Tim Softley


1981 …2023

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Personal profile


Tim moved to Birmingham in September 2015 after a period of 25 years at the University of Oxford, where most recently he was Head of Chemistry (2011-2015), Professor of Chemical Physics, and a Tutorial Fellow at Merton College. He also held the position of Associate Head (Academic) of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division at Oxford (2006-2011), and was an elected member of the University Council and its Planning and Resources Allocation Committee (2004-2010). He was the Senior Proctor of the University 2002-2003. After reading Chemistry at Wadham College Oxford, he moved to Southampton for a PhD (with Alan Carrington), Stanford University in California as a Harkness Fellow for a period of post-doctoral research (with Dick Zare), and then Cambridge University as a Royal Society Research Fellow and Fellow of Darwin College (1987-1990). Tim is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Research interests

Tim’s current research interests are in the field of Ultracold Chemistry and also in the interaction of laser-excited atoms and molecules with solid surfaces. His experimental research programme is funded by EPSRC, the EU Horizon 2020 programme, and by the Wiener Anspach Foundation. In the first area of research the objective is to study the kinetics and dynamics of chemical processes at extremely low temperatures, close to the absolute zero of temperature. This is a new physical regime for chemistry in which the quantum nature of matter is expected to be prominent and chemical collisions between molecules described more in terms of wave mechanics than in the traditional realm of billiard-ball collisions. His laboratory has unique experiments that combine various physical devices for making cold atoms, molecules and ions under very low pressure conditions. His other work explores how the laser-excitation of atoms and molecules into so-called Rydberg states, in which one electron is in a very distant orbit, leads to an electron transfer process that can be controlled through the selection of specific Rydberg quantum states and is sensitive to geometrical and electronic properties of the surface. He has collaborators in the US, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, France, Austria and Denmark as well as the UK (Oxford, Sussex, Durham).


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