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 ground-breaking 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.
Our principal research covers a wide variety of topics, theoretical, experimental and applied – you can see a list of example topics on our available research projects page. We also offer taught programmes in Forensic Science, studied over one year full-time, and a two-year European-style Master’s in Physics (one year taught, one year research).
Think Kent video series
Dr Stephen Lowry, Senior Lecturer in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Kent, and a member of the science team for the OSIRIS optical camera instrument on board ESA's Rosetta spacecraft, examines what the mission has revealed about comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and the formation of the solar system.
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 100% of our physics research was judged to be of international quality, with 75% 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. These include: NMR spectrometers; powder X-ray diffractometers; X-ray fluorescence; atomic absorption in flame and graphite furnace mode; gel-permeation, gas, analytical and preparative high-performance liquid chromatography; mass spectrometry; scanning electron microscopy and EDX. We also have various microscopes, 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), and benefits from £2.5 million of funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The School has collaborations with universities around the world, particularly in Germany, France, Italy and the USA. UK links include King's College, London and St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. Our industrial partners include BAE Systems, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, and Ophthalmic Technology Inc, Canada. We also have collaborations with NASA, European Southern Observatory (ESO) and European Space Agency (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 subject-specific 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.
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country.
English language entry requirements
The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Need help with English?
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)
The Group’s research focuses on optical sources, optical configurations and signal processing methods for optical measurements and imaging. The Group developed the first en-face OCT image of the eye and now works with national and international institutions to extend OCT capabilities. They also conduct research on coherence gated wavefront sensors and multiple path interferometry, as well as Fast Fourier transformations on graphics cards, supercontinuum sources and fast tunable lasers.
Centre for Astrophysics and Planetary Science (CAPS)
The group’s research spans observation, experimentation, simulation and modelling. The major topics are star formation, planetary science and early solar system bodies, galactic astronomy and astrobiology. The group uses 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. They also use our in-house facilities, including a two-stage light gas gun for impact studies.
Forensic Imaging Group (FIG)
The Group’s research has an applied focus. They explore mathematical and computational techniques and employ a wide variety of image processing and analysis methods for applications in many areas, including forensics and cyber security. The Group holds major grant funding from EPSRC. It has spawned a very successful spin-out company, Visionmetric Ltd, and was central to the School’s excellent REF 2014 rating for impact; placing the School equal 7th nationally in this category.
Functional Materials Group (FMG)
Research in the multi-disciplinary FMG encompasses the synthesis, characterisation, theory and computer modelling of cutting-edge materials. Researcher are interested in finding new optical, mechanical, electronic, magnetic or biological properties that challenge present understanding or can give rise to new innovative technologies. The Group is unique nationwide in that it integrates both physicists and chemists, and its research benefits from this exchange of ideas and expertise.
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.
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.View 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.View Profile
Dr George Dobre: Lecturer in Applied Optics
Optical coherence tomography; optical design; interferometric sensors; fibre optic sensors.View 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.View 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.View Profile
Dr S.C. Lowry: Senior Lecturer in Astronomy and Astrophysics
Comets, asteroids, solar system, spacecraft and remote observation.View 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.View 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.View 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.View 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.View 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.View Profile
Dr Jorge Quintanilla: Senior Lecturer 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.View 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.View Profile
Professor Michael Smith: Professor of Astronomy
Star formation; molecular clouds; evolution of galaxies; astrophysical simulation; simulation; shock waves; planetary nebulae.View Profile
Dr Christopher Solomon: Reader in Physics
Image processing and reconstruction; facial modelling, encoding and synthesis; facial composites, forensic image analysis.View 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.View Profile
The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for Home/EU PG Research programmes have not yet been set by the Research Councils UK. This is ordinarily announced in March.
General additional costs
Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both: