Professor Knight is a world-renowned pioneer in photonics and optics whose research in optical fibres and fibre-based light sources has driven the development of new technologies, including high-performance hollow-core fibres for a range of applications, fibre-based “supercontinuum” light generation, and new forms of mid-infrared gas-based fibre laser.
Much of his research has centred on developing photonic crystal fibres that have diverse applications from healthcare to atomic physics. He was instrumental in establishing the University’s Centre for Photonics and Photonic Materials and, with colleagues, its spin-out company ‘BlazePhotonics’. The Centre conducts world-leading research in the science of light and technology, and is now home to around 40 academics, postdoctoral researchers and PhD students who work together in an interactive and collaborative environment. In recent months, the Centre has been developing optical fibres and building endoscopic devices designed to access airways deep within human lungs as part of a major project to find effective treatments for patients with Covid-19.
A former Head of the Department of Physics at Bath from 2008 to 2013, and Associate Dean for Research (Science) at the University from 2013 to 2015, Professor Knight’s research has had significant international impact. He was winner of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2009), the Institute of Physics Optics and Photonics Division Prize in 2012, the Rank Prize for Optoelectronics in 2018, and a Chinese Academy of Sciences President’s International Fellowship for Distinguished Scientists in 2019. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 2019 for his exceptional contribution to science.
Over an impressive career, which started with a PhD from the University of Cape Town and included spells as a Research Fellow at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and at the Optoelectronics Research Centre in Southampton, his research outputs have included over 200 journal papers, over 60 Invited conference contributions, and 22 patent specifications.
As well as pursuing his own research, he has encouraged and supported others, and has paved the way for cultural change. Under his leadership, the Department of Physics saw the establishment of the Astrophysics group which has attracted a number of talented, early career researchers to Bath. Colleagues from the Department have noted his generosity as a mentor to both staff and doctoral students, but also his fairness in dealing with others.
As Pro-Vice-Chancellor, he has been the University’s champion for Aurora, a women-only leadership programme designed to enable more women to develop the leadership side of their careers and has introduced the Technician Commitment, a university and research institution initiative which aims to ensure visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability for technicians who he sees as a crucial part of teaching and research at the University. He has also been Principal Investigator on the ‘Reimaging Recruitment’ project which aims to drive change in the transitions into Doctoral study, through Postdoctoral research and permanent employment.
In awarding this year’s Research Medal, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian White, said:
“Jonathan has made such an important contribution to science throughout his career, particularly in the field of photonics. The eminence of his research has been recognised externally and it is only right that we should also celebrate his achievements within our own community.
“We are so grateful for all that he has done to raise the profile of this University and for the contribution he has made more generally to research life at Bath as Pro-Vice-Chancellor.”
The Vice-Chancellor's Research Medal was established in 2009 and is awarded annually in recognition of sustained research excellence and impact.