Associate Professor

+44 (0)131 451 3794
Room 1.27
David Brewster Building
Heriot-Watt University
Dave Townsend
Roles and responsibilities
  • Course Director for the Chemical Physics degree programme.
  • Course Director for the Physics with Environmental Science degree programme.

Dave’s current research interests span the interface between physics and chemistry, employing “ultrafast” femtosecond laser techniques to investigate the quantum control of fundamental molecular processes and electronic relaxation dynamics in molecules of biophysical interest. Understanding energy redistribution in biological molecules is clearly important if one is to move from studying simple structure-function relationships in these types of systems to a more complete structure-dynamics-function picture that provides a greater fundamental mechanistic understanding. Quantum control methodologies are of great interest since they represent the beginning of a shift from a regime where molecular dynamics are simply observed towards one where they are actively controlled and this is clearly of profound importance for many areas of physics, chemistry and biology. Dave also has a current collaboration with Prof. Ken McKendrick and Dr Matt Costen within the Chemistry Department at Heriot-Watt. This work focuses on using nanosecond lasers in conjunction with ion-imaging methods to study the dynamics of small molecule photodissociation.

More information on Dave’s research may be found in the UMD Research Group website.

Selected publications
  1. J. O. F. Thompson, L. B. Klein, T. I. Sølling, M. J. Paterson & D. Townsend, The role of novel Rydberg-valence behaviour in the non-adiabatic dynamics of tertiary aliphatic amines, Chem. Sci., 7, 1826, (2016).
  2. L. B. Klein, J. O. F. Thompson, S. W. Crane, L Saalbach, T. I. Sølling, M. J. Paterson & D. Townsend, Ultrafast relaxation dynamics of electronically excited piperidine: ionization signatures of Rydberg/valence evolution, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 18, 25070, (2016).
  3. L. B. Klein, T. J. Morsing, R. A. Livingstone, D. Townsend & T. I. Sølling, The effects of symmetry and rigidity on non-adiabatic dynamics in tertiary amines: A time-resolved photoelectron velocity-map imaging study of the cage-amine ABCO, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 18, 9715, (2016).
  4. M. M. Zawadzki, J. O. F. Thompson, E. A. Burgess, M. J. Paterson & D. Townsend, Time-resolved photoionization spectroscopy of mixed Rydberg-valence states: indole case study, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 17, 26659, (2015)
  5. J.O. F. Thompson, L. Saalbach, S. W. Crane, M. J. Paterson & D. Townsend, Ultraviolet relaxation dynamics of aniline, N, N-dimethylaniline and 3,5-dimethylaniline at 250 nm, J. Chem. Phys., 142, 114309, (2015).
  6. S. E. Greenough, M. D. Horbury, J. O. F. Thompson, G. M. Roberts, T. N. V. Karsili, B. Marchetti, D. Townsend & V. G. Stavros, Solvent induced conformer specific photochemistry of guaiacol, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 16, 16187, (2014).
  7. J. O. F. Thompson, R. A. Livingstone & D. Townsend, Following the relaxation dynamics of photoexcited aniline in the 273-266 nm region using time-resolved photoelectron imaging. J. Chem. Phys., 139, 034316, (2013).
  8. R. A. Livingstone, J. O. F. Thompson, M. Iljina, R. J. Donaldson, B. J. Sussman, M. J. Paterson & D. Townsend, Time-resolved photoelectron imaging of excited state relaxation dynamics in phenol, catechol, resorcinol and hydroquinone, J. Chem. Phys., 137, 184304, (2012).
  9. R. Livingstone, O. Schalk, A. E. Boguslavskiy, G. Wu, L. T. Bergendahl, A. Stolow, M. J. Paterson & D. Townsend, Following the relaxation dynamics of indole and 5-hydroxyindole using time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy, J. Chem. Phys., 135, 194307, (2011).
  10. P. Hockett, M. Staniforth, K. L. Reid & D. Townsend, Rotationally resolved photoelectron angular distributions from a nonlinear polyatomic molecule, Phys. Rev. Lett., 102, 253002, (2009).

Dave began his research career at the University of Nottingham, obtaining a PhD for investigations into the dynamics of molecular photoionization under the supervision of Katharine Reid. Following on from this he spent time as a postdoctoral researcher in the groups of Tim Softley at the University of Oxford, investigating the spatial manipulation of Stark shifted atomic Rydberg states, and Arthur Suits at the State University of New York (SUNY), using ion imaging methods for the study of molecular photodissociation. 

Prior to his current appointment, Dave was a Visiting Research Fellow at the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa, working with Albert Stolow. During this time he developed parallel research interests in the use of time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy as a probe of excited state dynamics in molecules of biological interest and in quantum control methodologies exploiting the non-resonant dynamic Stark effect through the use of intense ultrafast laser pulses.

Dave joined Heriot-Watt University as a lecturer in 2007.