Photonics at St Andrews and Heriot-Watt

The Physics departments at St Andrews and Heriot-Watt are known for their pioneering work in lasers and optoelectronics. Academic staff teaching on the MSc course also lead and work in the research teams at the two sites.

Researchers at the School of Physics and Astronomy at St Andrews tackle a number of important research areas in theoretical and experimental photonics, and other areas. Some of this work is collaborative with other universities around the world, and some within the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance. Funding is from a number of sources, including the UK and EU research councils, charities, and industry. In the UK-wide Research Excellence Framework that judged universities on their research, our submission with the physics department at the University of Edinburgh came third in the UK for physics research quality.

Research in Physics and Astonomy at St Andrews

Photonics research at St Andrews

Dr Tom Brown works on ultrashort pulse lasers and their applications.  He recently spent several weeks in the Antarctic with his Optical Coherence Tomography system being used to study Antarctic Krill. With this research being part of the recent International Year of Light it was possible to say that this celebration had reached all the World’s continents.

Dr Donatella Cassettari leads a group looking at laser cooled atoms and their use in exploring condensed matter physics.

Professor Kishan Dholakia leads a team that is internationally recognised for its work in biophotonics. He received the 2016 Wood prize from the Optical Society of America for his pioneering research into optical micromanipulation using shaped light for interdisciplinary photonics-based applications.

Dr Andrea Di Falco leads a research group looking at the way in which nano-structured materials can be fabricated to study and exploit complex photonic behaviors. The key research areas include chaotic photonic crystal resonators, flexible metamaterials and random media for imaging, biosensing and nonlinear photonic applications.

Professor Malcolm Dunn and his group have produced tunable coherent light, from the blue to the mid-infrared, through optical parametric oscillators. The research in this area in the School spans femtosecond, picosecond, nanosecond and continuous wave regimes. One of the nanosecond systems has been engineered for use in the photonics teaching laboratories at St Andrews. With Dr Cameron Rae he runs the School’s Photonics Innovation Centre, which further strengthens the links between the applicable photonics research in the School and the end-users in industry and elsewhere.

Prof Malte Gather’s research is in the area of soft matter photonics, and in particular the way in which this may be important in biology and medicine. He has recently shown how biological cells may be tracked after they have been fed microlasers, and how single cells can be targeted using the type of lighting that is in the displays of smart phones.

Dr Friedrich Koenig works in experimental quantum optics, and in particular at ideas of the optical analogues of gravitational black holes.

Dr Natalia Korolkova works on quantum information theory. She won the 2015 Eugen Lommel Awardin recognition of her "outstanding contributions to the understanding of "quantum discord"".

Dr Brendon Lovett works on the theory of quantum optics. He recently published work on a quantum effect in which atoms team up to absorb light creating superabsorbing systems that could make the ultimate camera pixel.

Dr Michael Mazilu works on a range of theoretical and computational problems in photonics. With Prof Dholakia and co-workers he holds the Guinness Book of World Records entry for the fastest spinning man-made object, obtained by using optical tweezers to support and spin a small particle in a vacuum.

Professors Ifor Samuel and Graham Turnbull study the photophysics and optoelectronic applications of organic semiconductors. These materials have application for use in displays and lighting, datacommunications, chemical sensing, medical treatments and solar power.

Prof Samuel won the 2016 RSC Chemical Dynamics prize for outstanding innovative research on the dynamics of molecules.

Dr Bruce Sinclair worked in the area of miniature solid-state lasers, and now coordinates this MSc programme in St Andrews.

Photonics research at Heriot-Watt University

There is also a wide range of important photonics research being carried out at Heriot-Watt University. Students on our MSc course can benefit from the combined expertise at the two universities.