About Us

Our research explores the application of lasers and optics for a range of material processing, optical metrology, and sensing applications. The applied nature of our work means that we work closely with industry as well as other UK and International research groups.
Prof. Duncan P. Hand

Prof Duncan Hand has been at Heriot-Watt University since 1991, following his PhD studies at the University of Southampton. He leads research activity in applications of high power lasers, particularly in manufacturing, with additional work on optical fibre delivery of high peak power laser light, and also on surgical applications of lasers. He is currently leading a suite of projects, funded by EPSRC, Innovate UK, EU and industry. His manufacturing research encompasses micro-welding, surface modification, surface patterning, engraving, and micro-machining, covering a range of applications areas from ship engine parts to miniature medical devices. In addition to his research interests Duncan is currently Deputy Head of the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

Dr William N. MacPherson

William is an Associate Professor whose research interests are centred around the application of optical and fibre-optic techniques for measruement and instrumentation. This work includes high bandwidth temperature and pressure sensors for aerodynamic and explosion monitoring, novel fibres for structural monitoring, vibration and acceleration measurement, and studies into potential sensing applications of novel microstructured fibres.

Prof. Jonathan D. Shephard

Currently Professor in the Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences Prof. Shephard’s research (Applied Optics and Photonics) is targeted at number of areas: Medical laser applications (e.g. cancer surgery, eye surgery, orthopaedic surgery, dentistry); Integration of high-power lasers and optical fibre technology into advanced manufacturing processes (including robotic systems) and; Novel hollow core optical fibres. He focuses on developing multidisciplinary projects with academic and industrial partners and medical end users such as surgeons.

Prof Shephard received the BA degree in Engineering at St Johns College, Cambridge University in 1994 and then joined Pilkington Plc (1994-1995) working within R&D. He then returned to study within the Department of Engineering Materials, University of Sheffield and was awarded an MSc (Eng) with Distinction in 1996. He subsequently remained at the University of Sheffield where he worked on developing novel mid-IR transmitting optical fibres and waveguides. He obtained his PhD in 2000 for his work on “Surface modification of IR transmitting glasses for integrated optics” and continued to work in the area of novel mid infrared fibres and optical materials. In 2003 he joined the Applied Optics and Photonics Group at Heriot-Watt University, working on the development of novel micro-structured (Photonic Crystal) fibres and is now Professor within the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences leading the development of novel high power laser surgery techniques.

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Dr Richard M. Carter

Richard graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2005 with an MPhys, from the Universities of St-Andrews and Heriot-Watt with an MSc in photonics and opto-electronic devices in 2007 and in 2012 from Heriot-Watt with a PhD developing long period fibre gratings for environmental gas sensing. He was then joined the high power laser applications group at Heriot-Watt as a research associate investigating laser based production processes. He was one of the founding members of the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Laser Based Production Processes. In 2018 was appointed a Research Fellow (Lecturer) within the Institute for Photonics and Quantum Sciences at Heriot-Watt University and in 2021 promoted to his current role as Associate Professor with teaching responsibilities in both Physics and Mechanical Engineering.

Richard's research interests revolve around precision laser manufacturing, optical system automation and fibre optics. Recent projects have included: high power beam delivery with novel hollow core fibre optics; fibre optic environmental sensing; micro material processing including machining, drilling and welding; microwelding of highly dissimilar materials; the use of robotics to align optical systems and novel beamshaping techniques. His research has led to collaborations with a number of external partners including Renishaw, Leonardo MW, Gooch and Housego, M-Solv, Oxford Lasers, MTC, CPI, University of Bath, University of Manchester, Cranfield University, Cambridge University and the CSIR (India).

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Research Staff

Ryan’s research interests lie in laser beam-shaping, vectorial light, and propagation-invariant beams. His current project involves using customised refractive elements to generate useful beams which retain their transverse profile over an extended depth of focus. Collaborating with industry partners, custom components will be investigated to sculpt the resulting 3D intensity distribution for use in particular applications, ranging from laser cutting and welding of glass, drilling in semi-conductors, and advanced surgical capabilities.

Ryan graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Natural Sciences and an MSc in Physics: Advanced Materials from The Open University in 2014 and The University of Glasgow in 2016, respectively. As part of the CDT in Intelligent Sensing and Measurement, Ryan completed a PhD in the Optics Group at the University of Glasgow, graduating in 2022. His PhD research involved the polarisation structuring observed upon total internal reflection of light in a solid glass cone, with applications investigated in microscopy and single-shot polarimetry. During this time, he participated in collaborative projects both with industry and research partners (particularly G&H and The Beatson Institute for Cancer Research), and has demonstrated his work at government, industry, and public events.

Following his PhD, Ryan worked on a short IAA funded project at The University of Glasgow to demonstrate a low-cost broadband polarimeter device, before joining the Applied Optics and Photonics (AOP) group at Heriot-Watt University as a Research Associate.

Donald graduated from Heriot-Watt in 2017 with an MPhys. During his time as an undergraduate he carried out summer projects within the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences on imaging with SPAD cameras, Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) and a Carnegie Scholarship funded project on optimising optical tweezing processes. His Master’s project consolidated upon the latter, with microfluidic device design and parameter studies for the optimal optical isolation of yeast cells forming the majority of this work.

Donald’s PhD project at Heriot-Watt revolved around ultrafast laser resection of biological tissues using various beam geometries, with the aim of improving the precision and efficiency of minimally invasive surgical procedures. He is currently undertaking a multidisciplinary research endeavour looking at implementing a robotic arm to automate the alignment of various laser systems. This entails working closely with robotics and machine learning researchers in addition to industrial collaborators.

Donald has also undertaken numerous outreach roles during his studies at Heriot-Watt, primarily as a Senior Student Ambassador. The responsibilities of this role range from helping out with campus open days to leading more bespoke department tours for the physics applicant days. Additionally, he has helped run the induction programmes for the physics department and is a current member of The Association of Industrial Laser Users Early Career Researchers Committee.

PhD Students