Research degrees may be undertaken in the three main areas of research interest in the Laboratory. The growing number of academic staff are supported in their research by the technical staff and post-doctoral research fellows.
We make every attempt to allocate you to a supervisor directly in your field of interest, consistent with available funding and staff loading. When you apply, please give specific indications of your research interest – including, where appropriate, the member(s) of staff you wish to work with – and whether you are applying for a studentship or propose to be self-funded.
About The School of Physical Sciences
The School offers postgraduate students the opportunity to participate in groundbreaking science in the realms of physics, chemistry, forensics and astronomy. With strong international reputations, our staff provide plausible ideas, well-designed projects, research training and enthusiasm within a stimulating environment. Recent investment in modern laboratory equipment and computational facilities accelerates the research.
The School maintains a focus on progress to ensure each student is able to compete with their peers in their chosen field. We carefully nurture the skills, abilities and motivation of our students which are vital elements in our research activity. We offer higher degree programmes in chemistry and physics (including specialisations in forensics, astronomy and space science) by research. We also offer taught programmes in Forensic Science, studied over one year full-time, and a two-year European-style Master’s in Physics.
Our principal research covers a wide variety of topics within physics, astronomy and chemistry, ranging from specifically theoretical work on surfaces and interfaces, through mainstream experimental condensed matter physics, astrobiology, space science and astrophysics, to applied areas such as biomedical imaging, forensic imaging and space vehicle protection. We scored highly in the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with 25% of our research ranked as “world-leading” and our Functional Materials Research Group ranked 2nd nationally in the Metallurgy and Materials discipline.
Think Kent video series
Dr Barry Blight, Lecturer in Organic Chemistry at the University of Kent, discusses the use of lanthanide phosphorescence to create a Turn OFF sensor for bacterial spores such as Bacillus Anthracis (used as the carrier for the Anthrax bioweapon).
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Physical Sciences was ranked 7th in the UK for research impact and a demonstration of its importance to industry and the public sector.
An impressive 98% of our chemistry research was judged to be of international quality, with 78% of this judged world-leading or internationally excellent. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of research of international excellence.
All programmes in the School of Physical Sciences equip you with the tools you need to conduct research, solve problems, communicate effectively and transfer skills to the workplace, which means our graduates are always in high demand. Our links with industry not only provide you with the opportunity to gain work experience during your degree, but also equip you with the general and specialist skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the workplace.
Typical employment destinations for graduates from the physics programmes include power companies, aerospace, defence, optoelectronics and medical industries. Typical employment destinations for graduates from our forensic science and chemistry programmes include government agencies, consultancies, emergency services, laboratories, research or academia.
The University has good facilities for modern research in physical sciences. Among the major instrumentation and techniques available on the campus are NMR spectrometers (including solutions at 600 MHz), several infrared and uvvisible spectrometers, a Raman spectrometer, two powder X-ray diffractometers, X-ray fluorescence, atomic absorption in flame and graphite furnace mode, gel-permeation chromatography, gaschromatography, analytical and preparative highperformance liquid chromatography (including GC-MS and HPLC-MS), mass spectrometry (electrospray and MALDI), scanning electron microscopy and EDX, various microscopes (including hot-stage), differential scanning calorimetry and thermal gravimetric analysis, dionex analysis of anions and automated CHN analysis. For planetary science impact studies, there is a two-stage light gas gun.
Much of the School’s work is interdisciplinary and we have successful collaborative projects with members of the Schools of Biosciences, Computing and Engineering and Digital Arts at Kent, as well as an extensive network of international collaborations.
National and international links
The School is a leading partner in the South East Physics Network (SEPnet), a consortium of seven universities in the south-east, acting together to promote physics in the region through national and international channels. The School benefits through the £12.5 million of funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), creating new facilities and resources to enable us to expand our research portfolio.
The School’s research is well supported by contracts and grants and we have numerous collaborations with groups in universities around the world. We have particularly strong links with universities in Germany, France, Italy and the USA. UK links include King’s College, London and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. Our industrial partners include British Aerospace, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, and Ophthalmic Technology Inc, Canada. The universe is explored through collaborations with NASA, ESO and ESA scientists.
Dynamic publishing culture
Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Nature; Science; Astrophysical Journal; Journal of Polymer Science; Journal of Materials Chemistry; and Applied Optics.
Researcher Development Programme
Kent's Graduate School co-ordinates the Researcher Development Programme for research students, which includes workshops focused on research, specialist and transferable skills. The programme is mapped to the national Researcher Development Framework and covers a diverse range of topics, including subjectspecific research skills, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking and teamworking, and career management skills.
A first or second class honours degree in Physics or Chemistry. We will also consider applicants with degrees in computer science, electronics, biochemistry or other closely related disciplines.
General entry requirements
Please also see our general entry requirements.
English language entry requirements
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
Applied Optics Group (AOG)
This activity largely covers research into the fundamental properties of guided wave interferometers, and their application in fields ranging from monitoring bridge structures to diagnostic procedures in medicine.
Biomedical imaging/Optical coherence tomography (OCT)
OCT is a relatively new technique which can provide very high-resolution images of tissue, and which has a major application in imaging the human eye. We are investigating different time domain and spectral domain OCT configurations.
The Group is developing systems in collaboration with a variety of different national and international institutions to extend the OCT capabilities from systems dedicated to eye imaging to systems for endoscopy, imaging skin and tooth caries. Distinctively, the OCT systems developed at Kent can provide both transverse and longitudinal images from the tissue, along with a confocal image, useful in associating the easy to interpret en-face view with the more traditional OCT cross section views.
The Group also conducts research on coherence gated wavefront sensors and multiple path interferometry, that extend the hardware technology of OCT to imaging with reduced aberrations and to sensing applications of optical time domain reflectometry.
Forensic Imaging Group (FIG)
The research of the forensic imaging team is primarily applied, focusing on mathematical and computational techniques and employing a wide variety of image processing and analysis methods for applications in modern forensic science. The Group has attracted approximately £850,000 of research funding in the last five years, from several academic, industrial and commercial organisations in the UK and the US. The Group also collaborates closely with the Forensic Psychology Group of the Open University.
Current active research projects include:
- the development of high-quality, fast facial composite systems based on evolutionary algorithms and statistical models of human facial appearance
- interactive, evolutionary search methods and evolutionary design
- statistically rigorous ageing of photo-quality images of the human face (for tracing and identifying missing persons)
- real and pseudo 3D models for modelling and analysis of the human face
- generating ‘mathematically fair’ virtual line-ups for suspect identification.
Functional Materials Group (FMG)
The research in FMG is concerned with synthesis and characterisation of functional materials, as exemplified by materials with useful optical, catalytic, or electronic properties, and with an
emerging theme in biomaterials. The Group also uses computer modelling studies to augment
experimental work. The research covers the following main areas:
Amorphous and nanostructured solids
Our interest is in inorganic solids (primarily ceramics and glasses) which possess useful functional properties (eg electrical, optical, catalytic) stemming from their composition and/or nanostructures. Our research includes the synthesis of novel materials, the experimental characterisation of their atomic and nano-scale structure and the computer modelling of these structures and associated properties. Understanding these complex materials demands the use of a range of advanced modern characterisation methods. The truly atomic scale probes available to us are X-ray absorption spectroscopy, and X-ray and neutron diffraction. Porosimetry and analogous techniques, such as small angle scattering, allow us to probe length scales approaching microns. Our work relies on access to world-class international facilities such as the ISIS pulsed neutron source at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, and the ILL neutron and ESRF synchrotron X-ray sources in Grenoble (France). Advanced computer modelling and simulation methods are increasingly being integrated with the experimental work.
Soft functional material
One of the most exciting areas of contemporary materials research is the design of ‘soft’ functional materials organised at the nanoscale, using organic, organometallic, polymer and inorganic chemistry to investigate the synthesis of such materials. The functionality in these materials comes from one or two properties: (i) the selfassembly of varying constituent molecular or macromolecular sub units; (ii) the incorporation of biologically derived motifs. The materials are being developed as smart adhesive materials for biomaterial applications, self-assembling bioactive, electroactive and drug delivery vehicles and conducting/photoconducting liquid crystalline materials.
The Group’s research incorporates a range of synthetic skills (peptide, ligand, polymer, heterocyclic, organometallic and inorganic synthesis), using fully equipped synthetic laboratories with the associated characterisation techniques (FT-IR, UV-Vis, 1H, 13C and 29Si NMR spectroscopy, polarimetry). The group uses a number of means to examine the organisation of self-assembling materials including DSC, DMTA, polarising optical microscopy, X-ray diffraction, dynamic NMR spectroscopy and electron microscopy.
Theory and modelling of materials
The Group’s interest focuses on first principles modelling of rare earth materials, carbon nanotubes and oxides, and classical modelling of ionic solids and glasses. We primarily use first principles simulations to solve problems in condensed matter physics and materials chemistry. In the case of ionic solids, we also use classical modelling to study properties that require computer calculations.
First principles simulations are predictive and powerful tools, giving access to accurate energies and electronic structures. One strand of our research covers nanostructured materials, surfaces, oxides, carbon and water/ice in situations ranging from vacuum surface science to complex nanostructured battery electrodes.
The related applications include filled and functionalised nanotubes, electrochromic oxides, and battery materials. Another strand of research covers first principles simulations involving relativistic quantum mechanics. These are needed to accurately model the properties of rare earth materials and relativistic effects in materials, including superconductivity. We also undertake classical modelling to study time-consuming properties, such as diffusion in ionic crystals and medium-range structure of glasses.
Centre for Astrophysics and Planetary Science (CAPS)
The group’s research focuses on observational and modelling programmes in star formation, planetary science and early solar system bodies, galactic astronomy and astrobiology. We gain data from the largest telescopes in the world and in space, such as ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the New Technology Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory. We also use our in-house facilities which include a two-stage light gas gun for impact studies.
Staff are involved in a wide range of international collaborative research projects. Areas of particular interest include: star formation, extragalactic astronomy, solar system science and instrumentation development.
Staff research interests
Kent’s world-class academics provide research students with excellent supervision. The academic staff in this school and their research interests are shown below. You are strongly encouraged to contact the school to discuss your proposed research and potential supervision prior to making an application. Please note, it is possible for students to be supervised by a member of academic staff from any of Kent’s schools, providing their expertise matches your research interests. Use our ‘find a supervisor’ search to search by staff member or keyword.
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Dr Donna Arnold: Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science
Synthesis and characterisation of bulk and nano structured novel multiferroics (materials which exhibit electric and magnetic ordering); enhancement of the ferroelectric and magnetic properties of bismuth ferrite through chemical doping.Profile
Dr George Dobre: Lecturer in Applied Optics
Optical coherence tomography; optical design; interferometric sensors; fibre optic sensors.Profile
Dr Jingqi Miao: Senior Lecturer in Theoretical Astrophysics
SPH numerical simulation of collapsing molecular clouds; effect of the UV radiation on the Bright Rim clouds; DSMC modelling of the space particles impacts on spacecraft; structures and formation of proplyds.Profile
Dr Maria Alfredsson: Senior Lecturer in Theoretical Materials
Quantum-mechanical modelling of clusters, surfaces and solids; inter-atomic potential calculations of defects and grain-boundaries; high pressure and temperature simulations; H-bonding.Profile
Dr Robert E Benfield: Senior Lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry
The structure and bonding of metal clusters and nanowires; ordered arrays of metal nanowires contained within mesoporous alumina membranes, and nanoparticles of cobalt.Profile
Dr Stefano C G Biagini: Senior Lecturer in Organic Chemistry
Ring-opening metathesis polymerisations; complex monomer syntheses; block copolymers, selfassembly, properties and applications; nuclear medicine; unnatural amino acid and peptide syntheses; radiolabelling; nanoparticles; surface modifications on silica magnetite.Profile
Dr Barry Blight: Lecturer in Chemistry / Forensic Science
The development of chiral porous solids that can transfer chiral information into enantioselective reactivity in catalytic transformations; inorganic photovoltaics (O-PVDs); employing supramolecular polymerisation with new photoactive hydrogen bonding synthons.Profile
Professor Mark Burchell: Professor of Space Science
Hypervelocity impacts, the very violent events typical of solar system impacts, including: impact cratering in ices, intact capture in aerogel, impact disruption of target bodies, oblique incidence impacts, astrobiology (survival of microbial life in impact events); solar system dust using impact ionisation techniques.Profile
Dr Sam Carr: Lecturer in Physics
Theoretical condensed matter physics, in particular field theory and non-perturbative techniques applied to strongly correlated quantum many-body systems.Profile
Dr Anna Corrias: Reader in Chemistry
Preparation and characterisation of various materials: oxide glasses, amorphous alloys, nanocrystalline alloys, and nanocomposites consisting of metal or metal oxide nanoparticles embedded in a silica matrix.Profile
Dr Dirk Froebrich: Senior Lecturer in Astronomy and Astrophysics
Earliest stages of star and star cluster formation; structure and properties of molecular clouds; structure analysis of star clusters.Profile
Dr Stuart Gibson: Lecturer in Forensic Science
Digital image processing with forensic applications; computer vision; interactive evolutionary computation (IEC) and cognitive psychology relating to human facial appearance.Profile
Professor Mark Green: Professor of Materials Chemistry; Head of School
Quantum materials and magnetism: functional material, magnetic materials, superconductors, synthesis, superconducting materials.Profile
Dr Simon Holder: Senior Lecturer in Organic Chemistry
Synthesis and application of novel polymeric materials; polymerisation of dichlorodiorganosilanes to improve the yields, allowing for the first time the high yield synthesis of a variety of polysilanes at ambient temperatures; synthesis by controlled polymerisations and application of novel copolymers; design and development of novel non-invasive polymer-based optical sensor systems.Profile
Dr S.C. Lowry: Senior Lecturer in Astronomy and Astrophysics
Comets, asteroids, solar system, spacecraft and remote observation.Profile
Dr Emma McCabe: Lecturer in Chemistry
Materials chemistry and focus on the synthesis; structural characterisation and physical properties of complex transition metal oxides and mixed anion systems; magnetism in solids; inorganic chemistry synthesis; structural characterisation and crystallography, driven by the structure-property relationship and understanding how changes in the composition and structure can be used to tune the physical properties of materials.Profile
Dr Gavin Mountjoy: Reader in Condensed Matter Physics
Multi-technique characterisation of oxide glasses (including ‘sol gels’); vibrational spectroscopy of silicate glasses; use of X-ray absorption spectroscopy to characterise nanocrystalline transition metal alloys and oxides, including nanocomposite materials.Profile
Professor Bob Newport: Professor of Materials Physics
Atomic-scale structure of novel amorphous (noncrystalline) materials of contemporary interest such as nonlinear optical glasses and ‘sol gel’ glasses, which may be catalytically or biologically active.Profile
Dr J. Quintanilla-Tizon: Lecturer/SEPnet Fellow in Condensed Matter Theory
Quantum condensed matter and materials physics; spontaneous Fermi surface deformations in strongly correlated quantum matter; unconventional pairing in superconductors; complementarity between cold atom and condensed matter experiments; proximity effect in magnetic nanostructures; design of new quantum informationbased neutron scattering and cold atoms probes of strongly correlated quantum matter, and novel topological excitations in frustrated magnets.Profile
Professor Adrian Podoleanu: Professor of Biomedical Optics
Atomic-scale structure of novel amorphous (noncrystalline) materials of contemporary interest such as nonlinear optical glasses and ‘sol gel’ glasses, which may be catalytically or biologically active.Profile
Dr M.C. Price: Senior Lecturer in Space Science
Experimentally based and computer modelling of hypervelocity impacts relevant to the evolution of solar system bodies.Profile
Dr Emma Pugh: Lecturer in Physics
Experimental condensed matter physics; magnetism, unconventional superconductivity, quantum condensed states; use of low temperature, high pressure and high magnetic field sample environments; use of central facilities including X-ray and neutron scattering centres.Profile
Dr Silvia Ramos: Lecturer in Materials Science
Strongly correlated quantum matter; atomic and electronic structure; characterisation of materials using microscopic probes available at large facilities such as X-rays, neutrons and muons. Interest in materials with competing electronic order (such as superconductors or magnets) and emergent electronic order at interfaces.Profile
Dr Dean Sayle: Reader in Chemistry
Using molecular dynamics (MD) simulation to mirror experiment; ‘simulating synthesis’ at the atomistic level to generate models of nanomaterials spanning nanoparticles to mesoporous architectures, which are then interrogated to predict a variety of physical, chemical and mechanical properties and associated phenomenon.Profile
Dr Christopher Shepherd: Lecturer in Forensic Science
Ballistics with a particular emphasis on the application of modern techniques to interrogate the wounding potential of different projectiles on the human body for forensic applications.Profile
Professor Michael Smith: Professor of Astronomy
Star formation; molecular clouds; evolution of galaxies; astrophysical simulation; simulation; shock waves; planetary nebulae.Profile
Dr Christopher Solomon: Reader in Physics
Image processing and reconstruction; facial modelling, encoding and synthesis; facial composites, forensic image analysis.Profile
Professor Paul Strange: Professor of Physics
First principles calculation of the properties of condensed matter; the electronic and magnetic properties of rare earth materials, superconductors, carbon and other nanotubes; superatom materials.Profile
Professor Michael J Went: Professor of Chemistry and Forensic Science
Chemistry of co-ordinated alkynes; new chelating and macrocyclic ligands with phosphine, thioether and ether donor groups; synthesis of new radiopharmaceuticals; forensic analysis.Profile
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