Physics and Astronomy

The wide range of expertise within the School of Physics and Astronomy enables the School to offer a variety of opportunities for higher degrees by research.

The School specialises in a wide range of research areas and postgraduate students are fully integrated into these areas.

We aim to offer a challenging and supportive environment, in which our students develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in industry, research or academia. We have an established track record of research excellence and host world-class laboratories to support our wide range of research activities. Research in the School also involves worldwide collaborations and the use of leading-edge national and international facilities.

You will be supervised by a team of experts who will support your progress and help you to achieve your potential. You will be assigned a mentor from another research group who will act as your personal tutor.

Programme aims

To offer knowledge and expertise for a career in the academic world, industry or to pursue a variety of other opportunities in which a strong background in physics, astrophysics or computing is useful and important.

Distinctive features

  • Research students take specialist academic courses and courses to develop their communication and personal skills.
  • There is a full programme of seminars and the individual research groups hold regular meetings where members present new results and discuss their research in detail.
  • There is an annual postgraduate conference and a research student poster competition.
  • There are active collaborations with research groups overseas and regular attendance at major international conferences by staff and students.

Key facts

Mode of study Full-time, part-time
Qualification PhD, MPhil
Full-time duration PhD 3-4 years, MPhil 1-2 years
Part-time duration PhD 5-7 years, MPhil 2-3 years
Start dates January, April, July, October

Research areas

Astronomy and Astrophysics

Astronomy and Astrophysics is a research area within which you can focus your studies as part of our suite of Physics and Astronomy research programmes (MPhil, PhD).

Astronomy Instrumentation

Astronomy Instrumentation is a research area within which you can focus your studies as part of our suite of Physics and Astronomy research programmes (MPhil, PhD).

Condensed Matter and Photonics

Condensed Matter and Photonics is a research area within which you can focus your studies as part of our suite of Physics and Astronomy research programmes (MPhil, PhD).

Gravitational Physics

Gravitational Physics is a research area within which you can focus your studies as part of our suite of Physics and Astronomy research programmes (MPhil, PhD).

Automated Searches for Ultra-Diffuse Emission from Stars

We are particularly interested in the fraction of stars that lie outside of easily recognised galactic structures as a means of tracing the assembly history of dark matter haloes of various masses.

Tunable THz laser source

This project will involve the design, fabrication and characterisation of such a source, based on the non-linear optical process of difference frequency generation in an integrated semiconductor laser structure.

Single crystal analysis of frustrated magnetic systems, using the world's leading powder diffraction instrument

This project would extend the use of WISH to cover robust single crystal analysis of diffuse scattering and weak Bragg peak data with in-situ measurements to extend our fundamental understanding of frustrated magnetic systems.

Energy harvesting for autonomous systems

This project will focus on the mechanisms by which communications based on light emission by LEDs or lasers can be powered by energy harvested from the environment.

Quantum dynamics of frustrated spin systems

This study will investigate the magnetic spin dynamics of bulk systems as quantum effects start to become relevant at low temperature.

Random laser with III-V semiconductor nanowires

In this project, you will be working on both theoretical modelling and experimental demonstration.

3D Nanostructured Thermoelectric Materials

This project seeks to develop a new breed of 3D thermoelectric metamaterials that have controlled nanostructured features upon the 100 nm scale, allowing unprecedented control over electronic and phononic properties and offering a highly controlled pathway for understanding the effect of nanoscale topology.

Superconducting diamond as a bridge to the quantum mechanical world

This project will continue work to explore the fundamental modes of Nano Electro-Mechanical (NEMS) bridges made out of diamond and methods of detection using quantum circuitry.

Template assisted III-V epitaxy enabling quantum dot lasers on silicon

In this project, we will develop quantum dot (QD) lasers directly grown on silicon at strategically important 1550 nm emission wavelength.

Statistical characterisation of brain tissue microstructure with diffusion magnetic resonance imaging

In this project, you will introduce a novel representation of tissue based on statistical descriptors.

Development of a nanostructured heating element to explore high temperature materials physics

This studentship seeks to develop a novel 3D nanostructured heating element using a combination of two-photon lithography and processing methodologies.

III-V on Silicon Devices and Systems for Next Generation Optical Interconnects

The goal of this PhD is to invent and develop proof-of-concept quantum dot devices (modulator and/or photodetector) in order to overcome the traditional challenges of epitaxial growth of III-V over Si.

Quantum dynamics of frustrated spin systems studied with high frequency susceptibility

In this project you will use a range of experimental techniques using dilution fridges and cryostats to probe the frequency response of the spin dynamics and then model the results based on the latest understanding in our field.

Magnetic nanostructures for low cost, low energy data storage and sensor applications

This project will focus on magnetic nanostructures for low cost, low energy data storage and sensor applications.

Towards a clinical MEG system: theoretical and practical insights into the use of optically pumped magnetometers

In this project, you will perform a detailed analysis of OPMs for measuring magnetic brain signals.

Controlled coherent coupling of single quantum dots in photonic crystal cavity networks

The proposed project spans from the field of optical spectroscopy of semiconductor nanostructures, specifically coherent spectroscopy of single quantum dots, to quantum computing, specifically the implementation of quantum operations in quantum dots

A multi-scale computational model of brain blood flow: Enhancing MRI for assessing brain health

This PhD project is well suited to students who would like to combine their knowledge of computational modelling, physics and mathematics to better understand human brain blood flow and how it can go wrong with brain disease.

Novel nanocavities in wide bandgap semiconductors for quantum optical devices

The project will develop a novel processing technique to create gallium nitride (GaN) optical nanocavities.

Quantum coherence and carrier dynamics in colloidal nanostructures from dots to 1D and 2D materials

The aim of this project is to investigate the quantum coherent light-matter interaction regime and associated carrier dynamics of electrons and holes in novel colloidal structures developed to achieve a dephasing time limited solely by the radiative lifetime.

Infrared Thermophotovoltaic (TPV) cell for power generation and energy harvesting

The studentship aims to demonstrate temperature-stable TPVs with blackbody response ~1000K.

UK government postgraduate doctoral loans

Candidates for the Professional Doctorate programme may be eligible to apply for a UK government postgraduate doctoral loan.

Find out more about UK government postgraduate doctoral loans


Name Deadline
EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership PhD in Physics and Astronomy 1 March 2019
EPSRC iCase PhD in Physics: 2D Materials on Compound Semiconductors 15 March 2019

Tuition fees

UK and EU students

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Students from outside the EU

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Funded project

If you are applying for an advertised funded project then you don't need to provide a research proposal. You only need to provide the following:

  • Funded project title
  • Personal statement
  • CV

Self-funded project

If you are applying for a self-funded project then you need to provide the following:

  • Research proposal
  • Personal statement
  • CV

Suitable for graduates with a first or upper-second class honours degree in Physics, Astrophysics, Mathematics, Electronics or a related subject, depending on the research area.

English language requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English are normally expected to meet the minimum University requirements (e.g. 6.5 IELTS). Please see our English Language Requirements guidance for more details.


Administrative contact(s)

Postgraduate Admissions Team

School of Physics and Astronomy

Academic contact(s)

Dr Giampaolo Pisano

Director of Postgraduate Research


Apply now
Join us on 27 March to find out more about postgraduate funding opportunities for September 2019.

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