Personal profile

Research interests

Duncan Hand is Professor of Applied Photonics. He became fascinated by the science and engineering of photonics whilst studying for a degree in Physics at the University of St Andrews in the mid 1980's and his passion for this technology continues to drive his academic career today. Following his first degree he studied for a PhD in optical fibres at the University of Southampton before moving to Heriot-Watt in 1991. Photonics is an enabling technology that he has applied to a diverse range of applications, with the aerospace and defence industry; ship building and ship engine manufacturing; carbon capture and storage; medical device manufacturers; plant biology; and medical practitioners including surgeons. A current key focus is on manufacturing of medical devices, including as is Director of the £3.6M Medical Device Manufacturing Centre (MDMC), whilst maintaining research actvities focused on other important engineering sectors such as defence.

Current industrial collaborators include Renishaw, Leonardo, CMR Surgical, Oxford Lasers, AWE, MBDA, Gooch & Housego, Luxinar, NSG, GTS.


Duncan graduated from the University of St Andrews in 1986 with a BSc in Physics with Electronics, and from the University of Southampton (Optical Fibre Group) in 1991 with a PhD.  In 1991 he moved to Heriot-Watt University, initially employed as a Research Associate. In 1997 he was appointed Lecturer in Physics and subsequently promoted to Reader (2001) and Professor of Applied Photonics (2003).  He has held a range of additional appointments, as Director of the Photonics EngD Centre (2001 - 2007); Director of Postgraduate Research (2001 - 2007); Head of Physics (2007 - 2011); Acting Head of School (2011); Director of Research (2012 - 2015); Acting Deputy Principal (Pro-VC) Research (2015-2016); Deputy Head of School (2012 - 2020); Acting Head of School (2021 - 2022) and again as Deputy Head of School (2022 - 2023).

Roles & Responsibilities

Duncan is currently Director of the Medical Device Manufacturing Centre and lead of the £1M project on ultra-short pulsed laser welding of optical materials and metals.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water


  • QC Physics
  • laser
  • photonics
  • manufacturing
  • medical
  • optics


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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