Affiliation: Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
Keywords: Positron and positronium interactions with atoms, Molecules and condensed matter; Quantum (diagrammatic) many-body theory, Theoretical and computational atomic, Molecular and optical physics, Ultra cold molecule theory, Ultra-intense laser-plasma interactions (strong-field QED)
Dermot is a Reader in Theoretical Physics and group leader at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK.
A first-generation university student, he graduated 1st class MPhys from University of Oxford (Balliol College) and PhD in Theoretical Atomic Physics from Queen’s University Belfast. He has been a Visiting Fellow to Harvard University (ITAMP) and a Research Fellow in the ultracold molecule theory group of Prof Jeremy Hutson FRS at Durham University, UK.
His primary research interests are in quantum many-body theory and theoretical and computational atomic, molecular and optical physics, and specifically low-energy antimatter-matter interactions, though he has also made significant contributions to ultra-intense laser-plasma theory and ultra cold molecule theory.
He has been awarded numerous internationally competitive Fellowships including the UK EPSRC Fellowship in Theoretical Physics and an ERC StG for the project `ANTI-ATOM’, and numerous prizes including the 2019 Institute of Physics David Bates Prize and the 2017 ICPEAC Sheldon Datz Prize, both for outstanding contributions to atomic and molecular physics, the 2018 Queen’s University Vice Chancellor’s Research Prize, and the 2010 Institute of Physics Rosse Medal for graduate research communication.
His chief achievement is the development of many-body-theory approaches to describe antimatter interactions with atoms and molecules. Positron interaction with many-electron atoms is a formidable theoretical problem, owing to strong correlations that produce orders-of-magnitude enhancements of the scattering, annihilation and binding characteristics. His approaches have enabled the full account of these effects, and have predicted scattering cross sections, annihilation spectra, and thermalisation rates in complete agreement with experiment, which remained poorly understood for decades. Most recently, he has developed the first accurate ab initio description of positron-molecule binding, elucidating the essential role of virtual-positronium formation. Overall, his work aims to develop fundamental insight, which is ultimately required to develop of antimatter traps and beams, and numerous applications of positron annihilation in condensed-matter spectroscopies and positron emission tomography.
Beyond antimatter, he solved the fundamental problem of the motion of an electron in an ultra-intense laser field accounting for the key QED effect of photon emission, and he predicted the emergence of quantum chaos in ultracold collisions involving simple atomic and molecular systems.
He is a member of the International Scientific Advisory Board for the International Workshop for Positron and Positronium Physics (the flagship subject-specific conference in the field), Treasurer of the Institute of Physics Ireland and Secretary of the Institute of Physics Atomic and Molecular Interactions Group.