Staff profile - Gillian Wright
06 Mar 2024



Find out more about UK ATC Director Professor Gillian Wright CBE.




​J​ob title: My full job title is quite long, it's Director of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre and Head of Site for the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, mostly though people just call the role “UK ATC Director". I am also the European leader of the team that built the MIRI instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope​. 

What does your role involve? 

A “little bit of everything". For example I could be having strategic discussions about future astronomy facilities, or engaged in helping to solve a problem, or perhaps dealing with a human resources or finance aspect. Or with the MIRI team I could be involved in science analysis and discussions. Every day is different and brings interesting challenges. 

What did you do before you joined UK ATC?  

I worked on Mauna Kea in Hawaii at the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope as a staff scientist. The telescope was one of the first in the world dedicated to infrared observations and the instruments and scientific discoveries made there helped to open up the field of infrared astronomy.

​What's the best thing about your job? 

The people and team work! The UK ATC staff are talented and exciting to work with. As a Department Director within STFC I collaborate with the Directors of the other departments too. MIRI is a team that has lasted more than 20 years and we all work well together. 

What are your highlights of your time working at UK ATC? 

Being the Director of the UK ATC and my role in leading the development of MIRI.

​What do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

I can just lose myself in the garden, and enjoy growing vegetables in raised beds, chilli plants in a small greenhouse, looking after the trees, shrubs, and creating wild areas.

​W​hat is your favourite place on the ROE site ? 

My favourite place is not quite on the site, it is just outside – to walk up the hill a little way and enjoy the view of the city while amidst nature. You get that view from the rooftop areas on site too, but it is even better from​ the hill. 

Tell us something you find interesting about the Royal Observatory.

 That there is a “bullet hole", a relic of an attack by suffragettes.​