Department of Physics
Doctor Cather Simpson
Director, Photon Factory
Associate Director, Dan Walls Centre for Pure and Applied Optics
Cather Simpson studies fast (femtoseconds to nanoseconds) photochemistry and photophysics of molecules in the condensed phase. Her interest in understanding and influencing the redistribution of energy within a collection of bound atoms makes her joint appointment in the School of Chemical Sciences a natural one.
Research projects include the design and testing of molecular dragons, molecules that can focus the intermolecular flow of excess vibrational energy to generate very local changes in molecular "temperature". These systems, based upon heme and phthalocyanine platforms, have potential applications as cancer therapeutic agents.
Unraveling the chemical physics of a -P=P- based chemical cousin of the very useful photonic switch molecules stilbene (C=C) and azobenzene (N=N) is another major focus of research in her laser lab. These molecules are designed to extend functional polymer capabilities, particularly in the areas of conducting and light-responsive chains. The project has strong collaborative ties to with synthetic chemistry experts in the USA. With its state-of-the-art ultrafast spectroscopy and high-level quantum chemistry computational aspects, this project exemplifies the synergy between experiment and theory in modern chemical physics.
Finally, Dr Simpson is the Director of the Photon Factory, a modern multi-user laser facility. This centre, with the only amplified ultrafast laser system in New Zealand, provides laser light to a wide variety of scientists and engineers users to enable success in their research projects. In addition to the basic science spectroscopy tools, the Photon Factory has a micro- to nano -fabrication facilities that can machine microscopic features in virtually any material.