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Personal profile

Research interests

Dave’s current research interests span the interface between physics and chemistry, employing “ultrafast” femtosecond laser techniques to investigate the quantum control of fundamental molecular processes and electronic relaxation dynamics in molecules of biophysical interest. Understanding energy redistribution in biological molecules is clearly important if one is to move from studying simple structure-function relationships in these types of systems to a more complete structure-dynamics-function picture that provides a greater fundamental mechanistic understanding. Quantum control methodologies are of great interest since they represent the beginning of a shift from a regime where molecular dynamics are simply observed towards one where they are actively controlled and this is clearly of profound importance for many areas of physics, chemistry and biology. Dave also has a current collaboration with Prof. Ken McKendrick and Dr Matt Costen within the Chemistry Department at Heriot-Watt. This work focuses on using nanosecond lasers in conjunction with ion-imaging methods to study the dynamics of small molecule photodissociation.


Dave began his research career at the University of Nottingham, obtaining a PhD for investigations into the dynamics of molecular photoionization under the supervision of Katharine Reid. Following on from this he spent time as a postdoctoral researcher in the groups of Tim Softley at the University of Oxford, investigating the spatial manipulation of Stark shifted atomic Rydberg states, and Arthur Suits at the State University of New York (SUNY), using ion imaging methods for the study of molecular photodissociation.  Prior to his current appointment, Dave was a Visiting Research Fellow at the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa, working with Albert Stolow. During this time he developed parallel research interests in the use of time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy as a probe of excited state dynamics in molecules of biological interest and in quantum control methodologies exploiting the non-resonant dynamic Stark effect through the use of intense ultrafast laser pulses. Dave joined Heriot-Watt University as a lecturer in 2007.

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Research Output

  • 44 Article
  • 1 Conference contribution
  • 1 Book/Film/Article review
  • 1 Literature review

Short-wavelength probes in time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy: an extended view of the excited state dynamics in acetylacetone

Kotsina, N., Candelaresi, M., Saalbach, L., Zawadzki, M. M., Crane, S. W., Sparling, C. & Townsend, D., 28 Feb 2020, In : Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics. 22, 8, p. 4647-4658 12 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • The influence of substituent position on the excited state dynamics operating in 4-, 5- and 6-hydroxyindole

    Crane, S. W., Ghafur, O., Saalbach, L., Paterson, M. J. & Townsend, D., Jan 2020, In : Chemical Physics Letters. 738, 136870.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Dynamics of electronically excited states in the eumelanin building block 5,6-dihydroxyindole

    Crane, S. W., Ghafur, O., Cowie, T. Y., Lindsay, A. G., Thompson, J. O. F., Greenwood, J. B., Bebbington, M. W. P. & Townsend, D., 21 Apr 2019, In : Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics. 21, 15, p. 8152-8160 9 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 1 Downloads (Pure)

    Dynamics of Pyrroles Excited to the 3s/πσ* State

    Lamas, I., Longarte, A., Peralta Conde, A., Muga, G., Townsend, D. & Montero, R., 24 Oct 2019, In : Journal of Physical Chemistry A. 123, 42, p. 8982-8993 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Ultrafast deep and vacuum ultraviolet gas-filled hollow-core fibre sources for time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy

    Belli, F., Kotsina, N., Gao, S-F., Wang, Y-Y., Wang, P., Travers, J. C. & Townsend, D., 17 Oct 2019, 2019 Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics Europe and European Quantum Electronics Conference (CLEO/Europe-EQEC). IEEE, 8872255

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

  • Datasets

    Comparative stereodynamics in molecule-atom and molecule-molecule rotational energy transfer: NO(A2Σ+) + He and D2.

    Costen, M. L. (Creator), McKendrick, K. G. (Creator), Townsend, D. (Creator), Luxford, T. F. M. (Creator) & Sharples, T. R. (Creator), Heriot-Watt University, 29 Jul 2016


    Rotationally Inelastic Scattering of NO(A2Sigma+)+Ar: Differential cross sections and rotational angular momentum polarization

    Costen, M. L. (Creator), McKendrick, K. G. (Contributor), Townsend, D. (Contributor), Sharples, T. R. (Contributor) & Luxford, T. F. M. (Contributor), Heriot-Watt University, 15 Sep 2015