Main research interests centre on various aspects of plasma physics. Specific interests include high intensity laser-plasma interactions, generation and application of bright sources of radiation including x-ray lasers, x-ray spectroscopy and development of novel plasma diagnostic techniques. Past papers have covered areas as diverse as x-ray streak camera development, laser ablation rate measurement through time-resolved x-ray spectroscopy, point projection x-ray backlighting of dense plasmas, saturated x-ray lasers, water-window harmonic radiation from the free electron laser FLASH, plasma jets and iridotomy.
Career landmarks include lectureship appointment at QUB (1980), chair at QUB (1992) and election to FInstP (Institute of Physics) and MRIA (Royal Irish Academy, 1996). Research career to date has involved many working visits to major international laser facilities including VULCAN (CLF, Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory), LULI (Paliseau, Paris), NOVA (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA) and GEKKO XII (Osaka, Japan). This activity level has come full circle now with recent major funding won (in collaboration with colleagues Borghesi, Riley and Zepf) to establish a major high power laser facility TARANIS (delivering 20J/1psec in each of two beams) in the new custom-built laboratory environment of IRCEP within the School of Mathematics and Physics at QUB.
Related areas of activity include Head of PLIP Research Division until creation of CPP research cluster in 2006; member and chair of various national funding panels and agencies including EPSRC, CNRS, DFG and SFI (all to date); frequent refereeing for major journals and grant awarding bodies (eg EPSRC college since 2001); member and chair (current) of CLF Facility Access Panel; past chair of Institute of Physics in Ireland and IOP Plasma Physics Group (2003). Although not directly research–related, other activities include current membership of QUB Academic Council and Senate.