Personal profile

Research interests

Robert’s current research interests are centred on the technology and applications of ultrafast laser inscription. In June 2010 he began a 5 year STFC Advanced fellowship aimed at the “Astrophotonic applications of ultrafast laser inscription”. The aim of this fellowship is to use the unique fabrication capabilities of ultrafast laser inscription to develop novel photonic instrumentation for astronomy. Examples of such devices include 3D integrated beam combiners for exoplanet imaging and integrated photonic lanterns for multimode-to-single mode conversion.   In relation to the astrophotonics side of Robert’s research, he collaborates closely with many groups around the world and the UK. This includes the University of Sydney, the Institut de Planetologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble, the University of Bath, Durham University and the UK-Astronomy Technology Centre. Within the department, Robert also collaborates closely with a number of the other faculty, including Prof. Ajoy K. Kar (Head of Nonlinear Optics group), Prof. Derryck T. Reid (Head of Ultrafast optics Group), Dr. Robert Hadfield (Head of the Superconducting Detector Group) and Dr Lynn Paterson (Head of the Biophotonics group).


Robert R. Thomson was awarded the BSc in Physics (1st Class Honours) from Heriot Watt University (HWU) in 2000, the MSc in Optoelectronics and Laser Devices from the University of St Andrews in 2001 (a course jointly run with HWU) and the PhD in the Physics from HWU in 2006.


Robert Thomson is an STFC Advanced Fellow and Lecturer in the newly formed Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences at Heriot-Watt University. He has > 10 years experience in photonics, and > 6 years of experience in the specific field of Ultrafast Laser Inscription (ULI). He has authored two invited book chapters on ULI, and has published > 35 journal papers (including ~30 on ULI) attracting > 400 citations in total. He currently organises the highly succesful Edinburgh series of IOP lectures and serves as the Secretary of the Scottish chapter of the IEEE Photonics Society. Robert is also a Co-founder of Optoscribe - a high-tech spin-out from Heriot-Watt in the Ultrafast Laser Inscription area.


Roles & Responsibilities


  • QC Physics
  • photonics

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Research Output 2005 2018

Demonstration and characterization of ultrafast laser-inscribed mid-infrared waveguides in chalcogenide glass IG2

Butcher, H. L., MacLachlan, D. G., Lee, D., Thomson, R. R. & Weidmann, D. 16 Apr 2018 In : Optics Express. 26, 8, p. 10930-10943 14 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access

Mid-infrared volume diffraction gratings in IG2 chalcogenide glass: Fabrication, characterization, and theoretical verification

Butcher, H. L., MacLachlan, D. G., Lee, D., Brownsword, R. A., Thomson, R. R. & Weidmann, D. 22 Feb 2018 Optical Components and Materials XV. Jiang, S. & Digonnet, M. J. F. (eds.). SPIE, 105280R. (Proceedings of SPIE; vol. 10528)

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

Chalcogenide Glasses
Ultrafast lasers
Diffraction Grating
Diffraction gratings

Observation of localized ground and excited orbitals in graphene photonic ribbons

Cantillano, C., Mukherjee, S., Morales-Inostroza , L., Real, B., Cáceres, G., Hermann, C., Thomson, R. R. & Vicencio, R. A. 29 Mar 2018 In : New Journal of Physics. 20, 033028

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access

Progress towards instrument miniaturisation for mid-IR long-baseline interferometry

Labadie, L., Minardi, S., Martín, G. & Thomson, R. R. 18 May 2018 In : Experimental Astronomy. p. 1-13 13 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

integrated optics

Advances in broadband-integrated optic beam combiners for mid-IR astronomical interferometers

Tepper, J., Diener, R., Labadie, L., Minardi, S., Thomson, R. R. & Nolte, S. 7 Apr 2017 Proceedings of the SPIE: Photonic Instrumentation Engineering IV. Soskind, Y. G. & Olson, C. (eds.). SPIE, Vol. 10110, 6 p. 101100D. (Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering; vol. 10110)

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

Integrated Optics
Integrated optics
integrated optics