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. 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 PADI-MS with the goal of improving its analytical utility in applications involving the analysis and modification of soft, organic surfaces including biological materials.


3. 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. We have investigated the former using molecular beams and state-resolved laser spectroscopy and are developing reaction nanodiode methods to allow us to investigate the latter. 

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


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



Fingerprint Fingerprint is based on mining the text of the person's scientific documents to create an index of weighted terms, which defines the key subjects of each individual researcher.

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Research Output 1985 2018

Efficient defluoridation of water by Monetite nanorods

Shen, J., Evangelista, M. F., Mkongo, G., Wen, H., Langford, R., Rosair, G. M., McCoustra, M. R. S. & Arrighi, V. Feb 2018 In : Adsorption. 24, 2, p. 135-145 11 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Nicotinic Acids
Homeopathic Pharmacopoeias

Non-linear and Non-local Behaviour in Spontaneously Electrical Solids

Roman, M., Taj, S., Gutowski, M., McCoustra, M. R. S., Dunn, A., Keolopile, Z. G., Rosu-Finsen, A., Cassidy, A. M. & Field, D. 14 Feb 2018 In : Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics. 20, 7, p. 5112-5116 5 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A Review of recent Progress in understanding the spontelectric State of Matter

Plekan, O., Rosu-Finsen, A., Cassidy, A. M., Lasne, J., McCoustra, M. R. S. & Field, D. 20 Jun 2017 In : European Physical Journal D. 71, 6, 8 p., 162

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature review

Open Access
electron beams
electric fields

Bright Lights: Big Experiments! A Public Engagement Activity for International Year of Light

Downie, J. D., Morton, J. A. S. & McCoustra, M. R. S. Jan 2017 In : Physics Education. 52, 1, 9 p., 015005

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access

Cosmic Rays, Electrons and Photons… A Common Foundation

McCoustra, M. R. S. 20 Jan 2017

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther


Activities 2004 2017

Scientific Reports (Journal)

McCoustra, M. R. S. (Editorial board member)
Mar 2017 → …

Activity: Editorial activity

Cars, Cats and the Environment

McCoustra, M. R. S. (Speaker)
24 Feb 2017

Activity: School Outreach

RSC Faraday Division Joint Interest Group Conference

McCoustra, M. R. S. (Organiser)
11 Apr 201713 Apr 2017

Activity: Participation in conference

Stars 'r' Us!

McCoustra, M. R. S. (Speaker)
31 Jan 2017

Activity: School Outreach

Headstart - Science at Heriot-Watt University

McCoustra, M. R. S. (Organiser)
4 Jul 20177 Jul 2017

Activity: Participation in conference

Press / Media

Chasing Stardust

Martin R. S. McCoustra


1 item of media coverage

Press / Media: Research

Warm reception to Moray hoped for leading Academics

Martin R. S. McCoustra


1 item of media coverage

Press / Media: Other

What’s the Matter… with Spontelectrics?

Martin R. S. McCoustra


1 item of media coverage

Press / Media: Research

Spontelectric Materials on BBC Scotland

Martin R. S. McCoustra


1 item of media coverage

Press / Media: Research