Experimental Condensed Matter and Nanoscience PhD


Fact file

PhD Experimental Condensed Matter and Nanoscience
Up to 4 years full-time
Entry requirements
2:1 (or international equivalent) in physics, mathematical physics or mathematics, or a joint degree containing substantial elements of physics or mathematics.
6.5 (6.0) If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
Please contact the school for details
University Park
Other requirements

Research overview

Our Experimental Condensed Matter and Nanoscience research involves seven groups: 


Nanometre scale structures and nanostructured materials play an increasingly important role in a wide range of scientific disciplines, ranging from solid-state physics through to molecular biology.

Research interests reflect this multidisciplinary and involve intra- and inter-university collaborations with groups in Chemistry, Biomedical Sciences and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Scanning probe microscopes are used extensively by the group.


Extensive in-house semiconductor growth and fabrication facilities, including four MBE systems and nanolithography, provide the basis for wide-ranging studies of III-V arsenide and nitride semiconductor materials and devices.

We are investigating novel alloys, self-organised quantum dots, superlattices and nanostructures using techniques including electrical transport, quantum tunneling, ultra-fast optical spectroscopy, phonon spectroscopy and imaging, and capacitance and magnetic force scanning probe microscopy.

Granular Dynamics

Granular materials are extremely unusual in that they can simultaneously display properties normally associated with solids, liquids and gases, together with other properties which are uniquely on there own. Our research aims to investigate the dynamical behaviour of various granular systems using a combination of experimentation, numerical simulations and analytical studies.

Magnetic Levitation

We use strong magnetic fields, up to 17 Tesla, generated by superconducting magnets to levitate water and biological organisms such as plants and bacteria. Within a magnetically levitated object, the force of gravity is balanced by a magnetic force at the molecular level. This means we can investigate the effects of weightless conditions, without needing a spaceship.

We can also use the magnetic field to effectively increase the force of gravity, or to apply "differential" gravity to mixtures, such as granular materials, to achieve separation.

Nanoelectromechanical Systems (NEMS)

NEMS can be regarded as a natural continuation of a process of miniaturisation which initially led to the development of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and as such are likely to find a very wide range of applications in nanotechnology. A number of very promising prototype NEMS devices have already been developed. In particular, intensive effort has been devoted to developing detectors of mass, spin and charge, based on high frequency mechanical resonators. On a more fundamental level, nanomechanical resonators, with frequencies up to the GHz range, have been identified as having great potential for probing the transition from quantum to classical regimes. The fundamental limits set by quantum mechanics on the sensitivity with which a resonator's position can be monitored have been known for some time, but it is only very recently, using nanomechanical systems, that experiment has come close to reaching them. Extending these ideas to even higher frequencies, ultrafast optical methods are being used to probe vibrations of nanostructures up to THz frequencies. This has potential applications in THz acoustoelectric devices for communications and spectroscopy.

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance; and Ultra-Low Temperature Physics

Activities in this field focus on the production and exploitation of hyperpolarised species for medical and materials sciences. The work is undertaken using 2 dilution refrigerators combined with NMR spectrometers and a low field MRI scanner. Low temperatures and high magnetic field are used to induce high nuclear spin polarisation is MRI active isotopes such as C13 that can then be used to enhance the contrast in MRI.

Further information on all of these areas can be found on the Experimental Condensed Matter and Nanoscience research website.



Each student is provided with their own desk space, and has access to a computer and the wider university computing and library facilities. When required, research students also have access to the University’s High Performance Computing Cluster, one of the fastest academic computer systems in the world.

Photocopying and telephone facilities are also provided.

The School has an established Research Training programme for new postgraduate students, designed to introduce researchers to key skills within their field, and to provide basic transferable research skills.

In the last two years, we have spent more than £½m on a complete refurbishment of all of our teaching laboratories and purchase of new equipment.

As well as the main Physics building, the School has two additional centres sited close by - the Centre for Astronomy & Particle Physics (CAPT) and the Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Centre (SPMMRC). In 2003, Professor Sir Peter Mansfield, a researcher in the School for many years, jointly received the Nobel for Medicine for development of magnetic resonance imaging for medical purposes. Also linked to the School is the newly opened Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Centre, a coordinated nanotechnology resource for pure and applied research and teaching.



Research support

Postgraduates are integrated into the research community of the School through participation in research seminars given by visiting speakers, and research workshops given by members of the school. There is an active postgraduate research group in each of the school's main research areas. 

Each student normally has two research supervisors from within the School. 

The Graduate Office is here to assist you during your time at Nottingham and beyond.

The Students' Union is a particularly important source of support


Find a supervisor

We encourage you to get in touch with a member of academic staff about your research proposal before submitting an application. They may be able to help you with your proposal and offer support to find funding opportunities in your area. Details of research supervisors at the University can be found on our research A to Z.


UK/EU Students

Financial support for maintenance and university fees is available from the Research Councils, particularly EPSRC, PPARC and MRC, from University and School Studentships, and from industry.

Suitably qualified British students normally resident in Great Britain are eligible for Research Council studentships, which cover both maintenance and fees. Occasionally industrially-linked CASE studentships are also available.

Although Research Councils will pay the fees of suitably qualified EC nationals, both maintenance and fees may also be covered by the University/School studentships.

Research students may usually expect to augment their income by undertaking up to six hours per week of demonstration in practical laboratories or by marking undergraduate exercises. 

The University Graduate School operates two schemes of its own to help support current postgraduate research. The Graduate School Travel Prize and Universitas21 funding. 

For prospective students, the University has introduced a new funding database . The Graduate School also holds a list of other sources of funding Studentship opportunities are also available. 

Government loans for doctoral study

The Government plans to introduce doctoral student loans of up to £25,000 for PhDs and equivalent research programmes from 2018. Applicants must ordinarily live in England and more details are expected to be announced in due course.

Doctoral training programmes

Linked to research councils, doctoral training programmes offer funding opportunities connected to our research priorities.

International and EU students

Research scholarships are available for outstanding international and EU students. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure your course application is submitted in good time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.



Visit the School page for additional opportunities.

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2016, 90.9% of postgraduates in the school who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £28,260 with the highest being £30,000.*

*Known destinations of full-time home higher degree postgraduates 2015/16. Salaries are calculated based on those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career Prospects and Employability

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers* and can offer you a head-start when it comes to your career.

Those who take up a postgraduate research opportunity with us will not only receive support in terms of close contact with supervisors and specific training related to your area of research, you will also benefit from dedicated careers advice from our Careers and Employability Service. Individual guidance appointments, career management training programme, access to resources and invitations to events including skills workshops and recruitment fairs are just some of the ways in which they can help you develop your full potential, whether you choose to continue within an academic setting or are looking at options outside of academia.

The Graduate Market 2013-2016, High Fliers Research.


This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

Professor Amalia Patane
School of Physics and Astronomy
The University of Nottingham University Park
NG7 2RD 

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