Our Investigator Team

Wendy Bickmore

Director of the MRC Human Genetics Unit at the University of Edinburgh

Her undergraduate degree is in Biochemistry from the University of Oxford and she then completed a PhD in molecular biology at the University of Edinburgh.

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Following a postdoc in human genetics, Wendy started her independent research group as a fellow of the Lister Institute for Preventive Medicine. She is fascinated by the three-dimensional organization of the human genome and how that influences genome function in health and disease. Her current research explores how the non-coding genome regulates gene expression. Wendy is a Fellow of; the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of the Academy of Medical Sciences and is a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization. 

Outside of work, Wendy plays tennis badly, gardens pretty well, and enjoys being taken for walks by two Airedale terriers.

Paul Brennan

Reader and Honorary Consultant Neurosurgeon at the University of Edinburgh and NHS Lothian

His research spans the laboratory and clinic, combining molecular, epidemiology and clinical investigation to guide rationale innovation to improve patient care.

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He applies this strategy to improving diagnosis, treatment and outcomes for people with brain tumours, and traumatic brain or spinal injuries. He is part of the CRUK Adult Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence, and Tessa Jowell Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence in Edinburgh. As founder of University of Edinburgh spin-out, eoSurgical Ltd, he leads innovation in surgical simulation training around the world. He collaborates on bringing other innovative technologies to the clinic, such as the Clinspec Dx spectroscopic liquid biopsy test for early detection of cancer. In 2014 Paul helped in the foundation of the Compassion Initiative at the University of Edinburgh.

When not doing any of the above, he’ll be (hopefully) entertaining his children, unless he’s sneaked out for a run/row/cycle.

Duncan Hand

Professor of applied photonics at Heriot-Watt University

He leads research activity on applications of high power lasers, with a focus on both manufacturing and medical devices.

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He completed a PhD in optical fibre bragg gratings (FBGs) at the University of Southampton in 1990 and has been working at Heriot-Watt University since 1991.  He has held many additional roles in the university including as Head of Physics, Deputy Head of School, Acting Head of School and Acting Deputy Principal Research and Innovation.  He misses having the time to actually go into the lab and play with high power lasers.

A keen cyclist, he normally commutes by bike to work and is often out cycling in the local countryside at weekends.

Lynn Paterson

Assistant Professor in the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering at Heriot-Watt University

Her research interests are based around exploiting the interaction between light and biological cells or tissue to benefit the bio-medical sciences.

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Her areas of expertise are optical trapping and optical tweezers, Raman spectroscopy, application of nanoparticles (as sensors) in cells and integrating optics with microfluidics. She also works on optical tweezer micro-rheology, probing micro-mechanical properties of liquids and gels in 3D.  

She joined Heriot Watt University in 2007 as an RCUK Fellow and teach in the Physics department. She has a PhD (Physics) from St Andrews University and BSc (Molecular Biology) from Glasgow University. In her spare time she enjoys gardening and beachcombing. 


Jim Stone

UKRI EPSRC innovation fellowship

He leads a team based at the University of Bath developing optical fibres and endoscopic medical devices.

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His research career has always focused on optical fibre design and fabrication and he has always works towards impact driven outputs both clinical and industrial.

Outside of research he’s interested in 1980s BMWs and really should’ve learnt how to weld.

William Wadsworth

Professor of Photonics in the Department of Physics at the University of Bath

His research is driven by applications, looking to provide new capabilities for lasers and optical systems.

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This has included development of new lasers addressing needs for particular colours of light, the supercontinuum laser source using purpose designed optical fibres to deliver white light from a laser, optical fibres for delivery of laser power or routing of optical signals at extreme power or extreme wavelengths, and working with scientific and industrial end users to develop experiments and products making use of the new capabilities. He also has research interests in optical systems for metrology, and broadening accessibility of research instruments through open hardware designs.

Outside work he enjoys building things, particularly things that fly.

Ahsan Akram

CRUK Clinician Scientist

He has an interest in the role of fibroblasts in the tumour microenvironment of non-small cell lung cancer. 

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His group’s work focuses on bidirectional crosstalk of fibroblasts with immune cells, as well as developing translational methods to image these in vivo. This includes both an optical high-resolution method looking at fibroblast activity and whole-body approaches for activated fibroblast presence.

He previously undertook a PhD in optical molecular imaging  and has been involved in several of the first-in-human imaging studies.

Outside of work, he excels in the fields of gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soya free and nut free baking and enjoys cycling.

Jonathan Knight

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Bath

As Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, Jonathan has responsibility for Research at the University, a position he has held since August 2015. 

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Jonathan completed his PhD in 1993 at the University of Cape Town. After completing his PhD, Jonathan worked as a research fellow at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and at the Optoelectronics Research Centre in Southampton. His research focuses on Wavelength-scale structures for optical applications including new forms of optical fibre.

He was Head of the Department of Physics at Bath from 2008 to 2013, and Associate Dean for Research (Science) from 2013 to 2015. He was the founding director of the Centre for Photonics and Photonic Materials and has published over 200 peer-reviewed journal papers in top-flight international journals. He was the winner of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2009), the Institute of Physics Optics and Photonics Division Prize (2012), the Rank Prize for Optoelectronics (2018), a Chinese Academy of Sciences Presidents International Fellowship for Distinguished Scientists (2019) and Fellow of the Royal Society (2019).

Jon Shephard

Professor in the Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences 

He focuses on developing multidisciplinary projects with academic and industrial partners and medical end users such as surgeons.

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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.

Prof Shephard received the BA degree in Engineering at St Johns College, Cambridge University in 1994. He was awarded an MSc (Eng) with Distinction in 1996 within the Department of Engineering Materials, University of Sheffield and went on to research  novel mid-IR transmitting optical fibres and waveguides obtaining his PhD in 2000. 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.

He is a keen cyclist and spends as much of his spare time as possible out on his bike.

Robert R. Thomson

Professor of Photonics at Heriot Watt University

He is interested in the applications of light in areas such as clinical and biomedical photonics, laser manufacturing and advanced optical instrumentation.

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Specific current interests include the development of new fibre-optic technologies for the minimally invasive imaging of tissues with unprecedented resolution, new light-based therapies for treating infection and resecting tissues with extreme precision, and new photonic approaches to interrogating tissues in a label free manner with the aim of guiding clinical decisions.

He is Principal Investigator of the £6.1M “u-Care” Programme Grant, which was funded as part of the EPSRC “Transformative Healthcare Technologies for 2050 call” and has been awarded ~£35M in funding since 2009 (~£11M as PI and £24M as Co-I). Robert collaborates closely with industry, and co-founded Optoscribe Ltd which now employs >35 staff and occupies dedicated manufacturing premises in Livingston – UK. Outside of work, Robert enjoys walking, reading, and spending time with the family and friends.

Tim Birks

Professor of physics at the University of Bath

His research interests focus on the physics of light propagation in optical fibres. 

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He is best known for pioneering work on photonic crystal fibres with various guidance mechanisms, including those with hollow cores, and for the development of tapered fibres including the photonic lantern.

The applications of this research include optical telecoms, astro-photonics, and biomedical sensing and imaging. He is inventor or co-inventor of 25 granted US and European patents. He was elected Fellow of the Optical Society of America in 2007, and was awarded the 2018 Rank Prize for Optoelectronics.

Kev Dhaliwal

Professor of Molecular Imaging and Healthcare Technology at the University of Edinburgh and a Consultant Physician in Respiratory Medicine

He has a passion for developing new technologies for healthcare impact.

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He is the Chief Investigator on six first-in-human trials of optical molecular imaging reagents and devices related to the diagnosis of bacterial infection, inflammation and cancer. 

Collaborating widely with industry, he is an advocate of the need to work across scientific disciplines and translate physical science research into healthcare.

John Travers

Professor of Physics at Heriot-Watt University

John leads the Laboratory of Ultrafast Physics and Optics (LUPO) and is a Professor of Physics at Heriot-Watt University.

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He received the M.Sci degree in Mathematics and Physics from Durham University (UK) in 2003, and the M.Sc and Ph.D degree, in 2004 and 2008 respectively, from Imperial College London (UK). After a period as an Imperial College Junior Research Fellow, he moved to the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Erlangen, Germany (2010) to lead the ultrafast nonlinear optics group in Prof. Philip Russell’s division. In 2015 he was awarded a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant and joined the Institute of Photonics and Quantum Science at Heriot-Watt University, being promoted to full Professor in 2019. In 2020 he was awarded the ERC Consolidator Grant and elected as Fellow of the Optical Society (OSA).

John’s research is focused on using nonlinear optics to create new light sources with tailored, and sometimes extreme, spectral and temporal properties. A core research interest is the generation of deep and vacuum ultraviolet light using nonlinear dynamics in gas-filled hollow-core fibres.

John spends his free time with his young children, reading, and cycling.

Christian Brahms

Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow at Heriot-Watt University

He works on ultrafast laser pulse compression, frequency conversion, and characterisation.

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He is especially focused on the generation and use of bright, tuneable, and ultrashort laser pulses in the ultraviolet, both in applied contexts and experiments in fundamental science. During his PhD at Imperial College London, he also worked on X-ray high-harmonic generation, strong-field physics, and ultrafast spectroscopy.

When he is not fiddling with laser beams, he can most often be found climbing various rocks.

Contacting Us

e-mail: natalie.jones@ed.ac.uk

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He is especially focused on the generation and use of bright, tuneable, and ultrashort laser pulses in the ultraviolet, both in applied contexts and experiments in fundamental science. During his PhD at Imperial College London, he also worked on X-ray high-harmonic generation, strong-field physics, and ultrafast spectroscopy.

When he is not fiddling with laser beams, he can most often be found climbing various rocks.

Funding Bodies



u-CARE Universities

Heriot-Watt University

University of Edinburgh

University of Bath 

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