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Heriot-Watt University
Robert R Thomson

Robert’s current research interests are centred on the technology and applications of ultrafast laser inscription. In 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).

If you are interested in doing a PhD with Robert on either astrophotonics, fs-laser micromachining or another related area please contact Robert or visit the Photonics Instrumentation group pages.

Selected publications


  1. R. R. Thomson et al, "Ultrafast laser inscription of an integrated photonic lantern," Opt. Express 19, 5698 (2011)
  2. R. R. Thomson et al, "Ultrafast laser inscription of a high-gain Er-doped bismuthate glass waveguide amplifier," Opt. Express 18, 13212 (2010)
  3. R. R. Thomson et al, "Ultrafast laser inscription: an enabling technology for astrophotonics," Opt. Express 17, 1963 (2009)
  4. R. R. Thomson et al, "Shaping ultrafast laser inscribed optical waveguides using a deformable mirror," Opt. Express 16, 12786 (2008)
  5. R. R. Thomson et al, "Ultrafast-laser inscription of a three dimensional fan-out device for multicore fiber coupling applications," Opt. Express 15, 11691 (2007)
  6. R. R. Thomson et al, "Optical waveguide fabrication in z-cut lithium niobate (LiNbO3) using femtosecond pulses in the low repetition rate regime," Appl. Phys. Lett. 88, 111109 (2006)
  7. R. R. Thomson et al, "Internal gain from an erbium-doped oxyfluoride-silicate glass waveguide fabricated using femtosecond waveguide inscription," IEEE Photonic. Tech. L. 18, 1515 (2006)

Robert R. Thomson was awarded the BSc. in Physics 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. His PhD research, which was conducted within the nonlinear optics group at HWU, was primarily concerned with the development of Er-doped waveguide amplifiers for applications in metropolitan area telecommunications networks. During his PhD he developed Er-doped devices using a range of techniques including pulsed laser deposition (PLD), femtosecond laser micromachining, ultrafast laser inscription and sol-gel.