School of Physics & Astronomy

Postgraduate vacancies

Each year the School has a number of EPSRC/DTA funded vacancies, any applications received will automatically be considered for these funding sources

In addition details of funded vacancies are advertised here when available:



Please read the details of available positions and contact respective academics

PhD positions in Astronomy - how it works

The astronomy group offers PhDs in the areas of extragalactic astronomy, observational and theoretical cosmology, and machine learning for astronomical data. We have 10 academic members of staff that are all offering PhD projects for the 2019/2020 entrance year. We typically have between 2-3 funded places per year. The funding comes from UKRI STFC ( terms and conditions). We also encourage applications for the Vice-Chancellor EU and International Scholarships.  

A list of all the PhD projects we currently offer can be found on the  Astronomy webpages. Some projects only have one supervisor named, but all students will be appointed two supervisors if they take on the project. 

We run our postgraduate admissions a little different to the rest of the School. We gather applications until the end of January and then we invite the top candidates to a half-day visit and interview. During the interview day we advertise all the PhD projects we have on offer. We will then offer STFC-funded positions to the best candidates. The candidates then can choose their PhD project from the list we advertise. Therefore our studentships are not tied to a particular project. 

The process for VC scholarships is different, as we have to tie the scholarship to a particular project. Students should approach any supervisor mentioned in the project list if they are interested in pursuing the VC scholarships for EU or international students. 


PhD positions in Particle Cosmology/Nottingham Centre of Gravity

The Particle Cosmology group offers PhDs in a range of topics related to the cosmology of the early and late universe. We have 9 academic members of staff, all of whom are also affiliated with Nottingham Centre of Gravity  We typically have between 2-3 funded places per year. The funding comes from UKRI STFC (terms and conditions). We also encourage applications for the Vice-Chancellor EU and International Scholarships, when they are available. 

A list of all the PhD projects are expected to appear on the particles webpages some time in November, although these should just be taken as a rough guide.  We encourage you to talk to individual members of staff about their plans for PhD supervision. 

We gather applications until the end of January and then we invite the top candidates to a half-day visit and interview, or carry out interviews online, as appropriate.  We then assign the successful applicants to the supervisor that best fits their interests, with a proposed source of funding.

Bell Burnell Scholarships (internal deadline: Nov 30 2022)

Each year the Institute of Physics offers PhD scholarships to underrepresented  groups, through the Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund. The school can support one application each year, and as result, we carry out an internal selection process in early December. If you are eligible for the scheme and interested in applying, you should submit your PhD application early, well in advance of the internal deadline of November 30.  You should make your interest in the Bell Burnell scholarship clear on your application, and communicate this directly to the potential supervisor and/or the person in charge of PhD admission for the group you are interested in joining. 

PhD positions in experimental Quantum Optics (Error Proof Bell-State Analyser)

Midlands Ultracold Atoms Research Centre – Muarc Nottingham, UK

Efficient atom-photon interfaces are a central part for quantum computers, fibre networks or miniaturised quantum sensors. This exciting project creates an interface based on a cloud of cold atoms trapped in a micrometre sized intersection in an optical single mode fibre. A fibre cavity can be added to this system and the strong coupling regime reached. We will also expand this concept to two dimensions (photonic waveguide chips), which currently have been very successful for photonic structures, such as interferometers and photonic quantum simulators, but so far have not included atoms. The PhD project will build on our existing experiment, where we are currently trapping a cold cloud of caesium atoms with a temperature of 100 µK in a 30 µm hole.

The project is part of a European collaboration including theoretical, experimental and photonic engineering partners from Vienna, Berlin, Rostock, Odense. The PhD student will benefit from the local research team (experiment and theory) and regular international consortia meetings.

The PhD program at the University of Nottingham offers postgraduate courses (Midlands Physics Alliance Graduate School, mpags) as well as summer schools and workshops. Benefits include a taxfree PhD stipend (currently 14553£ /year), paid tuition fees for EU/UK students and a travel grant.

We welcome applications from highly motivated students with a strong background in quantum physics.

Application: Please contact Dr. Lucia Hackermueller and send a CV and a motivation letter.

PhD project title: Critical dynamics in frustrated magnets and spin liquids

Supervisor: Dr Stephen Powell

Physical systems are described as frustrated when different interactions are in competition, hindering the formation of a simple ordered state. Instead, large fluctuations persist even at very low temperatures, allowing for the emergence of  so-called spin liquids, which exhibit exotic phenomena including fractionalization and topological order. This project will aim to address fundamental questions about dynamics in frustrated systems, including classical and quantum spin liquids, and apply this understanding to magnetic materials such as the spin ice compounds.

The work will involve a combination of computational and analytical studies of equilibrium and dynamical properties in effective models of frustrated magnets. Various topics are possible depending on student interest, including monopole dynamics in spin ice, anomalous slow relaxation in constrained quantum systems, and effective open quantum dynamics.

PhD project title: Computer simulation and optimisation of multilayer quantum structures

Supervisor: Prof. Mark Fromhold

The project will involve the design, optimisation, and analysis of multilayer quantum and electromagnetic structures comprising a range of materials and functionalised devices to be made and investigated by our colleagues in the School of Physics and Astronomy and within the Nottingham Centre for Additive Manufacturing, Faculty of Engineering.

The initial focus will be on understanding the interfaces, and the transport of charge carriers and heat, between the layers in the presence of high magnetic fields. This will provide the advances required to design, fabricate and understand multilayers with layer thicknesses of just a few monolayers, which act individually as quasi-2D materials and, collectively, like superlattices that are small enough to exhibit quantum-mechanical electrical, optical, and transport properties.

By depositing materials such as carbon, boron, and nitrogen, which are known to form truly 2D materials like graphene, the project will also seek to develop nm-scale multilayer devices producible by additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing capabilities in the Faculty of Engineering will be used to make the functional structures, such as connections and mechanical supports, required to integrate 2D materials with other devices, thereby opening a route to both new fundamental physics and engineering applications. In this part of the project, the student(s) will work with an interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers funded by our new £6m EPSRC-funded Programme Grant “Enabling Next-generation Additive Manufacturing”.

Project title:Graphene-based atom chips: a high-performance platform for cold-atom quantum technologies

Supervisor: Prof. Mark Fromhold

The project will develop graphene atom chips that reduce (by orders of magnitude) the atom loss rate and spatial scale of the atom trapping potential, as required for portable chip-based quantum sensors. The chips will enable the creation and manipulation of atomic Bose-Einstein condensates with less stringent vacuum pressure requirements than present devices, thus assisting the scalable industry manufacture of chip-based quantum sensors and clocks.

Atom chips use current-carrying microfabricated wires to create a magnetic field and thereby control nearby ultracold atoms. They exhibit robust room-temperature operation and are key components of cold-atom-based quantum sensor/clock technologies1. Existing chips use metallic conductors on bulk substrates. High spatio-temporal noise in the wires, and the large Casimir-Polder attraction of atoms to the substrate, makes the atom clouds fragment and deplete rapidly unless they are held within 5 µm from the chip. This limits miniaturisation of the chips, the potential landscapes that they produce, and prevents coherent quantum coupling of electrons in the atoms to those in the chips1.

This project aims to transform atom-chip performance by exploiting conductors within two-dimensional electron gases in graphene and other 2D materials. Our recent work indicates that these structures will reduce the atom-surface separation and power consumption of the chip by 2 and 5 orders of magnitude respectively and increase the atom cloud’s lifetime by 4 orders of magnitude – to minutes – compared with metallic conductors.

So far, our work has focused on graphene/boron nitride structures, which are promising for transistors and high-frequency electronics2. Using similar structures for atom chips opens the possibility of dual applications in electronic and cold-atom quantum devices. We now need to develop graphene atom-chip demonstrators, based on established materials such as SiC, to demonstrate the power of two-dimensional materials as a platform for quantum sensors and clocks. Existing SiC-based graphene Hall bars3, developed for quantum resistance metrology, look ideal for proof-of-principle studies and subsequent optimisation. The project will develop atom chips based on graphene and other 2D material multilayers by:

  1. Calculating atom trap profiles and lifetimes for existing graphene Hall bars, taking into account spatial imperfections and atom loss due to Johnson noise, using Green function models to relate the noise characteristics to the electromagnetic reflection coefficients of the multilayers, tunnelling and 3-body processes.
  2. Undertaking detailed analysis of experiments on existing SiC-based Hall bars: both their electrical properties and performance as an atom chip trap.
  3. Simulating the dynamics of trapped atom clouds using Stochastic Projected Gross-Pitaevskii models.
  4. Designing better samples containing multiple 2D layers to enhance functionality.
  5. Undertaking theoretical studies of experiments to be performed on these improved samples by collaborators in Germany.

[1] For a review, see M. Keil et al. J. Mod. Opt. 63, 1840 (2016).

[2] L. Britnell et al. Nature Commun. 4, 1794 (2013); A. Mishchenko et al. Nature Nanotech. 9, 808 (2014).

[3] T.J.B.M. Janssen et al., Rep. Prog. Phys. 76, 104501 (2013).

PhD project title: Quantum-enabled Magnetic Induction Tomography for Healthcare and Geophysical Survey

Supervisor: Prof. Mark Fromhold

The project will involve the design and optimisation of a quantum-enabled portable Magnetic Inductance Tomography (MIT) sensor system for biomedical imaging, including cardiac monitoring, and to map ground conductivity with greater resolution, sensitivity, and penetration than classical instruments, thus enhancing geological/geophysical surveys.

In MIT, alternating current is sent through an array of conductor networks that induce eddy currents in the ground. Highly sensitivity magnetometers are used to detect the magnetic field produced by the eddy currents. The recorded data, i.e., measurements of the in-phase and out-of-phase magnetic field, are converted into information about the ground conductivity and magnetic susceptibility and further, via petrophysical relationships, into geological and geotechnical parameters.

The project will involve the design and integration of four main components and sub-systems:

  • A new, recently patented, electromagnetic excitation coil geometry uses multiple complementary wire geometries to extract greater spatial information than existing excitation coils.
  • Highly-sensitive optically pumped magnetometers for detection of the eddy currents.
  • Optimised layout (also patented) of the sensors, chosen to facilitate the matrix inversion required to reconstruct the conductivity profiles (biomedical or underground) from the magnetic field measurements.
  • Software/modelling for converting the measured magnetic field into useful medical and geological imaging information.

The student(s) may choose to consider all four of these topics, and transfer techniques between them, or specialise in one of them as the project proceeds. Depending on the interest of the student, the project may focus on fundamental topics or involve collaboration with industry and British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham

PhD project title: Computer simulation to optimise the development and deployment of quantum sensors in healthcare and geophysical survey

Supervised by Prof. Mark Fromhold

Computer modelling and optimisation is crucial for the development and deployment of new high-technology devices, prototypes and products. It is particularly important for accelerating the production and early adoption of quantum sensors for two reasons. Firstly, making the sensors will require the miniaturisation, integration, and power reduction of many supply-chain components, including atom sources and traps, lasers and optical devices, and ultra-high vacuum systems. Secondly, in order to build markets for the sensors, the advantages that they offer, and the best way to use them, need to be determined and quantified.

This project will involve the development of analytical methods and computer simulation software, including inverse and optimisation techniques, Green function analysis of electromagnetic fields, and Multiphysics modelling using COMSOL packages, to overcome four challenges in the development of real-world quantum technologies:

  • The development of miniature, integrated, low-power quantum sensor components suitable for scalable manufacture
  • Using inverse methods to understand how best to deploy quantum sensors of gravity for underground mapping
  • Quantifying the benefits of using thermal atom sensors in Magnetoencephalography (MEG) systems and designing components for such systems
  • Designing state-of-the-art magnetic shielding and excitation systems for applications in healthcare and geophysical survey (with the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre and the University of Birmingham)

The student(s) may choose to consider all four of these topics, and transfer techniques between them, or specialise in one of them as the project proceeds. Depending on the interest of the student, the project may focus on fundamental topics or involve collaboration with industry.

PhD project title: Modelling Next-generation Magneto-Optical Traps for Quantum Technologies

Supervisor: Prof. Mark Fromhold

Magneto-optical traps (MOTs) are fridges that use laser light and magnetic fields to cool atoms to within a millionth of a degree of absolute zero. They are a core component of cold-atom quantum technologies including clocks, field and force sensors. There is great current interest in miniaturising and integrating the components of these systems and in making them more suitable for scalable manufacture – for example by Additive Manufacturing (3D printing).

The project will involve the development of realistic MOT simulation software, based on both analytical and numerical methods, which includes the effects of the laser beams, optical elements such as diffraction gratings for grating MOTs, magnetic fields and the systems that generate and shield them, and the dynamics of atoms being trapped.

This modelling capability will be used to optimise the performance of MOTs for a range of quantum technology applications. Specifically, it will involve:

  • Making detailed calculations of the magnetic field profile and laser force for given trapping system and beam geometries and using a stochastic differential equation to simulate the motion of atoms within the MOT above the Doppler temperature. The model will include key physical details including multi-level atoms, diffusive effects, laser forces and Stark forces, loading of atoms from the edges of the target volume and losses due to collisions with the background gas. The model will also incorporate a method for removing trapped atoms from the simulation, so maximising computational power.
  • The model will need to be fully flexible so that it can be tailored for different atomic species and unusual laser/trapping geometries, for example those use in the Southampton micro and field-free “Magic” MOTs. It will be used to design next-generation cold-atom sources optimised for specific quantum sensing and timing applications.

Depending on the interest of the student(s), the project may focus on fundamental topics or involve collaboration with industry.

PhD project area: Atomic magnetometer and field vector camera

Supervisor: Dr Thomas Fernholz, Associate Professor

The Cold Atoms group at the University of Nottingham is part of the Quantum Technology Hub for Sensors and Metrology [1, 2]. We contribute to the development of deployable practical devices and particularly focus on atom chip technology.

One of our current aims is the realization of an atomic magnetometer and field vector camera that is capable of obtaining full vector information of a magnetic field distribution averaged over a thin volume, thus obtaining an image. With our first experiment in this direction, we are already able to measure tiny magnetic fields of only 100 Femtotesla [3]. This is sufficient to detect fields from the human heart-beat.

Examples of the research and development questions that need addressing include:

  • What is the interplay between sensitivity, spatial resolution, and temporal bandwidth?
  • What is the quantum limit for the signal to noise ratio?
  • What are the ideal materials for best performance?
  • Can we build compact devices?
  • Can we image bio-magnetic signals from the heart and the brain?

[1] K. Bongs et al., “The UK National Quantum Technologies Hub in sensors and metrology (Keynote Paper)”, Proc. SPIE 9900, Quantum Optics, 990009 (June 9, 2016); doi:10.1117/12.2232143

[2] Kai Bongs, “UK quantum hub aims to translate research to applications”, video DOI:10.1117/2.3201612.01

[3] T. Pyragius, H. Marin Florez, T. Fernholz, “A Voigt effect based 3D vector magnetometer”, arXiv:1810.08999 (2018).

PhD project area: Quantum sensing with matter wave interferometers

Supervisor: Dr Thomas Fernholz, Associate Professor

The Cold Atoms Group at the University of Nottingham is part of the Quantum Technology Hub for Sensors and Metrology [1, 2]. We contribute to the development of deployable practical devices and particularly focus on atom chip technology. One of our aims is the realization of an atomic rotation sensor that measures rotation using the Sagnac effect [3]. In contrast to recent successful approaches that achieve impressive sensitivities using free-falling atoms [4], we confine atoms to magnetic guides and traps. This holds promise to miniaturize such interferometers, because it overcomes the need for large apparatus size imposed by the time atoms spend in free-fall.

Following our recent proposal [5, 6], we investigate methods to operate a Sagnac interferometer effectively like an atomic clock that uses trapped thermal atoms.

Examples of the research and development questions that need addressing include atom chip design, incorporating detailed analysis of atom trapping and guiding methods, optimal atomic state preparation and detection, methods to increase of interferometer area for better sensitivity and faster atom transport for higher sensor bandwidth, development of portable laser, electronics, and vacuum technology, studies on coherence properties and cross-sensitivities, and hybrid schemes involving classical sensors. Reaching the highest interferometer performance will require excellent control over a range of technical noise sources to ultimately tackling the limits imposed by quantum noise of interfering atoms and probe light. Relevant to this regime is our parallel interest in quantum light-matter interaction, which allows for the suppression of quantum noise beyond its standard limit [7].

The facilities available for this research area include two experimental ultra-cold atom setups with a wide range of supporting laboratory equipment. Access to clean-room and micro-fabrication facilities enables in-house development of atom chips. A high-performance computing cluster is available for computing intensive modelling and simulation tasks.

[1] K. Bongs et al., “The UK National Quantum Technologies Hub in sensors and metrology (Keynote Paper)”, Proc. SPIE 9900, Quantum Optics, 990009 (June 9, 2016); doi:10.1117/12.2232143

[2] Kai Bongs, “UK quantum hub aims to translate research to applications”, video DOI:10.1117/2.3201612.01

[3] B. Barrett et al, “The Sagnac effect: 20 years of development in matter-wave interferometry”, C. R. Physique 15, 875 (2014).

[4] I. Dutta et al. “Continuous Cold-Atom Inertial Sensor with 1 nrad/sec Rotation Stability”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 116, 183003 (2016).

[5] T. Fernholz et al., “Dynamically controlled toroidal and ring-shaped magnetic traps”, Phys. Rev. A 75, 063406 (2007).

[6] R. Stevenson et al., “Sagnac interferometry with a single atomic clock”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 115, 163001 (2015).

[7] T. Fernholz et al., “Spin Squeezing of Atomic Ensembles via Nuclear-Electronic Spin Entanglement”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 101, 073601 

Fully funded PhD scholarships in Physics

The EPSRC and SFI Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Sustainable Chemistry: Atoms-2-Products, would like to invite suitably qualified and highly motivated applicants to apply for 48-month PhD studentships to work in the thematic area:

HeatToPower: A New generation of sustainable thermoelectric materials and devices: HeatToPower (H2P) 

*Despite being an interdisciplinary programme, candidates can choose for their PhD to be in Physics and hosted in the School of Physics and Astronomy!*

Thermoelectric materials are capable of converting wasted heat into useful electrical energy and offer new sustainable energy solutions for the climate emergency. The attainment of exceptional efficiency thermoelectric technologies is a truly multidisciplinary endeavour between physics, chemistry and engineering. For information on the theme and potential projects please contact Dr Mike Weir:

CDT Training Programme

Our students will undertake a 4-year PhD programme, where the first year offers the opportunity to access a balanced combination of core and research theme training activities. Our core training is designed to equip students with knowledge and tools related to the broader aspects of their research such as sustainability, entrepreneurial skills, and responsible research and innovation, and will include a wide range of workshops focusing on professional skills, career development and wellbeing. Research theme training will focus on topics specific to each of the three themes. The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, workshops, group activities and lab sessions.

Over the remaining three years, whilst working on their research projects, students will continue to receive cross-disciplinary training and research and will be presented with a wide range of additional training opportunities tailored to support them at the different stages of their PhD cycle.

Benefits of joining our CDT

  • An excellent research environment, with world class facilities
  • Access to an extensive cross-disciplinary training programme
  • Purposefully tailored research theme-specific technical/lab training
  • Cohort approach to training with emphasis on collaborative work in smaller teams
  • Access to training activities facilitated by BiOrbic, University College Dublin
  • Access to external training, workshops and conferences
  • Excellent professional skills training package 
  • Opportunity of fully funded external internships with national/international companies or academic/other institutions
  • An annual stipend of £16,062

The Centre would particularly welcome enthusiastic and highly motivated applicants with a strong academic curiosity and strong aptitude for research. Applicants should be committed to working in cross-disciplinary teams and be passionate about working towards a more sustainable future.

The University of Nottingham and our CDT are committed to providing an inclusive study environment for all students. We welcome applications from candidates from different backgrounds and protected characteristics, including those from BAME backgrounds. 

We offer flexibility in provision of student support including disability support plans and mechanisms to accommodate those with caring responsibilities including maternity and paternity leave.

Eligibility information

Due to funding restrictions at this stage, fully funded scholarships at the EPSRC and SFI CDT in Sustainable Chemistry are open to home/UK students only.

For more information and to apply, please visit:

Application deadline:  Open for applications

Understanding the valency of single atoms on surfaces

From our earliest lessons in chemistry, we’re told that the electronic configuration, or valency, of an isolated atom is fixed by nature. We know, for instance, that the electronic configuration of phosphorus is always 1s22s22p63s23p3. And while this holds true for atoms in vacuum or free space, the reality is much more interesting for atoms residing on the surface of solids.

 Recently, we discovered that a single cobalt atom on a specific surface can take two distinct and stable valencies [1]. These valencies could be switched and read using the tip of a scanning tunnelling microscope, making it possible to store information within a single atom! For this single atom storage unit, we coined the term orbital memory.  

 Despite this development, there are still a lot of open questions regarding the underlying physics behind this orbital memory. To what temperatures are the valencies stable? Can it be observed for other atoms? Why hasn’t it been observed on other surfaces? If we bring two or more of these atoms next to one another, how does this new atomic degree of freedom couple interatomically? Finally, what if we build an artificial material from these atoms – what sort of properties would the resulting valency crystal have? Using state-of-the-art scanning probe techniques at a range of temperatures and with externally applied fields [2], this Ph.D. project will seek to answer these questions to peek inside the complicated life of electrons inside a single atom.



For further information about the projects please contact Brian Kiraly (

Candidates will be processed continuously and are therefore recommended to apply as soon as possible.

4-year funded PhD studentship: Optical Memristors for Ultra-Fast Neuromorphic Computer Vision

Closing date: applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis until a suitable candidate is appointed.

 Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD studentship (4 years funded (tax-free stipend based on the UKRI rate (currently £17,668) + tuition fees for UK home student) within the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Nottingham.

Project title: Optical Memristors for Ultra-Fast Neuromorphic Computer Vision

 Applications are invited for a 4-Year fully funded PhD studentship to contribute to an exciting new project funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The aim of the project is to develop new high-speed neuromorphic systems for computer vision applications based on optical memristor devices. Memristor (or resistive memory) is a form of non-volatile memory that is seen as a potential candidate for the replacement of Flash and SDRAM memory. However, it is their ability to emulate the memory and learning properties of biological synapses and their potential to produce a new generation of ultra-high performance artificial intelligent devices that has ignited researchers’ interest in these remarkable devices. The aim of this position is to explore new types of optically switching memristors and determine the best strategies for integrating these into neuromorphic architectures for use in high-speed computer vision applications.

The position will be based in the School of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Nottingham which has a thriving research culture of both, experimental and theoretical groups across a broad spectrum of physics topics, including condensed matter physics and nanoscience. The school is highly regarded for its excellence in research and teaching and has a history of securing funding from research council sources and working with industry on a wide range of national and international projects. (

The researcher will join the Kemp Nano Electronics group which is focussed on investigating new phenomena in nanophysics and electronics for real-word device applications ( Our areas of interest include optically tuneable memristors for photonic computing and new artificial intelligence technologies, molecular spintronics and nanoscale engineering of novel device structures for plasmonics and biosensor applications. This group is part of the Experimental Condensed Matter and Nanoscience research grouping with access to a wide range of state-of-the-art facilities for the preparation and characterisation of novel materials and novel nanoscale devices. In addition, you will have access to the world-class suite of facilities of the Nanoscale and Microscale Research Centre (

The project is funded by a 5 Year Leverhulme Trust Research project and is in collaboration with Prof. Ronald Tetzlaff’s modelling and circuit theory group at the Technische Universität Dresden. 

We invite applications from candidates with knowledge and / or interest in nanoscale science, materials science, artificial intelligence and the optoelectronic properties of novel nanoscale materials and thin films.


  • Due to funding restrictions, the position is only available for home/UK candidates
  • Candidates must possess or expect to obtain, a 2:1 or first class degree in a Physical Sciences or Engineering related discipline.

How to apply: Please send a copy of your covering letter, CV and academic transcripts to

Enquiries can also be directed to

Closing date: applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis until a suitable candidate is appointed.

Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Closing Date: 31st July 2022

Start Date: 1st October 2022

SupervisorsDr. Adam Berrington, Prof. Michael Chappell

Title: Model-based approaches for magnetic resonance spectroscopy of the brain at ultra-high field strength

We are seeking an enthusiastic and motivated candidate to work on developing new capabilities for measuring chemicals in the brain with ultra-high field MR (7 T). The successful candidate will join a vibrant and diverse interdisciplinary team at the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre (SPMIC) and work closely with experts across the University and Precision Imaging Beacon.

Project Background

Proton MR spectroscopy (MRS) is a powerful technique to measure chemical composition of tissue non-invasively. At 7 T, many brain chemicals are detectable, which are of increasing interest to both neuroscience and clinical studies (e.g. in brain tumours and mental health). For example, markers of key mutations in glioma have recently been shown to be detectable using MRS, potentially enhancing diagnostic ability alongside MR imaging. However, compared to MRI, MRS is a noisy technique which limits our ability to detect neurochemicals reliably across the brain in reasonable scan times.

Project Aims

The successful PhD candidate will develop and investigate model-based approaches for MRS, which will be used to improve the speed and robustness of MRS and improve quantification of neurochemicals for whole brain metabolic imaging. The project will involve designing and implementing MRS imaging sequences on the 7 T scanner and developing computational methods to process the resulting image data.  There is scope to tailor the nature of the research to the candidate’s own interests and there would be opportunities to work closely with clinicians and/or neuroscientists to exploit the developed imaging techniques. There is also an opportunity to extend imaging approaches to measuring neurochemicals over time during brain activation.

The candidate will have the opportunity to learn how to program pulse sequences on the ultra-high field MR scanner, develop their own analysis code, run human MR experiments and network with a range of academics outside of the UK.


  • Funding is only available for UK-based students
  • Candidates are expected to have, or be on track to obtain, a minimum of an upper second class honours in a relevant discipline such as physics, engineering, computer science, mathematics or related area.

Previous research experience as well as scientific programming (e.g. Python/Matlab) is desirable.

How to apply

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss this opportunity before applying, please contact Dr. Adam Berrington

Applications can be made through:

Please upload a CV, a one page cover letter detailing relevant research experience and the contact details of two referees.

 PhD Studentship in the gas adsorption properties of porphyrin-based polymeric materials

A funded PhD studentship is available in the group of Dr Alex Saywell at the University of Nottingham to work in the field of surface confined molecular systems. The studentship will be hosted within the School of Physics and Astronomy Nanoscience group where you will have access to a range of experimental techniques, including low-temperature ultra-high vacuum scanning probe microscopy (SPM) and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopies, and will be part of a vibrant research community. You will undertake experimental studies characterising the properties of novel porphyrin polymers which contain ‘chemically active’ metal atoms to act as ligation sites for gaseous species. A particular focus will be the investigation of gas adsorption properties of these porphyrin-based polymeric materials with respect the capture and storage of various pollutant gasses (e.g. CO2 and NOx) produced by industrial process: with the removal/reduction of these gases from the atmosphere being of significant environmental importance.

The Saywell group has previously demonstrated that porphyrin-based polymers can be deposited onto surfaces held under ultra-high vacuum conditions via an electrospray deposition (ESD) technique to allow scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) characterisation of structural and electronic properties [see figure for example STM data, as well as published work: Phys. Rev. Lett. 125, 206803 (2020), Sci. Rep. 9, 9352 (2019), Nature 469, 72 (2011)]. You will have the oportunity to further develope this research by performing state-of-the-art near-ambient pressure x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (NAP-XPS) measurements to characterise chemical and structural details of gas adsorption upon extended porphyrin architectures. This approach allows the potential for tailoring specific molecular architectures, e.g. linear/cyclic/branched, to promote efficient and/or selective gas capture, to be explored. The concept of cooperative gas adsorption, where interactions between neighbouring porphyrins alters ligation properties of the system, will be probed by a combination of low-temperature STM and NAP-XPS.

The research activities will be conducted as part of a collaborative research programme, involving researchers from the University of Oxford (Prof. H. Anderson) and colleagues from the University of Nottingham (Dr J. O’Shea). There will also be opportunities to undertake experimental activities at the Diamond Light Source (the UK’s national synchrotron facility).

Funding for this position is open to UK applications, and the 4-year studentship will commence in October 2023 (earlier start dates may be available upon request). A high 2.1 or 1st class degree in a relevant physical sciences discipline is required.

Informal enquiries may be sent to Dr Alex Saywell ( Formal applications should be submitted to the University of Nottingham. Previous hands-on experience in, and/or knowledge of, scanning probe microscopy and surface science techniques is advantageous but not necessary.

4-year PhD studentship: Understanding kidney pathophysiology using novel kidney MRI acquisition and image analysis methods - ENG 1613

About the Project
This is an exciting opportunity to undertake a PhD to develop novel Magnetic Resonance Imaging methods to study kidney structure and function and establish MRI biomarkers using ex-vivo and in-vivo imaging measures. Nephrons are the basic functional unit of the kidney, an organ with a central role in maintaining homeostasis in the body. Quantitative MRI is being used to determine the microstructure of the kidney non-invasively, and measurement of nephron number is now a near possibility. Low nephron number increases the risk of chronic kidney disease, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.

This PhD project will span the following areas of research activity:

  1. Ex-vivo imaging to study MRI contrast and nephron imaging. This will include the use of contrast agents, the development of deep learning algorithms for nephron imaging, and the correlation of histology with imaging data acquired at ultra-high field and clinical field strength scanners.  3D printing methods will be used to generate realistic kidney reference objects.
  2. The development of novel methods for kidney MR image acquisitions and analyses using artificial intelligence (such as Deep Learning and super resolution methods) to resolve key components of nephrons, glomeruli and tubules in-vivo.
  3. The use of in-vivo and ex-vivo methods to establish reference values and protocols for clinical renal imaging, including harmonisation of data collected across MR scanner manufacturers.

Ideal candidate will have a background in Physics, Chemistry, or bioengineering. They will be based within the University of Nottingham across the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre - School of Physics and Astronomy, School of Chemistry, Centre for Additive Manufacturing, with a secondment to the Centre for Advanced Imaging at The University of Queensland, Australia.

What skills will be developed? 
By the end of this project, the student will have excellent MR physics skills in quantitative MRI, be able to use and have learnt to programme an MRI scanner, understand MRI sequence design. They will have gained computational skills in Python for image processing and deep learning. They will have developed an understanding of the properties and synthesis of contrast agents and use of 3D printing methods.

The position is part of a Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), in collaboration with the University of Queensland, that will have four students in the cohort to support and collaborate to deliver key aspects of the project. Informal enquiries can be directed to or

Applicants should have at least a 2:1 degree, or equivalent, in a project-relevant discipline.

How to apply
Please send copies of your covering letter, CV and academic transcripts to referring to the project title. 

Closing date: applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis until a suitable candidate is appointed.

Please apply here

When applying for this studentship, please include the reference number (beginning ENG and supervisors name) within the personal statement section of the application. This will help in ensuring your application is sent directly to the academic advertising the studentship.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

AIM Doctoral Training Programme

We have 2 PhDs which are part of the AIM Doctoral Training Programme. Details can be found here and two link to MRI in Nottingham:

Model-based functional spectroscopy of brain metabolites associated with cognition (based in Nottingham)

About the Project
How can we better understand cognitive impairments in mental health disorders? If we do, we may be able to better target future therapies. This challenge requires the development of new brain imaging techniques.

In particular, differences in neurochemicals (such as glutamate or GABA) in the brain may explain the differences we observe in cognitive function. In this project, we will develop new tools using functional MR spectroscopy (fMRS) to non-invasively detect neurochemical changes while participants engage in a cognitive task. This offers a promising technique to investigate cognition. However, sensitivity to detect changes is limited by measurement noise. In addition, neurochemical data is collected separately to the concomitant blood response which occurs during brain activation (fMRI). We will research new data-driven computational approaches to model neurochemical changes. We will also combine fMRS with fMRI scans allowing us to obtain more information simultaneously. The developed techniques will be applied to study neurochemical changes in healthy volunteers during performance monitoring, which is often impaired in individuals with psychosis.

The student will engage with interdisciplinary teams of physicists, neuroscientists and engineers. They will gain computational skills (Python, C++) coding their own pipelines and MR sequences to run on the 7 T MR scanner.

Funding Notes
Full information about funding and application details, including application form, reference form plus Equality, diversity and inclusion form are available at View Website . The deadline for submitting applications is 9.00 am GMT, Monday, 16 January 2023. Please ensure that your application is submitted with all required documentation by the above deadline as incomplete applications will not be considered. Interviews will take place on Monday 27 February, Tuesday 28 February and Wednesday, 1st March and will be held via Zoom.
Modelling cardiac function in healthy hearts and diabetes (based between University of Leicester and University of Nottingham)

Supervisors: Csaba Sinka (UoL), Anvesha Singh (UoL), Susan Francis (UoN) and Gerry McCann (UoL)

There is a global pandemic of type-2 diabetes. Diabetic cardiomyopathy is a well-recognised complication, which manifests with early alterations in left ventricular (LV) structure and function. Its pathophysiology and management remains poorly understood. This inter-disciplinary (Engineering, Cardiology, Physics) and cross-institution (Universities of Leicester and Nottingham) project aims to develop a state-of-the-art computational model of the heart in a healthy individual and those with diabetic cardiomyopathy. The starting point is a multi-physics based computational framework coupling the differential equations describing the constitutive behaviour of heart muscle, transmembrane potential, conductance and active stress leading to the contraction of the myocardium. Calibration of the constitutive model parameters will be carried out using cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging and electrocardiographic (ECG) data. The project will focus on the study of the nature of the active stress and its mechanical description as the current formulations are relatively simplistic. We will develop a direct coupling parameter which includes cardiac microstructure information for both healthy and diabetic patients. Development of an ex-vivo model of diabetic cardiomyopathy will increase our understanding of the pathophysiology of remodelling and allow testing of potential therapies.

Please see MRC AIM webpage for information on how to apply.


Understanding kidney pathophysiology using novel kidney MRI acquisition and image analysis methods

Model-based functional spectroscopy of brain metabolites associated with cognition (Nottingham) as part of AIM Doctoral Training Programme

Contact: Susan Francis (staff)

PhD Studentship in the interaction of topologically designed defective-graphene substrates with catalytically active metal atoms

A funded PhD studentship is available as a joint position within the groups of Dr Alex Saywell (University of Nottingham - Nanoscience group) and Dr David Duncan (Diamond Light Source – Structures and Surfaces). The studentship will be hosted at the School of Physics and Astronomy (Nottingham), where you will have access to a range of experimental techniques, including low-temperature ultra-high vacuum scanning probe microscopy (SPM) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopies. You will also be part of the vibrant research community in the Physical Sciences division of Diamond Light Source (Oxfordshire), where you will have access to experts in a wide array of experimental methods, including X-ray photoelectron spectroscopies and transmission electron microscopies. An enhanced stipend, above the UKRI minimum, is awarded with this studentship.

Project overview: Catalysts are involved in the manufacture of almost every consumer product, from food to telephones. Major advances in catalysts make everyday products cheaper, reduce industrial waste and pollution, and make industrial processes more energy efficient. Thus, improvements in catalysis are key to transitioning the world economy to a sustainable state.

Single atom catalysis, where single metal atoms are dispersed across a supporting material, has become a popular field over the last decade. Single atom catalysts (SAC) offer a route to catalysts that have the high selectivities of homogenous catalysts, but the ease of catalytic recovery from heterogenous catalysts. The key to generating a SAC is preventing sintering of the single atoms into nanoparticles by the utilisation of specific supporting substrates. Defective-graphene is one such substrate, and we have recently developed a methodology to prepare defective-graphene films from the bottom up using topological design.

In this studentship we will further develop this field of by studying the interaction of topologically designed defective-graphene substrates with metal atoms. This will be done through a rigorous scientific programme both at Diamond Light Source and at the University of Nottingham. The student will exploit cutting-edge scanning probe microscopy and lab-based ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy measurements at the University of Nottingham to fully characterise how these metal atoms disperse on the substrates and how these dispersed metal atoms interact with gases of interest. At Diamond, the student will exploit the unique-in-world capabilities at I09 to quantitatively determine the adsorption structure of the coordinated metal atoms. The work is done in collaboration with other Universities in the UK, Europe and the USA, as such the student will gain experience in working within an international collaborative environment.

Details of funding: Funding for this position is open to UK applications, and the 4-year studentship will commence in October 2023 (earlier start dates may be available upon request). The stipend is set at £2000 per year above the UKRI minimum. A degree in a relevant physical sciences discipline is required.

To apply: Informal enquiries may be sent to Dr Alex Saywell ( or Dr David Duncan ( Formal applications should be submitted to the University of Nottingham. Previous hands-on experience in, and/or knowledge of, scanning probe microscopy, photoelectron spectroscopy, and surface science techniques is advantageous but not necessary.

School of Physics and Astronomy

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RD

For all enquiries please visit: