MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and NanotechnologySchool of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington
Area/discipline of scienceUltrafast laser spectroscopy, organic electronics
- B.Sc (Hons) in Chemistry (Otago)
- Ph.D in Physical Chemistry (M.I.T.)
- Post-doctoral research at University of Cambridge
I study the effect of very short laser pulses on photo-active materials being developed for new printable plastic electronic devices such as solar cells and biosensors. These plastic electronic devices could potentially be made for a fraction of the cost of conventional alternatives. A key to the development of these materials is an understanding of their electronic dynamics on a wide range of timescales – something that is now possible in our new ultrafast laser laboratory.
Reflecting on the path I have taken, my original fascination with laser spectroscopy was undoubtedly superficial – steering different coloured laser beams through a maze of mirrors in a dark lab just seemed cool! I soon found that there was enough to capture my imagination ever since – light does weird things when squeezed into pulses only femtoseconds long and it can unlock the electronic secrets of molecules. The day-to-day life of a laser spectroscopist differs from most chemists, but it appeals to my enjoyment of building things. I probably spend 90% of the time playing around with optics and electronics before it all finally comes together in a measurement that often challenges our present understanding.
Being an academic scientist is in many ways like being an entrepreneur. It’s a high-risk, high-reward game where success comes down to the strength of your ideas, your strategy, and of course determined hard work! Regardless of your specific flavour of chemistry, I think the key is to direct your talents to a really important problem. That is what motivates me through the inevitable setbacks and helps me to convey my science to others.