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Dr Alison Yao

Senior Lecturer


Personal statement

I am a member of the Computational Nonlinear and Quantum Optics (CNQO) group within the Optics division of the Department of Physics. I received my BSc (Hons) from Heriot-Watt University and my PhD from University of Strathclyde. I have been a lecturer in the Department of Physics since 2013. 


Control of polarization rotation in nonlinear propagation of fully-structured light
Gibson Christopher J., Bevington Patrick, Oppo Gian-Luca, Yao Alison M.
Physical Review A Vol 97, (2018)
Chirality and the angular momentum of light
Cameron Robert P., Goette Jörg B., Barnett Stephen M., Yao Alison M.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences Vol 375, (2017)
Polarization shaping for control of nonlinear propagation
Bouchard Frederic, Larocque Hugo, Yao Alison M., Travis Christopher, De Leon Israel, Rubano Andrea, Karimi Ebrahim, Oppo Gian-Luca, Boyd Robert W.
Physical Review Letters Vol 117, (2016)
On the natures of the spin and orbital parts of optical angular momentum
Barnett Stephen M, Allen L, Cameron Robert P, Gilson Claire R, Padgett Miles J, Speirits Fiona C, Yao Alison M
Journal of Optics (United Kingdom) Vol 18, (2016)
Optical rogue waves in vortex turbulence
Gibson Christopher, Yao Alison, Oppo Gian-Luca
Physical Review Letters Vol 116, (2016)
Entropic uncertainty minimum for angle and angular momentum
Yao Alison, Brougham Thomas, Eleftheriadou Electra, Padgett Miles J., Barnett Steve
Journal of Optics (United Kingdom) Vol 16, (2014)

more publications


I am the 1st year Adviser of Studies for Physics.

I currently teach the electromagnetism part of the 3rd year course PH352: Quantum Physics and Electromagnetism. I also help tutor for the 1st year courses PH151: Mechanics, Waves and Optics and PH152: Quantum Physics and Electromagnetism.

Research interests

My research is based upon the generation and applications of structured light, in particular light carrying orbital angular momentum (OAM). It ranges from understanding the fundamental properties of this light to investigating its behaviour in various nonlinear systems, including demonstrating for the first time the mechanism behind optical rogue waves, to potential applications in quantum communication, ocean optics, nonlinear beam propagation and interaction with chiral molecules. 

Professional activities

SPIE Photonics West 2018: OPTO
Invited speaker
6th International Conference on Photonics, Optics and Laser Technology
Member of programme committee
4th International Conference on Optical Angular Momentum (ICOAM17)
Invited speaker
International Conference on Quantum, Atomic, Molecular and Plasma Physics (QuAMP)
“Quantum Field Framework for Structured Light Interactions”, Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS)
Higgs and SUPA meeting on Non-Equilibrium Collective Dynamics
Invited speaker

more professional activities


Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP 2016-2017 University of Strathclyde) | Hill, Lewis
Oppo, Gian-Luca (Principal Investigator) Yao, Alison (Co-investigator) Hill, Lewis (Research Co-investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2017 - 01-Oct-2020
Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP 2016-2017 University of Strathclyde) | Rooney, Liam Campbell
Yao, Alison (Principal Investigator) Cameron, Robert (Co-investigator) Rooney, Liam Campbell (Research Co-investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2017 - 01-Apr-2021
Control and Applications of Structured Light and Chiral Molecules | Rooney, Liam Campbell
Yao, Alison (Principal Investigator) Cameron, Robert (Co-investigator) Rooney, Liam Campbell (Research Co-investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2017 - 01-Apr-2021
Control and Applications of Structured Light and Chiral Molecules
Yao, Alison (Principal Investigator)
Period 01-Jun-2017 - 31-May-2020
ORANGUTRAN - ORbital ANGUlar momentum TRANsmissometer with zero collection angle error
McKee, David (Principal Investigator) Griffin, Paul (Co-investigator) Yao, Alison (Co-investigator)
"Light passing through natural water systems experiences both absorption and scattering leading to important effects such as heating of the water, growth of plants through photosynthesis and generation of reflectance signals for remote sensing systems. One of the most common measures of the optical properties of a water body is the beam attenuation coefficient which is the sum of absorption and scattering. This is usually measured by recording the intensity of a beam of light after it has passed through a known length of water and comparing the signal with that obtained either in air or, more usually, in ultrapure water. It is usually assumed that any photons either absorbed or scattered do not make it to the detector and so the remaining signal is due entirely to directly transmitted photons. However, in reality, light is scattered in water in such a way that standard transmissometers accidentally collect a large and quite variable amount of forward scattered light. This means that the signal they generate has a large error that is actually a feature of the instrument design, and sensors with different optical layouts will provide substantially different values. It has long been thought that this was an inevitable feature of the measurement and most users simply ignore the problem. Indeed, current NASA measurement protocols for this parameter explicitly leave it to the end user of data to work out how to deal with this problem. This is an intolerable position for which we have recently found a new solution.

We are planning to build a new device to measure beam attenuation that exploits a recently developed understanding of a quantum property of photons called orbital angular momentum, OAM. We can control this quantum state of light and generate a beam of light with a defined OAM state. When such a beam of light experiences a scattering event, the OAM state changes by a defined, quantum amount that we can easily identify. We can use this change of quantum state to effectively label scattered photons and discriminate them from directly transmitted photons. This means we can measure the number of photons that make it across a volume of water without being absorbed or scattered, without being affected by the scattering collection error that causes problems for current instruments. Our device will then be significantly more accurate than what is currently available and will help researchers and other end-users make significantly better and consistent measurements of what is an extremely important optical property of natural water systems."
Period 30-Jun-2016 - 29-Jun-2017
Collective effects and optomechanics in ultra-cold matter (ColOpt) (H2020 MCSA ETN)
Ackemann, Thorsten (Principal Investigator) Griffin, Paul (Co-investigator) Oppo, Gian-Luca (Co-investigator) Robb, Gordon (Co-investigator) Yao, Alison (Co-investigator)
Period 01-Jan-2017 - 31-Dec-2020

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