Portrait of Professor Nigel Mason

Professor Nigel Mason

Professor of Molecular Physics

Research interests

My research may be broadly classified as ‘Molecular Physics’ which encompasses several interdisciplinary themes

•          Astrophysics & Astrochemistry,

•          Environmental and atmospheric physics,

•          Plasma physics and nanolithography

•          Next generation radiotherapy.

However, all of this research is centred upon fundamental studies exploring electron and photon induced fragmentation of molecules and the study of the subsequent reactivity that such processes may induce in local media. I have over 350 refereed publications with h-index of >30.

Past Research Experience/Projects
I began my research career by exploring the simultaneous absorption of energy from photons and electrons to excite an atom, a process akin to two photon absorption and predicted theoretically in the 1930s but not previously demonstrated experimentally until my PhD studies and early postdoctoral studies 1984-87 in Department of Physics and Astronomy, University College London (UCL). This work led to my award of a Royal Society University Research Fellowship 1990-1998 which allowed me to form the Molecular Physics Group at UCL. The discovery of the ozone hole and global warming with the subsequent need to understand spectroscopy and reaction dynamics in terrestrial stratosphere led to my development in physical chemistry/chemical physics and first experiments on ice surfaces, since it was determined that such surface chemistry played key role in  polar stratospheric vortex leading to ozone depletion. It was then a 'natural' step to lower temperature of ice to study both ice on planetary surfaces and on dust grains in the interstellar medium and thus I became an 'astrochemist and planetary scientist'.  This in part led to me joining The Open University in 2002/3 where interacted with the internationally acclaimed Planetary Science group led by the late Colin Pillinger and former Staff of University of Kent (Professor John Zarnecki, Dr Simon Green) founding the OU Astrochemistry group whilst continuing electron and surface studies (with focus on nanolithography) in the Atomic, Molecular and Plasma physics group. A new field of research developed in the study of irradiation of biomolecular systems including DNA with initial applications to astrobiology and more recently in development of next generation radiotherapy using ion beams and nanoparticles as radiosensitizers.

Such research has led me to leadership roles in many national and international research programmes and I am currently Chair of Europlanet, Europe's largest forum for planetary sciences which will become a membership Society in 2018-19. I am also on the steering committee for the forthcoming European Astrobiology Institute (EAI) and member of European Astrochemistry, Radiation chemistry and nanolithography networks and programmes. Outside Europe i have close links with emerging space community in India and electron physics communities around the world chairing the 'Dissociative Electron Attachment - DEA club'. I also chair a small family Trust The Sir John Mason Academic Trust' established in honour of my Father a distinguished scientist and pioneer of study of cloud physics.

Last updated 28th March 2023