My research interests lie in the theory, creation, and diagnosis of matter under extremes of temperature, density and pressure – conditions that are far beyond those found on earth, and only exist at the centre of the giant planets within our own solar system and beyond, or towards the centre of stars. Whilst we can never physically go to these places, it is possible to recreate similar environments in the laboratory, and to make appropriate measurements of the optical, electrical, and physical properties of such matter.
Along with my research group I use the largest and most powerful optical and x-ray lasers to perform these experiments. The resulting pressures produced can be many tens of millions of atmospheres, and temperatures of millions of degrees. These ‘miniature stars and planets’ created within the laboratory have short lifetimes – sometimes only a few tens of femtoseconds, and within that brief time, all measurements must be made. Experimental data inform the fundamental theory of these dense, hot systems, and my research group also uses ab initio quantum simulations and complex atomic physics packages to model the underlying physics. Certain aspects of the work have direct relevance to the quest for laser-driven fusion energy.
Within the Department I am Principal Director of the Oxford Centre for High Energy Density Science (OxCHEDS), and a William Penney Fellow.
Within my College (Trinity) I teach a wide range of subjects across the undergraduate physics syllabus, I specialise in Atomic and Molecular Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Optics and Condensed Matter Physics. Within the Physics Department I give the lectures in the Short Option in Plasma Physics, which aims to provide a basic understanding of how we approach ways of modelling the vast majority of the visible universe using single particle, fluid, and kinetic theory treatments.