John Travers


+44 (0)131 451 4039

I use nonlinear optics to create new light sources with tailored, and extreme, spectral and temporal properties. Examples include the generation of high energy single-cycle pulses in both the ultraviolet (especially the vacuum region), and the mid-infrared, and producing ultrafast electric field waveforms called optical attosecond pulses (pulses shorter than one million billionth of a second in the visible and ultraviolet).

My work is a symbiotic mix of experimentation and numerical modelling. I make use of nature’s full landscape of materials, laser beam geometries and nonlinear effects, but my favourite system is hollow glass waveguides (such as photonic crystal fibres and capillaries) filled with gases, liquids, and stranger things.

With these light sources I investigate the fundamental physics of nonlinear optics, new ways of driving strong-field physics (such as high-harmonic generation and the creation and evolution of plasma) and advanced spectroscopy.

For more details please see my research group pages:


John 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) where he worked with Prof. J.R. Taylor. For his Ph.D thesis he was awarded the European Physical Society’s Quantum Electronics Thesis Prize (2009). After a period as one of the first Imperial College Junior Research Fellows, 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, and was subsequently promoted to W2 Research Group Leader (2012). In 2015 he was awarded a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant. He joined the Institute of Photonics and Quantum Science at Heriot-Watt University as an Associate Professor in 2016 and founded LUPO. He was promoted to full Professor of Physics in 2019.