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Biography

John C. Travers is Professor of Physics at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and director of the Laboratory of Ultrafast Physics and Optics (LUPO). He creates new light sources with tailored, and often extreme, properties, and has made multiple significant contributions to ultrafast nonlinear optics. He is recognised as a pioneer of using gas-filled hollow waveguides for ultrafast frequency conversion, pulse compression and supercontinuum generation. He proposed and demonstrated the use of soliton dynamics in hollow capillaries to produce high-brightness tuneable few-femtosecond pulses across the vacuum and deep ultraviolet region: a foundational technology. The light sources John develops range from the very small—for advanced industrial applications in the semiconductor industry and healthcare—to very large installations for pushing the boundaries of fundamental science.

John received the M.Sci degree in Mathematics and Physics from Durham University, UK, in 2003 and the M.Sc and Ph.D degrees from Imperial College London (UK) in 2004 and 2008. For his Ph.D thesis he was awarded the European Physical Society’s Quantum Electronics Thesis Prize. He was an Imperial College Junior Research Fellow from 2009-2010, after which he moved to the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen, Germany, as a research group leader. In 2015 he was awarded the prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant and established LUPO within the Institute of Photonics and Quantum Science at Heriot-Watt University, in 2016. He was promoted to full Professor of Physics in 2019.

In 2020 John was awarded the ERC Consolidator Grant and elected Fellow of Optica (OSA). In 2022 John was awarded the IET A F Harvey Engineering Research Prize.

The outcomes of his research have been published in more than 250 publications, presented in over 100 invited talks, and received attention in a wide range of scientific news outlets.

Research interests

I use nonlinear optics to create new light sources with tailored, and extreme, spectral and temporal properties. Examples include the generation of high energy single-cycle pulses in both the ultraviolet (especially the vacuum region), and the mid-infrared, and producing ultrafast electric field waveforms called optical attosecond pulses (pulses shorter than one million billionth of a second in the visible and ultraviolet).

My work is a symbiotic mix of experimentation and numerical modelling. I make use of nature’s full landscape of materials, laser beam geometries and nonlinear effects, but my favourite system is hollow glass waveguides (such as photonic crystal fibres and capillaries) filled with gases, liquids, and plasmas.

With these light sources I investigate the fundamental physics of nonlinear optics, new ways of driving strong-field physics (such as high-harmonic generation and the creation and evolution of plasma) and advanced spectroscopy.

Please see https://lupo-lab.com for more details.

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