Professor Keith Gordon – An inquisitive mind

  Keith Gordon’s research focuses on molecular materials, specifically the spectroscopy of inorganic and biological systems, at the University of Otago.
He became interested in science at a very young age, with the kind of mucking about
with chemistry sets and interest in biology and
botany that characterises so many inquisitive
minds in childhood. He was encouraged to
choose chemistry at high school, where he once
accidentally managed to set fire to a piece of
paper while the deputy principal was visiting the
class. Whatever punishment that resulted from
this act was not enough to put him off – in fact,
exposure to living with an intrinsic understanding of the risk of chemistry – led to his enrolment in a science degree. As an undergrad, Keith was still excited by so many aspects of chemistry that he can really pinpoint the experience of visiting the laser lab in his final year, at Queens University, Belfast, as
 a turning point. It was then that he realised that lasers allowed scientists to see and manipulate chemical and biological systems like never before. Keith’s timing was perfect. Lasers had been invented in the 1960s but were, at that time, a classic example of a scientific breakthrough that becomes a solution looking for a problem. However, the 1980s saw the development of laser spectroscopy, which allowed for more detailed revelation
of chemical composition. Keith’s interest in laser chemistry led to him undertaking a PhD in laser spectroscopy of solar energy compounds, working at Los Alamos National Laboratories on a Director’s Fellowship, with a focus on ultrafast laser spectroscopy of biological systems and solar energy materials. Keith’s been in New Zealand, at Otago, since 1993. His research sits within the molecular materials theme, and he’s currently trying to understand the properties of conducting polymers and nanostructured electromaterials using spectroscopy and computational chemistry. His inquisitive mind is still excited by the potential applications of materials science to the future, saying that “science will provide answers to most of the problems we face.”