Patrick Baird

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Patrick Baird

Emeritus Professor

In brief we perform high resolution spectroscopy of atoms in order to measure accurately energy shifts or phase shifts connected with symmetry violations or quantum electrodynamic effects. We also collaborate with the National Physical Laboratory in using ion traps and optical lattices for optical metrology.

I am a tutorial fellow at University College where I teach undergraduates the full range of of first and second year physics. I also provide specialized teaching in the areas of optics, lasers and atomic physics in for the third year of the course. In the department I lecture on non-linear optics as part of the C2 paper in laser science and quantum information processing.

At the divisional level I am currently the Dean of Graduates where I deal with many aspects of the progression of graduate students from the 10 departments that make up the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division. I am Vice-chairman of the Graduate School Committee.

At the central University level I am a member of the University's Education Committee and its Graduate Panel.

Interests and projects

The group’s interests span a wide range of fundamental Atomic & Laser Physics, all of which involve tremendous precision and sensitivity. In the area of optical polarimetry, optical rotations arising from magneto- or electro-optic effects as well as intrinsic violation of parity can be observed to the level of 10-7 radians or better. In the area of laser spectroscopy, measurement of optical frequencies to better than 1 Hz is possible using femtosecond comb technology; this is employed in sensitive measurements on atomic hydrogen which is currently being undertaken at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington (

Indeed, very recent measurements on muonic hydrogen involving one of our former group members have shown a discrepancy between spectroscopic measurements in hydrogen and that in muonic form of the atom, µ- p+ (Nature 466, 213–216, 2010).

Toptica laser system used to generate 243nm by quadrupling the output of a 972nm diode tapered amplifier (Picture courtesy of NPL).

Currently, students are working at the NPL on lattice clocks (
and single trapped ions (

In addition, a new collaborative project with the NPL is just starting in the area of femtosecond comb spectroscopy. The aims of this research are to look at new spectroscopic methods involving a broad spectral comb for the detection of trace species as well as for metrological applications. There is also interest in extending the spectrum of mode-locked devices both into the UV region and further into the infra-red (

Optical frequency comb generated using Ti:sapphire-based femtosecond optical frequency comb is based on a Kerr-lens mode-locked Ti:sapphire laser which has a ring cavity design with a repetition rate of about 800 MHz. This uses mirrors with negative group velocity dispersion coatings to provide dispersion compensation. (Picture courtesy of NPL)

I am currently a member of one the working groups overseeing research carried out at the National Physical Laboratory in the areas of time and frequency standards.

I'm also member of the EPSRC College for peer review.

In addition I'm a member of the external advisory panel at Cardiff University and a School Governor at the Haberdashers' Monmouth Schools.