Dr Adam Kirrander
I came to realise the beautiful link between light-matter interactions, chemistry, and quantum mechanics when solving a model problem as a biophysics student at Uppsala University in Sweden. Since then, I have pursued research that aims to elucidate the motion of nuclei and electrons in atoms and molecules and how these interact with particles and light.
I went on to a DPhil in theoretical chemistry in Oxford, a postdoc in the ultrafast spectroscopy group of Prof Helen Fielding (UCL), and came to specialise on theoretical spectroscopy and coherent control as a Marie Curie Fellow with Dr Christian Jungen (Laboratoire Aimé Cotton, Paris). Following a stint as visiting scientist at ITAMP (Harvard), I started my own research group at the University of Edinburgh. I joined St Peter’s in 2022 as Tutor in Chemistry and Associate Professor of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry.
At St Peter's College, I teach physical chemistry to our Chemistry undergraduates. I delight in teaching material that elucidates the atomistic underpinnings of our world, with concepts that often span across chemistry, physics, and mathematics.
I have taught chemistry students at University of Edinburgh and at University College London, engineering students at Uppsala University, mathematics students at the African Institute of Mathematical Science, and physics students at Université Paris-Sud. Being exposed to various cultures and teaching styles makes my teaching adaptive and responsive, and I cherish the opportunity to interact with students with a varied intellectual and cultural background.
My research interests span photochemistry, ultrafast imaging, and quantum dynamics. This work is mainly theoretical and computational, but in close association with experiments.
The impetus is from new facilities and photon technologies which are ushering in an era of ultrafast imaging that will transform many domains of science where quantum-level dynamics plays a central role, including chemistry. My interest is in developing techniques for ultrafast imaging of chemical reactions in unprecedented detail by exploiting the opportunities provided by new light and electron sources. I have a strong track record for proposing novel measurements at x-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs) and ultrafast electron sources. In doing so, I collaborate with leading groups worldwide and am involved in the entire lifecycle of experiments, from conception through to execution, interpretation, and analysis. The collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of this research, which involves facility staff, experimentalists, and theoreticians, was acknowledged by the Royal Society of Chemistry Horizon Prize 2021, awarded for the development of ultrafast x-ray scattering. Recent highlights from our work include:
Characterisation of excited state charge transfer in a molecule (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 2021)
Direct observation of the changes in electronic structure upon photoexcitation (Nature Communications, 2020)
Structural determination of an excited molecule (Nature Chemistry, 2019)
Mapping a photochemical reaction by electron scattering (Nature Chemistry, 2019)
My research has been funded generously by the U.S. Department of Energy, EPSRC, STFC, and the Leverhulme Trust. This reflects the importance of matching the investments in new light sources by investments in the development of science capability at these facilities. In our theoretical work, we address the physics of the experiments and develop methods for quantum molecular dynamics simulations, prediction of experimental observables, and inversion of experimental data.
In 2021-22 I was a Natural Sciences Fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, the US Department of Energy highlighted our work as a major breakthrough, and I was a finalist in the Science Breakthrough of the Year (Physical Sciences Category) at Falling Walls 2020. I have co-chaired several international conferences, including two Faraday Discussions, and played a central role in the preparation of the UK-XFEL Science Case for the STFC. Since 2020, I hold a visiting position at Brown University (US).