1985 …2024

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Personal profile

Research interests

Surface science borders on chemistry, physics and engineering; and even strays into life and environmental sciences. Surface science underpins nanotechnology and its application. The methodologies in the surface science toolbox have broad application. Our research activities illustrate that breadth with activities stretching from understanding fundamental aspects of the chemical evolution of the Universe to developing new ambient environment methods for modifying and analysing surfaces.


1. Laboratory Astrochemistry of Surfaces and Solids

The Universe is molecular in nature. Molecules play a crucial role in controlling the evolution of the Universe but where do those molecules come from? In the last decade or so astronomers and astrophysicists have realised that surface and solid state chemistry is absolutely essential if the chemical diversity of the Universe is to be fully explained. Our work focuses on understanding the thermal, photochemical and radiation-induced processes that might be operating in astrophysical environments.


2. Understanding Dipole Oriented Molecular Solids - Spontelectrics

Spontelectrics are the first new solid phase discovered in nearly 100 years. These novel materials grown by deposition of simple dipolar molecules spontaneously dipole orient and consequently display strong electric field. Our group has been closely tied with the group in Denmark that discovered this phenomenon and have developed spectroscopic probes to identify spontelectric behaviour. We are now working with our Danish colleagues and others across the UK to understand why these materials behave in this manner and how they might be applied.


3. Plasma-Surface Interactions for Surface Analysis and Modification

Ambient atmospheric plasmas are a complex environment offering unique opportunities. Our interest in such plasmas stems from developing a novel surface analytical technique known as PADI-MS (plasma assisted desorption/ionisation mass spectrometry). Our research focuses on understanding the processes underlying the interaction of plasmas with surfaces. There are several goals in this work; improving the analytical utility of PADI-MS in the analysis of soft, organic surfaces including biological materials; developing methods to modify the surfaces of soft materials; and investgating approaches to polymer recylcing as part of the COMPASS (http://www.compass.hw.ac.uk) collaboration at Heriot-Watt University. 


4. Energy Dissipation and Redistribution at Metal Surfaces

Molecules colliding with metal surfaces can undergo significant energy redistribution; energy can flow from translation to rovibrational degrees of freedom. Energy in molecular rotational and vibrational motion close to a metal surface can be dissipated by non-adiabatic processes involving the metal conduction band electrons. Likewise, relaxation of vibrationally excited molecules adsorbed on surfaces is dissipated by non-adiabatic processes.  These relaxtion proceeses can have a significant impact on the chemistry of scattered and adsorbed molecules. In the past, we have investigated aspects of the the former using molecular beams and state-resolved laser spectroscopy. Now, we are looking to develop studies of the latter in collaboration with colleagues in the UK and at the FELIX light source in the Netherlands. 

Key Research Words/Phrases

Surface Science; Surface Analysis; Surface Chemistry and Physics; Dynamics and Kinetics of Surface Processes; Plasma-Surface Interactions; Laboratory Astrochemistry and Astrophysics; Solids and Surfaces; Molecular Solids and Surfaces; Water; Metal Surfaces; Oxide Surfaces; Electron-, Photon- and Ion-surface Interactions; COMPASS


University Education

Department of Chemistry, Heriot-Watt University, EDINBURGH,EH14 4AS 

Degree Awarded

Date of Award


November 2003


July 1987

BSc in Chemistry with First Class Honours

July 1983

Previous Employment



Dates Held

Chair in Chemical Physics

School of Chemistry,

University of Nottingham,


January 2006 – July 2006

Reader in Chemical Physics

School of Chemistry,

University of Nottingham,


August 2003 – December 2006

Senior Lecturer

School of Chemistry,

University of Nottingham,


August 1999 – July 2003

Lecturer in Physical Chemistry

School of Chemistry,

University of Nottingham,


September 1994 – July 1999

Lecturer in Physical Chemistry

School of Chemical Science,

University of East Anglia,

NORWICH, Norfolk,NR4 7TJ.

April 1988 – August 1994

Postdoctoral Research Assistant Grade 1A

Department of Chemistry,

Heriot-Watt University,


October 1986 – March 1988



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 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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