Physical sciences

Blue flare from sphere

Research in Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt University spans the fundamental to the applied. Interdisciplinary is central to our research strategy against a policy of maximising the impact of our research outputs.  Chemistry, physics, and geosciences sit at the core of research within our research institutes.

School of Engineering & Physical Sciences (EPS)

Research within our School of Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS) is managed within five research institutes with chemistry and physics contributing to all of these to achieve a continuum from the fundamental to applied research that lead to a range of knowledge exchange activities with industry. Heriot-Watt researchers are active and enthusiastic partners in the Scottish chemistry and physics research pools, ScotChem and SUPA.

Research within the Institute of Chemical Sciences encompasses a broad spectrum of chemistry research interests range from fundamental aspects of pure chemistry to interdisciplinary areas which involve interactions with physics, biochemistry and applied science. Key areas of expertise in chemistry at Heriot-Watt University lie within dynamics and structure, materials chemistry, and molecular chemistry.

Heriot-Watt University’s strengths in the physics of lasers, photonics, and optoelectronic devices is exploited within the Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences covering photonic physics, engineering photonics and quantum sciences, building on a 40+ year history of world-leading research. Our broad research base encourages cross-fertilisation of ideas across the theoretical and experimental base of photonics and quantum sciences.

School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences (MACS)

Physics is also approached from the mathematics side via a group investigating string theory, classical and quantum integrable systems, quantum field theories and quantum gravity.

Institute of Geoenergy Engineering

Geoscience and Geophysics are both core disciplines that support research within the multidisciplinary Institute of Geoenergy Engineering. Two of the twelve research themes within the Institute are Petroleum Geoscience and Reservoir Geophysics, and geoscience underpins most of the other themes providing a complete spectrum from exploration, through reservoir appraisal and development, to production technology


ScotChem is a research pool based on strategic collaboration, equipment sharing, and enhancing resources for chemistry research and research training in Scotland. It brings together seven universities, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, St Andrews and Strathclyde, and other major players in research in the chemical sciences to generate enhanced critical mass and collaboration and to enable wider access to major facilities.


SUPA is a pooling alliance of physics research and post-graduate education in 8 Scottish universities: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, St Andrews, Strathclyde and West of Scotland. SUPA, supported by the Scottish Funding Council, is focused on seven research themes. Heriot-Watt University contributes actively to the Condensed Matter & Materials Physics, Energy, Photonics, and Physics & Life Sciences Themes