School of Mathematics

People A-Z

Dr. Anna Lisa Varri

Photo of Anna Lisa Varri
  • Reader

Contact details

Research Interests

My research interests centre on the dynamics of stellar systems.

From an applied mathematics viewpoint, I am interested in a number of topics broadly connected to the classical gravitational N-body problem, especially Vlasov-Poisson equilibria and related perturbation and asymptotic methods for elliptic PDEs, kinetic theory for application to self-gravitating systems and plasmas, kinetic counterparts of the theory of rotating fluids, and integrability and numerical methods for Hamiltonian systems. I also have a growing interest in developing techniques from Bayesian statistics for application to astrophysical data.

From an astrophysics viewpoint, I am interested in the formation and evolution of low-mass stellar systems because they define the intriguing boundary between our current notions of star clusters and galaxies. This is the small-scale frontier of galaxy formation and a central challenge for near-field cosmology in the era of Gaia, Hubble, LIGO/Virgo/KAGRA, and JWST — with wide-ranging implications for fundamental physics. My activities aim at addressing three key open questions: How did the first stellar aggregates form in the early universe? Is there a missing link between stellar and super-massive black holes? Where is the limit for the presence of dark matter on small astrophysical scales?

Curious about mathematical astrophysics? Here's a 2-min video, within our Researchers on Record series.

Research Groups

Current and Recent PhD Students

  • Sam Bonsor (MAC MIGS, 2019-, with Prof J. Vanneste)
  • Freddie Phipps (SoPA, 2018-22, with Prof S. Khochfar)

A complete list of current and previous advisees can be found here.

Recent Conference and Workshop Involvement

Biographical Statement

I am an inaugural UKRI Future Leaders Fellow (2019-26) at the University of Edinburgh, where I have been based since 2012 — first as a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Fellow (2012-15) in the Applied and Computational Mathematics Theme of the School of Mathematics, then as a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow and Associate (2015-18) at the Institute for Astronomy, within School of Physics and Astronomy. I am now jointly appointed at 0.5FTE to both Schools, but, strangely, I do not normalise to 1; I was confirmed for a Lectureship in 2021 and promoted to a Readership in 2023.

Made in Italy and forged in Scotland, I also held international research fellowships in Japan and United States, under the auspices of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science with The Royal Society (2018-19), The Gruber Foundation (2012-13), and The US-Italy Fulbright Commission (2010-11). I received my education in Theoretical Physics at the Università degli Studi di Milano (PhD 2012, MSc 2008, BSc 2005).

My work on the dynamics of stellar systems has been recognised by the William Herschel and Royal Astronomical Societies with the 2019 Caroline Herschel Prize Lectureship and by the International Astronomical Union with the 2012 Gruber Foundation Young Scientist Award.

Professional Activities


  • Mathematics in Action A: "Mathematics of galaxies" (SoM, Level 11) - Developer, Organiser, and Lecturer
  • Computational Applied Mathematics MSc dissertation projects - Supervisor
  • Theoretical Physics and Mathematical Physics MSc dissertation projects - Supervisor
  • Senior Honours, MMath, MPhys (and occasionally Summer Vacation) projects - Supervisor

Previously: Mathematics for Physics 1 (SoPA, Level 8, 2020-23).

Internal service

  • Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics Management Committee (HCMC) - EDI Coordinator, since 2023
  • Maxwell Institute Graduate School - Confidential Pastoral Contact (NHS Mental Health First Aider), since 2022
  • SoM Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee - Member, since 2022
  • UoE Research Culture Working Group, then Forum - Member, since 2021

Previously: HCMC Outreach Coordinator (2020-23), SoPA EDI Committee Member (2020-22), SoPA Graduate School Pastoral Team (2020-22). Curious about Edinburgh's first women mathematicians and physicists? Have a look here.

External service

  • UKRI Interdisciplinary Assessment College - Panel Member, 2023-2025
  • STFC DiRAC Resouce Allocation Committee - Astronomy and Cosmology Sub-Panel Member, 2023-2024
  • Royal Society International Exchanges Committee - Member, 2022-2024
  • Royal Astronomical Society Library Committee - Member, since 2020
  • UKRI Peer Review College - Member, since 2019

A complete list of reviewing and institutional responsibilities can be found here.