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School of Computing Science and Engineering

Dr Tiehan Shen

Reader in Magnetism


My research career has taken me from Peking University (BSc), to Cambridge (PhD), then to Cardiff (PDRA), followed by academic appointments at Leeds (Lectureship in Physics) and at Salford (Readership in Magnetism). I was among those undergraduates collectively known as the ’77 Entry’ in China. In the autumn of 1977, the first nationwide universities’ entry examinations since the start of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ were held in China, signifying the beginning of a new path towards meritocracy, openness and modernisation. I took the exams while still in the last year of high school study and was admitted to Peking University for a degree course in Physics, the most competitive subject in a highly competitive university for entry application at the time. In my final year of undergraduate study, I came to the top few in postgraduate entry examinations at Peking University and was offered a chance to study abroad. I won an ORS award and subsequently studied for my PhD at the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge under the supervision of Prof. W.Y. Liang and Prof. J.V. Acrivos, in the P.C.S. Group headed by Dr. A.D. Yoffe. During my time at Cardiff, I was a postdoctoral research associate to Prof. R.H. Williams, FRS. My first full academic appointment started in 1992 as a Lecturer in Physics at Leeds. This was followed by an appointment to a readership at Salford in 2000, a post I have held since.

At Salford, the past few years have seen my small team establish itself in the field of the fabrication and characterisation of nanostructured materials. Particular emphasis has been devoted to a study of their magneto-optical properties. I have deliberately chosen to develop a ‘niche’ area that is entirely based on the expertise at Salford as well as seeking external collaboration both nationally and internationally. A ‘spin off’ from the research activities is the development of a novel polarisation microscope for application in life science research, which is being actively pursued in collaboration with biologists at Salford and Manchester. This has led to the recent establishment of a spin out company in partnership with the University, Optimum Imaging Ltd.

I am married and have two sons, both King’s Scholars at Eton College.

My hobbies include hiking, arts, philosophizing education at all levels and writing research proposals.

My favourite youtube clip is Psy’ s Gangnam Style; favourite book, the Harry Potter series; favourite film, Skyfall; favourite radio programme, Just a Minute; favourite musical, 42nd Street and favourite comedian, Boris Johnson.  I never use Twitter, Facebook, nor even LinkedIn, but I do occasionally use QQ.



Structural Analysis and Materials Characterisation

Solid State Physics

Electromagnetic Theory

Mathematical Methods and Applications

I run a weekly privately funded ‘Dr Shen’s Twix Prize Challenge’ to second and third year Physics students, encouraging them to sharpen their problem solving skills. I have the Twix myself if they do not manage to win, causing some concerns to my GP. 

Research Interests

Having broad interests in, and great enthusiasm for, the fields of condensed matter physics, materials science research and nanoscience and nanotechnology, in particular, optics and optical properties, the research involves both experimental and numerical work as well as the development of appropriate techniques and instrumentation. Current research includes the fabrication and characterisation of nanostructured materials; their optical and magneto optical properties; their potential applications in the energy sector and the development of a novel quantitative time resolved polarisation microscopy for applications in life science and materials research.

Peer reviewed publications- 70; PhD students supervised- 16; PDRA mentored- 6;

Qualifications and Memberships

BSc (Peking University); PhD (University of Cambridge), MInP, CPhys


I have to date co-authored some seventy publications in peer-reviewed journals. The field of research covered by these works falls broadly within the category of ‘Condensed Matter Physics and Functional Materials’.  The highest number of citations of a paper is about 120, whilst quite a few papers have citations around or above 20.

One of my ambitions is to write a popular book on education, if/when I have enough spare time.