Luke McDonald

Luke McDonald

Contact Details:


Postdoctoral Researcher


Dr Maria McNamara


• 2016 – 2017: Postdoctoral research associate, University of Exeter
• 2012 – 2016: Physics Ph.D, University of Exeter
• 2008 – 2012: MPhys Physics, University of Exeter.


Research Interests

I am broadly interested in all aspects of colour and its functionality in biological organisms. As an optical physicist, the primary focus of my research to date has been the structural colours that are observed in an abundance of animal and plant systems. More vibrant and durable than the colours produced via pigmentation, these colours arise due to incident light being physically manipulated by structural features measuring from tens to hundreds of nanometres in size. Such biological photonic structures are extremely ecologically diverse, being encountered in the skies, the oceans and (almost) everywhere in between. In particular, I am interested in biological architectures that affect the polarisation properties of light and the biological mechanisms that control their development. My current project will seek to provide new insights regarding the evolution and taphonomy (processes of decay and fossilisation) of scales and 3D photonic crystals in insects (primarily beetles).



• 2017 McDonald, L.T., Finlayson, E.D., Wilts, B.D., Vukusic, P., Circularly polarised colour of the scarab beetle Chalcothea smaragdina: light scattering by a dual photonic structure. Interface Focus (accepted for publication).
• 2016 McDonald, L.T., Circularly Polarised Optics in Scarabaeidae. Ph.D Thesis (University of Exeter).
• 2015 McDonald, L.T., Finlayson, E.D., Vukusic, P., Untwisting the polarization properties of light reflected by scarab beetles. Proceedings of SPIE 9341, 93410K.


School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

An Scoil Eolaíochtaí Bitheolaíocha, Domhaneolaíocha agus Comhshaoil

University College Cork, Distillery Fields, North Mall, Cork, Ireland T23 N73K