Professor Ben Whitaker


Ben Whitaker is currently Professor of Chemical Physics in the School of Chemistry at the University of Leeds. He is the author of over 100 papers and articles in International peer reviewed journals and he has edited one book. He has held visiting professorships at the Institute for Molecular Sciences (Okazaki, Japan), the University Paul Sabatier (Toulouse, France) and the University of Regensburg (Bavaria, Germany). His scientific research interests are mainly in the field of molecular reaction dynamics where he is best known for his work in developing velocity map imaging and molecular coherent control. For the last five years he has also been working with a number of Yorkshire based Artists and Makers on collaborative public engagement to develop and exhibit installations and sculptures inspired by his scientific activity.

1974-78 BSc (University of Sussex), 1978-81 DPhil "Laser Induced Emission Spectroscopy" (University of Sussex); 1981-82 Maître Assistant de Physique; Université de Provence; 1982-83 Maître Assistant de Physique, Université de Paris-Sud; 1983-88 SERC Advanced Fellow (University of Sussex); 1988-89 Research Scientist, Cornell University; 1989- Lecturer, Reader, Professor of Chemical Physics (University of Leeds), 2012-17 Head of Physical Chemistry (University of Leeds).

Research interests

The main focus of our research is the study of elementary reaction mechanism at the quantum resolved level (molecular reaction dynamics). We use, and have developed, a number of experimental techniques in both the frequency and time domain; particularly through the application of velocity map imaging (VMI). In the frequency domain, we use nanosecond lasers to study photofragment product state distributions through a combination of spectroscopy, e.g. resonant multiphoton ionization (REMPI), and ion imaging. In the time domain, we use pump-probe techniques with femtosecond lasers and photoelectron/photoion imaging to study internal energy conversion in molecules.

As we begin to understand more about the details of fundamental chemical processes we begin to understand how we might control them at the quantum level. We are working with acousto-optical programmable dispersive filters (AOPDFs) to modulate the spectral phase and amplitude of ultrashort pulses of light so as to implement coherent control schemes for chemical reactivity. We use genetic algorithms and other evolutionary computational methods to \""teach\"" the modulator how to acheive a particular chemical outcome with a shaped pulse of light. This in turn leads us to an interest in other applications of evolutionary computing, particularly in nanoscience and molecular electronics.


  • DPhil (Sussex)
  • BSc (Sussex)

Professional memberships

  • MIoP
  • MRSC

Research groups and institutes

  • Computational Chemistry and Chemical Physics

Postgraduate research opportunities

We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our research opportunities allow you to search for projects and scholarships.