John Travers

Associate Professor

+44 (0)131 451 4039
Room 2.46
David Brewster Building
Heriot-Watt University

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 was born in the United Kingdom on December 28, 1980. He received the M.Sci. degree in Mathematics and Physics from Durham University in 2003, and the M.Sc in Optics and Photonics, with distinction, from Imperial College London in 2004.

Between 2003-2010 he was a member of the Femtosecond Optics Group at Imperial College London, working with Prof. J. Roy Taylor. He obtained his PhD in 2008, and was awarded the 2009 European Physical Society Quantum Electronics and Optics Thesis Prize. In 2009 he was one of the first recipients of the Imperial College Junior Research Fellowship.

He joined Prof. Philip Russell’s division at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Erlangen, Germany in 2010 to lead the ultrafast nonlinear optics sub-group; and was promoted to a W2 level position (equivalent to Associate Professor) in 2012.

In October 2015 he was awarded a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant to study high-energy soliton dynamics and in 2016 he joined Heriot-Watt University as an Associate Professor.