Personal profile

Research overview

Kenny Wood is a lecturer in the School of Physics and Astronomy at St Andrews. His three main research areas are star formation, the structure of the interstellar medium, and light activated treatments of skin cancer. At the heart of his research are his suite of three dimensional Monte Carlo radiation transfer codes that he has applied to a diverse range of astronomical and medical physics projects.


Kenny's star formation research has explored observational signatures of disk-planet interactions and the opening of gaps within protoplanetary disks and also the multi-wavelength variability associated with the complex magnetic accretion geometry of pre main sequence stars. He works closely with observers in modeling data from ground and space-based observatories including the VLA, Hubble, and Spitzer Space Telescopes.


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a non-invasive cancer treatment in which first a photosensitiser cream is applied to skin cancers. Subsequent exposure to light leads to a photochemical reaction producing singlet oxygen which is highly reactive and toxic to the cancer cells. Kenny and his resaerch students work in close collaboration with laser experts at St Andrews and oncologists at the Scottish Photodynamic Therapy Centre at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee. Their recent research has utilised three dimensional radiation tramsfer simulations to study the depth penetration of light into human tissue, resulting in the reccomendation to double the typical fifteen minute PDT treatment time. The theoretical modeling backs up clinical studies indicating that increased treatment times leads to cell necrosis at greater depths and better treatment outcomes. Current studies are exploring the efficacy of daylight PDT, using the interaction of sunlight with the photosensitiser to treat skin cancer.


Teaching activity

Kenny's current undergraduate astronomy teaching includes the second level module on Stars and Stellar Evolution and the fourth level Honours module Nebulae and Stars I, which focuses on radiation transfer and the physics of ionised gas in HII regions. He is also the undergraduate Admissions Officer for Physics and Astronomy at St Andrews, processing over a thousand applications each year.

In 2013 he hosted the St Andrews Monte Carlo Radiation Transfer Summer School for astronomy PhD students and postdocs.

Other expertise

General 3D radiation transfer techniques.

Future research

Merging dynamical models with radiation transfer to perform self-consistent radiation-hydrodynamic modelling of star forming regions.

Industrial relevance

Medical physics & diagnostic imaging: My 3D radiation transfer techniques may be applied to the study of light scattering and laser penetration into diseased & healthy tissue.

Academic/Professional Qualification

Ph.D., Astrophysics, University of Glasgow; B.Sc., Physics & Astronomy, University of Glasgow

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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