News & Events

PhD studentships available

Fully funded PhD studentships are available for postgraduate research in ultrafast photodynamics with both Dr Tom Oliver and Prof Andrew Orr-Ewing. Please contact either of these academic staff members for further details. The School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol was ranked 1st in the UK for research in Chemistry in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) and the Oliver and Orr-Ewing groups are superbly equipped with ultrafast laser experiments. They are part of the UPDICE Programme Grant funded by EPSRC – see the UPDICE website for more details.

Fabiola Cardoso Delgado Finishes her PhD

Congratulations to Fabiola Cardoso Delgado who passed her PhD viva voce exam. In her PhD studies, Fabiola used reflectance microscopy and time-correlated single photon counting to investigate the response of iridescent chloroplasts in Phyllagathis rotundifolia to different light conditions. Fabiola is now a post-doc at the University of Southern California with Steve Bradforth.

Georgia Thornton completes her PhD

Congratulations to Georgia Thornton who successfully completed her PhD viva on 13 May 2022. Georgia’s PhD research studied the mechanisms of light-activated polymerization and photoredox-catalysed reaction cycles using transient absorption spectroscopy and computational chemistry. She will start training to become a science teacher in September 2022.

New BBSRC sLoLa grant

As part of a consortium led by Ross Anderson (Bristol Biochemistry), Tom Oliver has secured a BBSRC sLoLa grant BB/W003449/1 worth £4.9 m entitled “Creating and comprehending the circuitry of life: precise biomolecular design of multi-centre redox enzymes for a synthetic metabolism”.

The project seeks to investigate the flow of energy and electrons through individual and arrays of photoactive de novo proteins. The project encompasses protein design, modelling, synthesis and spectroscopic characterisation between groups from Bristol (Anderson, Curnow, Oliver and Mulholland), Portsmouth (Lichtenstein), UCL (Marechal) and UEA (Butt)

Within the Oliver group, ultrafast laser spectroscopies such as transient absorption, time-resolved infrared and 2D electronic spectroscopies will be used to unravel the excited state processes and the flow of energy within these designer proteins spanning femtoseconds-to-miliseconds timescales.

Giordano Amoruso completes his PhD

Congratulations to Giordano for completing his PhD with a viva voce examination in late October 2021. Giordano’s research used a variety of ultrafast spectroscopic techniques to examine bimolecular proton, electron and energy transfer processes in chemical, biological and hybrid-nanomaterial systems.

Olivia Hawkins completes her MSc(R)

Congratulations to Olivia who completed her MSc(R) degree with a viva voce examination in October 2021. Olivia’s thesis entitled “Investigating the Excited State Dynamics of 1,6-Diphenyl-1,3,5-Hexatriene Using Time Correlated Single Photon Counting” used fluorescence lifetime techniques to unravel the complicated excited state dynamics of DPH in many different solutions. Olivia has now started her PhD in the laser group.

Dr Colin Western (1957 – 2021)

Members of the Bristol group are deeply saddened by the death of their dear friend and colleague Dr Colin Western after a short illness.  Colin was widely known internationally for his development of the PGOPHER software package for simulation and fitting of high-resolution molecular spectra.  He will be greatly missed, both in Bristol and in the world-wide community of molecular spectroscopists.

Luke Lewis-Borrell completes his PhD

Congratulations to Luke Lewis-Borrell who completed his PhD with a viva voce examination of his thesis in September 2021. Luke’s PhD research was supported by the Bristol Chemical Synthesis Centre for Doctoral Training. It bridged synthetic organic chemistry and physical chemistry, using ultrafast time-resolved transient IR and UV-visible spectroscopy methods to follow multi-step reaction pathways. Examples systems studied by Luke included photoredox catalysis using organic photocatalysts, and a radical induced 1,2-metallate reaction involving boron chemistry developed by Prof Varinder Aggarwal in Bristol.

New EPSRC Programme Grant starts

The Bristol group is leading a new multi-centre, EPSRC-funded programme grant Ultrafast Photochemical Dynamics in Complex Environments (EP/V026690/1). The Bristol groups led by Andrew Orr-Ewing and Tom Oliver are joined in this major new project by Helen Fielding and Graham Worth (UCL), Basile Curchod (Durham), Jon Marangos (Imperial College), and Mark Brouard and Claire Vallance (Oxford).

Tony Kao completes his PhD

Congratulations to Min-Hsien (Tony) Kao for completing his PhD after his viva voce examination in September 2021. Tony’s PhD research explored the ultrafast photodynamics of various organic molecules including cyclic ketones and sunscreen compounds using femtosecond laser spectroscopy and computational chemistry methods.

Another Nature Comms paper is featured on an Editors’ Highlights webpage

The recent paper entitled ‘Rotational and Nuclear-Spin Level Dependent Photodissociation Dynamics of H2S’ (Nat. Comm. 12, 4459 (2021)), describing collaborative work involving Mike Ashfold, Colin Western, ex-group members Chris Hansen (now at UNSW in Sydney) and Stuart Crane (now at Heriot-Watt University) and colleagues at the Dalian Coherent Light Source has been selected to feature in a Nature Communications Editors’ Highlights collection (see here).

New EPSRC Programme Grant in Ultrafast Dynamics

Andrew Orr-Ewing and Tom Oliver have secured a new EPSRC Programme Grant EP/V026690/1 entitled “Ultrafast Photochemical Dynamics in Complex Environments”. The project is led by the University of Bristol group and is a collaboration with Helen Fielding and Graham Worth (UCL), Jon Marangos (Imperial College), Claire Vallance and Mark Brouard (Oxford), and Basile Curchod (Durham). It combines ultrafast laser spectroscopy techniques for the experimental study of gas and condensed phases systems with quantum dynamical simulations of photochemical pathways.

Ryan Phelps completes his PhD

Congratulations to Ryan Phelps for completing his PhD after his viva voce examination in May 2021. Ryan’s PhD studies involved direct observation of the formation and reactions of intermediate species such as carbenes and ylides in solution using ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy. He is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh.

Olivia Hawkins wins poster prize at online SDG 2021

Congratulations to Olivia who won one of the poster prizes at the RSC’s Spectroscopy and Dynamics Group meeting (Online 11-12th January 2021). Her poster was entitled “Investigating the fluorescence properties of Diphenylhexatriene in different environments”.

Georgia Thornton and Giordano Amoruso win 3-minute video challenge prizes

Congratulations to Georgia and Giordano who won two (of 10) 3-minute video challenge prizes at the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Photophysics and Photochemistry group meeting, held online between 1st and 2nd December 2020. Giordano’s video can be viewed here.

Fred Cascarini completes his PhD

Congratulations to Fred Cascarini for completion of his PhD following his viva voce examination in September 2020.  Fred’s thesis research involved the experimental study of collisional and photodissociation dynamics in the gas phase using velocity map imaging methods, and the theoretical simulation of chemical reaction dynamics.  He now plans a legal career and will be starting a law conversion course.

Victoria Taylor completes her PhD

Many congratulations to Victoria Taylor who had her viva voce examination in July 2020 and successfully completed her PhD.  Victoria’s thesis describes the use of ultrafast laser spectroscopy and construction of a transient absorption microscope in Tom’s lab to study photo-responsive materials such as perovskites and hybrid J-aggregate gold nanoparticles. She will take up a post-doc position with Ralph Ernstorfer at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society Berlin in September.

Marta Duchi completes her PhD

Congratulations to Marta Duchi who completed her PhD in July 2020 and was the first group member to have a viva voce examination on Zoom.  Marta’s thesis work included the implementation of ultrafast two-dimensional electronic spectroscopy (2DES) in Tom’s lab.  She has now joined Prof Peter Hamm’s group at the University of Zurich as a postdoc.

Nature Chemistry paper on heterocylic ring-opening dynamics

A previous Bristol Laser Group study of the UV photoinduced ring-opening reaction of the heterocyclic molecule, 2(5H)-thiophenone in solution (available here) served to inspire an international team to undertake an ultrafast time-resolved pump-probe study of the reaction in vacuum at FERMI, the world’s first seeded free-electron laser (in Trieste). Following photoexcitation, the new study allows direct observation of the initial ring opening and non-adiabatic coupling to the electronic ground state within 350 fs, driven by ballistic S–C bond extension, and visualization of the subsequent ground-state dynamics – that involves formation of and interconversion between ring-opened isomers and the cyclic structure and fragmentation over much longer timescales.  The paper is ‘Tracking the ultraviolet-induced photochemistry of thiophenone during and after ultrafast ring opening’ by S. Pathak, …. , C.S. Hansen, R.A. Ingle, M.N.R. Ashfold, et al., published in Nature Chemistry and featured on the cover, with further details here.