He received his BSc degree in Physics and Mathematics from Chelsea College (University of London) in 1977, his Ph.D. in Physics from the Université Paris-Sud (Orsay) in 1981 and his Habilitation from the Université Paris-Nord in 1986. He then spent six years at the Freie Universität Berlin till 1993, when he was appointed Full Professor of Physics at the Université de Lausanne, Switzerland. In 2003, he joined the Chemistry Institute of the EPFL.
In addition to the fields mentioned above, his research includes matrix-isolation spectroscopy of molecular systems to ultrafast spectroscopy of large molecules, biosystems and nanoparticles in solution, and bulk transition metal oxides.
In recognition for his contributions, he received several awards and prizes, which include the Humboldt Research Award 2010, the 2015 Earle K. Plyler Award of the American Physical Society, The 2015 Edward Stern Prize for Lifetime Achievements of the International X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy Society, the 2019 Liversidge Award of the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) and the 2021 Ahmed Zewail Award of the American Chemical Society (ACS). He is Fellow of the RSC, APS, OSA, EPS, ACA (American Crystallographic Association) as well as Foreign correspondent of the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences.