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 the 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 position: 'On-chip hybrid quantum systems: coupling microwaves to magnon-phonon polarons'

This project will be based at the University of Nottingham in the School of Physics and Astronomy.

Project overview
This project will develop an on-chip architecture to couple microwave photons to magnon – phonon polarons in ferromagnetic nanogratings. Via direct electrical interfacing with the microwave circuits, we will demonstrate coherent excitation and detection of hybrid magnon-phonon states. 

There is currently much interest in engineering the coupling between physically distinct quantum systems in order to control, transfer and detect quantum states, with possible applications including quantum computation, communication and sensing. Crucial to these technologies is the ability to transfer the quanta of energy between different physical systems in a coherent way that preserves the information encoded within the quantum states. Researchers in the Nottingham Spintronics and Terahertz Acoustics groups, along with partners at Dortmund Technical University, have recently developed a method to achieve strong coupling between magnons and phonons, forming a magnon-phonon polaron, in patterned ferromagnetic nanogratings (see and reference F. Godejohann et al., Physical Review B, 102, 144438 (2020)). This experimental project will embed the nanogratings in on-chip microwave resonators and will achieve strong coupling between the microwave photons and the magnon-phonon polarons. The on-chip architecture will lend itself to integration with other physical systems such as optical cavities, acoustic resonators and superconducting qubits (the building blocks of quantum computers). 

The project will involve nanofabrication, experimental measurements using electrical transport and optical pump-probe methods, and computer simulations of the microwave, magnetic and acoustic systems.

Eligibility: Candidates should have, or should expect to obtain a 1st or 2:1 undergraduate honours degree in Physics or a related discipline. A good aptitude for experimental condensed matter physics is highly desirable.

Funding: The studentship comes with funding for tuition fees + stipend for 3.5 years at Home (UK) student rates.

Application: If you are interested in applying for this studentship then please contact Dr Andrew Rushforth ( in the first instance.

This studentship is open until filled. Early application is strongly encouraged.

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 

PhD - Development of multimodal optical microscopy for imaging tumour margins during skin cancer surgery


Prof Ioan Notingher (School of Physics and Astronomy)

Prof Hywel Williams (School of Medicine)

Positions available: 1

Funding: fully-funded (stipend and PhD fees)

Start date: September 2022 (or earlier)

Subject Area: Biophotonics/Optics

The aim of cancer surgery is to remove the whole tumour while leaving in place as much healthy tissue as possible (tissue conserving surgery). This surgery is challenging because surgeons lack accurate imaging tools to assess the surgical margins and confirm that the entire cancer was cut out. Therefore, there is a risk of incomplete tumour resection or cutting out too much healthy tissue.

In this inter-disciplinary PhD project, we aim to develop new optical microscopy techniques based on fluorescence imaging and Raman spectroscopy that can be used by surgeons, in the operating theatre, to identify the margins of the tumour. The images and microscopy data will be analysed using a range of machine learning techniques and artificial intelligence.

This project is based on a long-term collaboration between the Biophotonics Group (School of Physics and Astronomy), Centre for Evidence-Based Dermatology (School of Medicine) and the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. The research has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research. This fully-funded PhD studenship is supported by the British Skin Foundation.

For further information about the projects please contact Ioan Notingher ( )


The candidates should have a 1st or 2:1 degree in physics, chemistry, or biomedical engineering. They should have evidence of strong skills in optics. Basic experience of computer programming would be an advantage.

Supervisor: Dr Silke Weinfurtner

Positions available: 3

Subject Area: Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics

Funding: fully funded.

Three PhD positions on the interface between  Quantum Technology and Fundamental Physics 

 We are announcing three PhD positions to join the ‘Quantum Simulators for Fundamental Physics’ (qSimFP) initiative. QSimFP is one out of seven proposals funded through the UK Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics (QTFP) programme.  

We are looking for:  

·        two PhD students to join our experimental work, to build quantum simulators for black hole physics. This work involves the development of hybrid superfluid optomechanical devices at low temperature.  Deadline to apply 14 January 2021. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. The interviews will take place in the middle of January.

 ·      one PhD student to join our theoretical work, developing the field theoretic description of quantised wave-modes around the simulated quantum black holes.  Deadline 7January 2021

 Candidates are expected to have a strong background in areas relevant for the project, and to contribute to the project through both collaborative and individual work.  

 The qSimFP consortium is an interactive network of scientists from seven UK-based research organisations located in St.Andrews, Cambridge, King's College London, Newcastle, Nottingham, University College London and Royal Holloway University London. The three PhD students will benefit from all network activities and are expected to closely collaborate with the University of Royal Holloway and King’s College London.

Starting Date October 2021. 

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