propulsion, Stellar Interiors and Evolution, Astrobiology, General problems, Statistics. back to top

School of Physical Sciences, Ingram Building, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NH

Enquiries: contact us

Last Updated: 18/11/2016