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 2017

Ballistic and snake photon imaging for locating optical endomicroscopy fibres

Tanner, M. G., Choudhary, T., Craven, T. H., Mills, B., Bradley, M., Henderson, R. K., Dhaliwal, K. & Thomson, R. R. 1 Sep 2017 In : Biomedical Optics Express. 8, 9, p. 4077-4095 19 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Optical Fibers
Equipment and Supplies

Characterization and modelling of inter-core coupling in coherent fiber bundles

Perperidis, A., Parker, H. E., Karam-Eldaly, A., Altmann, Y., Dhaliwal, K., Thomson, R. R., Tanner, M. G. & McLaughlin, S. 15 May 2017 In : Optics Express. 25, 10, 11932

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Linear Models
cross coupling

Development of low-loss mid-infrared ultrafast laser inscribed waveguides

Madden, G. E., Choudhury, D., Macpherson, W. N. & Thomson, R. R. 12 Jul 2017 In : Optical Engineering. 56, 7, 075102

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Infrared radiation

Dissipatively Coupled Waveguide Networks for Coherent Diffusive Photonics

Mukherjee, S., Mogilevtsev, D., Slepyan, G. Y., Doherty, T. H., Thomson, R. R. & Korolkova, N. 4 Dec 2017 In : Nature Communications. 8

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
coherent light

Efficient photonic reformatting of celestial light for diffraction-limited spectroscopy

MacLachlan, D. G., Harris, R. J., Gris-Sanchez, I., Morris, T. J., Choudhury, D., Gendron, E., Basden, A., Spaleniak, I., Arriola, A., Birks, T. A., Allington-Smith, J. R. & Thomson, R. R. 1 Feb 2017 In : Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 464, 4, p. 4950-4957 8 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Adaptive optics
Optical transfer function