Dr B. King

Dr B. King

Associate Professor of Theoretical Physics

School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics (Faculty of Science and Engineering)



Associate Professor of Theoretical Physics
My research studies how charged particles and light behave in intense electromagnetic fields such as one would find in the most intense laser pulses or in the very strong fields of magnetised neutron stars. This research area is sometimes called `nonlinear' or `strong-field' QED (quantum electrodynamics) and the main tool to study it is quantum field theory.
Final-year Tutor for Maths and Stats BSc Programmes
My lecturing is centred around applied mathematics and theoretical physics. I teach courses to undergraduate mathematicians that feature classical mechanics, ordinary differential equations (ODEs), vector calculus, computational methods and cosmology. Some of my lecturing is on introductory mathematics for engineering students. I also supervise BSc dissertations in Theoretical Physics and MSc dissertations in Data Science.


  • Doktor der Naturwissenschaften (Dr. rer. nat.); Universität Heidelberg (2010) 
  • Master in Science: Physics with Theoretical Physics; Imperial College London (2006)

Roles on external bodies

  • Member of the Collaboration board of the LUXE experiment
  • Member of the Steering board of the LUXE experiment
  • Head of the theory working group of the LUXE experiment


Teaching interests

MATH3707 - Relativity and Cosmology (Lecturer) (2023-)
MATH2704 - Ordinary Differential Equations (Module Leader) (2019-2021, 2022-)
The module aims to provide an introduction to different types of ordinary differential equations and analytical and numerical methods to obtain their solutions. Extensive use will be made of computational mathematics packages. Applications to mechanical and chemical systems are considered as well as the chaotic behaviour seen in climate models.
MATH2706 - Complex analysis and Vector Calculus (Lecturer) (2023-)
MATH3628 - Maths Project (Supervisor) (2014-)
A year-long project module, in which students work one-to-one with a member of staff to gain an in-depth understanding in a mathematical area of their interest. Previous projects supervised include: i) Schwarzschild Black Holes; ii) Henon-Heiles nonlinear dynamics and chaos; iii) Vacuum energy and the Casimir Effect in (1+1)D; iv) Dynamical symmetries in Kepler orbits and the Hydrogen atom; v) Criticality in percolation and self-organisation in 1D sandpiles; vi) the effect of setting a juggling club on fire on the club's dynamics
ENGR104 - Engineering Mathematics (Module Leader) (2021-)
This course is designed to provide you with a number of fundamental mathematical skills and techniques which are essential for the analysis of engineering problems. The topics covered are: basic maths techniques; complex variables; differentiation; matrices and determinants; integration; vector theory; ODEs with engineering applications.

- Older Courses: - 
MATH3606 - Classical and Quantum Mechanics (Module Leader) (2014-2023)
This module introduces advanced classical mechanics and the key ideas of quantum mechanics to students with a mathematics background. An overarching theme will be the key role of symmetry, both for classical motion and quantum behaviour.
MATH2604 - Mathematical Methods and Applications (Module Leader) (2014-2021, 2022-2023)
Vector calculus is extended to higher dimensions and applied to a range of important scientific problems primarily from classical mechanics and cosmology. Differential and integral calculus is applied to the solution of differential equations and the orthogonal functions bases are constructed. The crucial mathematical concepts of integral transforms (Fourier and Laplace) and Fourier series are introduced.
MATH257 - Computer Aided Mathematics (Module Leader) (2014-2018)
Students will be taught advanced mathematical techniques and their application using the MATLAB computer software package to solve engineering mathematics problems. The module will also introduce the students to the theoretical fundamentals of finite element analysis.

Staff serving as external examiners

PhD Examinations
- 26/01/2023, Rapporteur, Anthony Mercuri-Baron, Sorbonne Universite, Paris
"Pair creation in extreme light : highlights on vortex laser beams"
- 24/11/2022, External Examiner, Jonathan Jacob Beesley, Imperial College London
"Ultra-Relativistic Thermal Production of Electrons and Positrons"
- 10/12/2021, External Examiner, Christian Flohr Nielsen, Aarhus University, Denmark
"Elementary Particles and their Interaction with Strong Electromagnetic Fields"
- 07/05/2020,External Examiner, Ramy Aboushelbaya, University of Oxford
"Orbital Angular Momentum in High-Intensity Laser Interactions"
- 20/04/2019,Examiner, Benjamin Wettervik, Chalmers University of Technology
"Modelling of laser plasma interaction with applications to particle acceleration
and radiation generation"
- 19/09/2016,Zweitgutachter, Patrick Boehl, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
"Vacuum Harmonic Generation in Slowly Varying
Electromagnetic Backgrounds"


Research interests

  • Phenomenology of nonlinear QED in strong fields
  • Approximation frameworks for nonlinear QED effects
  • Numerical calculation of nonlinear QED spectra
  • New physics in intense electromagnetic fields
When electromagnetic fields become very strong, calculations become challenging because the standard method of using perturbation theory can no longer be used and other methods must be employed. However, it also means that new and interesting phenomena can emerge, such as light-by-light scattering, which is forbidden classically. It is also thought that studying strong-field processes can help solve difficult outstanding problems in QCD (Quantum Chromodynamics) and Cosmology. The next generation of forthcoming laser facilities and proposed experiments colliding conventionally accelerated electron beams with intense laser pulses should finally be able to probe nonlinear QED processes in strong fields.
Research Grants
2024-2026 PI: Leverhulme Standard Grant, Grant No: RPG-2023-285 £125,000
2018-2020 Joint-PI: EPSRC Standard Grant, Grant No: EP/S010319/1 £450,000
2016-2018 PI: EPSRC First Grant Scheme, Grant No: EP/P005217/1 £125,000
2016 PI: Royal Society International Exchange Scheme 2015/R £2,000

2021-2022 Guest Research Fellowship of Quantum Universe Excellence Cluster at University of Hamburg and DESY
2017 Editor-in-Chief Choice Award 2016 (with Dr Tom Heinzl) for High Power Laser Science and Engineering 4, e5 (2016)
2013 Excellence in Peer Review, Annals of Physics
2011 Otto Hahn Medal of the Max Planck Society
2010 Best presentation, GRC Multiphoton Processes
I am a member of the Plymouth Centre for Mathematical Sciences


A list of my published research can be found at the following pages:

Google Scholar Citations



Reports & invited lectures

Since 2015:
54) 18/12/2023 "Towards measuring vacuum polarisation at HIBEF at HED instrument of the EU.XFEL", UK High Power Laser Christmas Meeting, Abingdon, UK
53) 26/09/2023 "HIBEF Theory: Crossed Beams, Shadows and Focussing", Helmholtz Institute Jena, Germany
52) 08/09/2023 "Theory at LUXE", LUXE collaboration meeting (open session)
51) 04/09/2023 "Nonlinear vacuum birefringence", LUXE collaboration meeting (closed session)
50) 04/09/2023 "Theory Overview and Refresher", LUXE collaboration meeting (closed session)
49) 10/07/2023 "Elastic photon scattering in strong fields", The 79th Fujihara Seminar, Awajishima, Hyogo, Japan
48) 12/09/2022 "Nonlinear vacuum birefringence and photon-polarised nonlinear Breit-Wheeler", LUXE collaboration meeting (online)
47) 12/09/2022 "LUXE Theory WP summary", LUXE collaboration meeting (online)
46) 13/05/2022 "QED in intense background fields (3/3)", DESY, Germany
45) 06/05/2022 "QED in intense background fields (2/3)", DESY, Germany
44) 29/04/2022 "QED in intense background fields (1/3)", DESY, Germany
43) 28/03/2022 "LUXE executive summary and science case", DESY Physics Review Committee
42) 25/01/2022 "LUXE executive summary", LUXE meeting (online)
41) 14/01/2022 "Nonlinear Breit-Wheeler Pair Creation in Laser pulses", QED theory group seminar, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Germany (online)
40) 15/11/2021 "LUXE QED Theory Overview", LUXE Workshop (online)
39) 13/09/2021 "Higher fidelity benchmarking of the nonlinear Compton and Breit-Wheeler processes in a laser pulse", ExHILP 2021, Jena (online)
38) 22/07/2021 "Pulse Envelope Interference Effects in the Nonlinear Compton and Breit-Wheeler Processes", LPHYS'21 (online)
37) 27/04/2021 "Strong-field QED at LUXE", DESY Physics Review Committee
36) 08/02/2021 "Strong-Field QED aims at the LUXE experiment", UK High Power Laser Christmas Meeting (online)
35) 19/01/2021 "The locally monochromatic approximation and the LUXE experiment", The Schwinger Effect and Strong-Field Physics Workshop, YITP, Kyoto Japan (online)
34) 06/11/2020 "High Intensity QED and LUXE", Classical and Quantum Physics in Extreme Light Fields, international seminar dedicated to Nikolay Narozhny’s 80th birthday, Moscow (online)
33) 04/11/2020 "Laser polarisation and the Breit-Wheeler process", LUXE meeting
32) 13/05/2020 "From QED to rates @ LUXE", LUXE Workshop 2020
31) 03/09/2019 "Improved approximations for nonlinear Breit-Wheeler and nonlinear Compton scattering at intermediate intensities", ExHILP 2019, Stanford, US
30) 16/07/2019 "The High Intensity Frontier of QED", Graduate School CAEP, Beijing, China
29) 11/07/2019 "Decay of Massive Axion-Like-Particles in Quasi-Static Backgrounds", LPHYS' 19, Gyeongju, South Korea
28) 30/04/2019 "Vacuum birefringence with x-rays", Vacuum Fluctuations at Nanoscale and Gravitation: theory and experiments, Sardinia, Italy
27) 16/04/2019 "Massive pseudoscalar production at LUXE", DESY, Germany
26) 09/04/2019 "Locally Constant Field Approximation for High-Intensity QED", HI-Jena, Jena, Germany
25) 22/08/2018 "Massive scalar and pseudoscalar production in electron-laser collisions", SQED Workshop, DESY, Germany
24) 17/07/2018 "Photon-photon scattering in the collision of three laser pulses" LPHYS '18, Nottingham, UK
23) 17/07/2018 "Trident process in a constant crossed field" LPHYS '18, Nottingham, UK
22) 09/07/2018 "QED Overview (HIBEF Workshop)" HZDR, Dresden, Germany
21) 11/04/2018 "Measuring vacuum polarisation using high power lasers" HPLSE2018, Suzhou, China
20) 29/11/2017 "Laser-based QED in intense backgrounds: ethos and recent developments" Imperial College London, UK
19) 08/09/2017 "Vacuum birefringence in high-energy laser-electron collisions", ExHILP 2017, Lisbon, Portugal
18) 15/07/2017 "The Intensity Frontier and High Power Lasers", NUDT, Changsha, China
17) 12/07/2017 "The Intensity Frontier and High Power Lasers", SIOM, Shanghai, China
16) 10/07/2017 "Strong-field QED in Intense lasers (3 lectures)", NUDT, HEDP Summer School, Changsha, China
15) 20/04/2017 "Vacuum birefringence in high-energy laser-electron collisions", LNPC '17, Yokohama, Japan
14) 21/12/2016 "Vacuum birefringence in high-energy laser-electron collisions", UK High Power Laser Christmas Meeting, Abingdon, UK
13) 16/11/2016 "Strong-Field QED in High-Power Lasers", Helmholtz Institute, Jena, Germany 
12) 13/07/2016 "Beyond Volkov: Solving the Second-Order Klein-Gordon Equation", LPHYS' 16, Yerevan, Armenia 
11) 30/05/2016 "Strong laser particle physics", CARDC (Chinese Aerodynamic Research and Development Center), Mianyang, China 
10) 16/12/2015 "Shock wave and high harmonic generationin the vacuum plasma", UK High Power Laser Christmas Meeting, Abingdon, UK 
9) 25/11/2015 "Laser-based strong-field QED (under construction)", Plasma Seminar, Imperial College London, UK 
8) 14/09/2015 "High intensity lasers & strong-field QED", Oxcheds seminar, AWE, UK 
7) 24/08/2015 "Vacuum high-harmonic generation in the shock regime and photon-photon scattering dynamics", LPHYS' 15, Shanghai, China 
6) 17/08/2015 "High intensity lasers & strong-field QED", CAEP, Mianyang, China 
5) 22/07/2015 "Vacuum high harmonic generation in the shock regime", EXHILP 15, Heidelberg, Germany 
4) 08/05/2015 "What's so anomalous about anomalous x-ray pulsars?", Plymouth Astronomical Society, Plymouth
3) 27/04/2015 "Strong-field QED & high intensity lasers", Atomic and Laser Physics Seminar, University of Oxford, UK
2) 22/04/2015 "Vacuum high harmonic generation in the shock regime", Theoretical Physics Seminar, Plymouth University, UK
1) 15/04/2015 "Vacuum high harmonic generation in the shock regime", Chalmers, Gothenburg, Sweden 

Conferences organised

18/01/2024-19/01/2024 UK XFEL Townhall: "Fundamental Physics, Quantum Computing and AI", University of Plymouth (Local organiser)
03/09/2023-09/09/2023 LUXE Physics and SQED, (organising committee)
29/08/2022-02/09/2022 Physics in Intense Fields (PIF22)(online) (Local organiser)
20/04/2020-22/04/2020 LUXE Workshop(online) (Organising committee)