School of Physical Sciences

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Research opportunities

Below you will find information on opportunities to work on research with us. We have funded positions and a list of projects available for self-funded researchers. If you have another research project in mind, get in touch and we can discuss how we can help you.


 

MSc/PhD Studentships in Chemistry and Physics

Funded postgraduate projects available in the department are displayed here.

Funded MSc Projects:

Postgraduate Scholarship in Synthetic Materials Chemistry

A funded Masters position is available in the field of smart molecular materials.

The aim of the project is to make molecules that change shape in response to light and integrate them with polymers to produce flexible materials that move selectively. This is part of a larger research programme within the Shepherd group to investigate structural changes in molecular solids and exploit those processes to produce useful motion at the macroscopic scale.  Imagine artificial muscles that can detect small changes in their environment to power artificial limbs, or surgical instruments that can sense and move carefully around delicate areas of the body.  As a first step, this research project aims to demonstrate that molecular materials can be used in this way.  The Masters position will involve synthesis of active molecular materials using standard synthetic chemistry protocols, and various materials chemistry approaches to the integration of these molecules with polymers.  It will also require evaluation of properties of the composite materials using a range of analytical techniques.  The project will thus provide the student with a broad range of technical experience across diverse areas of chemistry, preparing them well for a future career in academia or industry.

The successful candidate will be based at the University of Kent's main campus in Canterbury as part of the Functional Materials Group, and work under the supervision of Dr. Helena J. Shepherd.

This Masters Studentship is due to start in September 2018.

Entry requirements and Funding: Applicants should have or expect to obtain a first or upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in Chemistry or a closely related subject. This scholarship is funded through the School of Physical Sciences at the University of Kent in support of a research grant awarded through the EPSRC.  It will cover tuition fees at the Home/EU rate.

Contact: For further information or informal enquiries, please contact Dr H. J. Shepherd (h.j.shepherd@kent.ac.uk).

How to Apply: To apply please go to: https://www.kent.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/18/chemistry

You will need to apply through the online application form on the main University website. Please note that you will be expected to provide personal details, education and employment history and supporting documentation (Curriculum Vitae, transcript of results and the names of two academic references).

Deadline Date for Applications: 31 January 2018

Funded PhD Projects:

Postgraduate Scholarship in Phytochemicals

A PhD scholarship is available funded by the Taylor’s University Flagship Research Fund, working with Prof. Chin Kin Fah (Taylor’s University, Subang Jaya, Dr Isabel Fong (UNIMAS, Kuching, Malaysia), and Dr Christopher Serpell (University of Kent, Canterbury, UK).

The student will investigate the anti-obesity potential of phytochemicals first discovered in the Borneo rainforest. These phytochemicals give plants some of their colours, but they have also been shown to have a beneficial effect on cultured fat cells. This project will expand on those results, aiming to set the stage for clinical trials.

The successful candidate will start at Kent by synthesising the same compounds (with variations) in bulk and creating novel nanoscale delivery systems. In the second year, they will perform in vitro cell studies at UNIMAS, which will uncover structure-activity relationships, and determine the biochemical mode of action. In the third year, the candidate will study the effects of the phytochemicals on high fat induced animal models at Taylor’s University. The overall aim of the project is to discover new pharmaceuticals based on natural products which will address important societal challenges.

The student will gain diverse training including: organic synthesis, nanoscale drug formulation, in vitro and in vivo studies, immunohistochemistry, molecular genetic techniques gaining unusually broad insight into all stages in the drug development process. Furthermore, the student will benefit from valuable cultural exchange, working at an established UK university and two vibrant and highly ranked universities in Borneo and mainland Malaysia. They will enjoy the opportunities to explore diverse and fascinating parts of the world. In addition, the position will directly open up opportunities for employment in Malaysia.

This PhD Studentship is due to start in March 2018.

Funding:
Tuition fees are fully covered by this scholarship, and the student will receive £14,000 stipend for the initial year in the UK and 30,000 RM each year for the following two years while based in Malaysia.

How to Apply:
For further information, UK applicants should contact Dr Serpell (C.J.Serpell@kent.ac.uk), and Malaysian candidates should contact Prof. Chin (KinFah.Chin@taylors.edu.my) or Dr Fong (flisabel@unimas.my).

Closing Date: 31 December 2017

SEPnet PhD Scholarships: PhD Grand Challenges 2018

Take nine world-class University Physics Departments.  Bring together their research, knowledge and resources.  The result is SEPnet.
SEPnet offers PhD programmes focused on the future of physics with scholarships to match.  You will optimise the opportunity to enter your preferred field of research with your single application considered by nine universities: Hertfordshire, Kent, the Open University, Portsmouth, Queen Mary, Royal Holloway, Southampton, Surrey and Sussex. Our partners offer over 100 PhD projects every year. These projects and SEPnet Scholarships are available in the following areas of research:

  • Astrophysics
  • Atmospheric and Climate physics
  • Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics
  • Medical and Bio- Physics
  • Nuclear Physics:
  • Particle Physics
  • Physics Education
  • Quantum Technology and Condensed Matter
  • Space and Planetary Sciences
  • Theoretical Physics

The SEPnet Graduate Network (GRADnet)
GRADnet provides an extensive regional training programme for postgraduate researchers including physics training and professional skills development. For more information visit: http://www.sepnet.ac.uk/study/phd-opportunities/

How to Apply:
Applicants are invited to submit their current C.V. and a short statement of their research interests (max. 200 words) to Cristobel Soares-Smith, SEPnet Graduate Network Administrator, gradnetadmin@sepnet.ac.uk by 14 February 2018.  Selected candidates will be invited to attend an Open Day on 21 February 2018 at the Royal Astronomical Society in London in order to meet potential supervisors and learn more about GRADnet.

Closing Date:  14 February 2018

Note that you are also able apply directly to any SEPnet University separately through their standard procedures. If your application is accepted by a particular University after the closing date above, it may not be considered for this GRADnet scholarship award. The SEPnet route should be considered as a distinct path. We will endeavour to make your application available to be considered for all relevant specific awards outside this SEPnet scheme but cannot guarantee that we are aware of all advertised posts from individual supervisors. We expect awards to be made before the end of April.

 

Below is a list of projects available on a self-funded basis. If any of these are of interest please contact the relevant member of staff. If you already have a research project in mind we are always happy to discuss this with you; please contact Dr Silvia Ramos-Perez.

Research projects by Research Group

Applied Optics Research Group (AOG)

To discuss specific projects in Applied Optics, please contact Prof. A. Podoleanu.

Centre for Astrophysics and Planetary Science (CAPS)

Variable Young stars (Dr Dirk Froebrich)
The main objective of this project is to characterise long term variable young stars based on photometric and spectroscopic data. The project will utilise existing archival data, new and existing data from our own Beacon Observatory as well as data obtained as part of our citizen science project HOYS-CAPS which works with amateur astronomers. We aim to develop a classification scheme for variable young stars and utilise the statistical properties of the long term lightcurves and colour changes to investigate the mass accretion process in young stars. We also aim to identify unusual, peculiar or newly outbursting objects for detailed follow-up studies, as well as preparation for future LSST data.

Investigations of jets and outflows from young stars (Dr Dirk Froebrich)
The main objective of this project is to investigate data taken by the UK Widefield Infrared Survey for H2 - UWISH2. About half the survey area has so far not been searched for jets and outflows from young stars. The project aims to setup a Galaxy-Zoo type citizen science project to aid the identification and analysis of the data. We aim to compare the determined statistical properties of the outflows and young stars to model calculations in order to establish if the outflows can indeed be used as long term mass accretion tracers (as often claimed in the literature) or if the environment has too large an influence on the emission from these objects.

Computer simulations of radio galaxies (Prof Michael Smith)
A study of the largest objects in the Universe. This involves computer simulations of relativistic magnetohydrodynamic flows and their visualisation and analysis. Related simulations of gas flow out of nozzles to model planetary nebula and stellar jets is possible.

Radiative shocks in astrophysics (Prof Michael Smith)
These two projects involve either a mathematical or numerical study of the variable properties of shock waves associated with supernovae remnants, planetary nebula and the interstellar medium.

Star-forming clouds (Prof Michael Smith)
Multi-dimensional computer simulations of gas flows, aimed at understanding how molecules are destroyed in supersonic turbulence. This involves large-scale computer simulations, visualisation and analysis. A related project involves the modelling of the formation of stars as they evolve.

Evaluating the impact of expanding HII region on local star formation (Dr James Urquhart)
This project involves identifying a large number of large HII region bubbles using multi-wavelength survey data and linking these to the dense star-forming clumps located around them. Once a viable sample has been identified these will be compared to star formation taking place in different environments (quiescent clumps and active star forming complexes). If the triggered star formation models are correct then we should find the star formation taking place on the edge of bubbles to be significantly enhanced compared to star formation taking place in more quiescent regions. This will involve some detailed analysis of multi-wavelength observational data sets, statistical analysis of different samples and comparison to theoretical predictions.

Investigating the connection between clumps, filaments and the spiral arms (Dr James Urquhart)
This project will investigate the link between the large scale structure of the Milky Way and star formation. The primary objective is to investigate the Galaxy as a driver of star formation. This will be achieved by identifying and fully characterising a population of giant molecular filaments (GMFs) and investigate their connection with the spiral arms and their role in the star formation process. This project will identify many hundreds of GMFs, which will be used to investigate their formation mechanisms (Galactic shear, magnetic fields, converging flows etc) and determine how mass flows through these structures into the denser regions where the star formation is concentrated. This project will focus on the exploitation of multi-wavelength continuum and spectral-line Galactic plane surveys that have recently been completed.

Reverse Engineer the Structure of the Milky Way (Dr James Urquhart)
Recent surveys of the Galactic plane provide a vast amount of observation information that can be used to constrain possible models of the structure of the Galaxy. This project will develop a Monte Carlo code to generate synthetic observational data sets from a variety of proposed models of the distribution of gas in the Galaxy. The constraints obtained from the real observations will be used to guide the iterative development of the Monte Carlo code. This will provide insight into the real distribution of molecule gas in the Milky Way.

Forensic Imaging Research Group (FIG)

To discuss specific projects in Forensic Imaging, please contact Dr. C. Solomon.

Functional Materials Research Group (FMG)

From micro- to meso-scale modelling of crystals with structural complexity (Dr Nicholas Bristowe)
The modelling of complex materials from first principles, such as density functional theory, is often practically limited to the microscope. Many important phenomena, however, including phase transitions, dynamical properties, the role of defects and the response to external fields, requires an understanding at the mesoscale. Recently our group, in collaboration with Jorge Iniguez (LIST), has been testing the development of an all-atom model potential built from first principles. These potentials are systematically improvable and computationally efficient and will enable modelling of mesoscale phenomena in complex systems with near first principles accuracy.

Magnetic ordering at surfaces from first principles (Dr Nicholas Bristowe)
The understanding of magnetism in nanoscale objects is likely to be key to the future of magnetic memory and other electronic and spintronic devices. Unfortunately, current modelling is often not fully predictive since, in practice, it requires parameterisation from experimental data. On the other hand, the predictive power of first principles calculations is often limited to over-simplified systems to make computations tractable. The Siesta method, based on Density Functional Theory, is one of the first principles techniques better-suited to surface studies, due to its localised basis set. In collaboration with the group of Miguel Pruneda (Theory & Simulation Group at ICN2, Barcelona), who is implementing spin orbit coupling in Siesta, we will be studying magnetic anisotropy and emergent magnetic phases at various crystal surfaces.

Using Glass Ceramics to Make Nuclear Waste Safer (Dr Gavin Mountjoy)
Nuclear power provides 30% of the electrical supply. At the end of the lifetime of nuclear reactors there needs to be safe disposal of radioactive waste. This is done using "vitrification" to produce a "glass waste form" which is a type of glass ceramic. This project will study (non-radioactive) samples of base glasses and glass waste forms from the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL). Computer modelling will be used to study the atomic structure of base glass, and x-ray techniques will be used to study waste elements in the waste forms. Additionally, scanning electron microscopy will be used to image the waste forms. The goal is to improve the efficiency of the vitrification process.

Magnetism, Superconductivity and Novel Quantum Order (Dr Emma Pugh)
In some materials in which the electrons have strong interactions, new quantum ordered states, including unconventional superconducting states, can be produced which cannot be explained by the traditional low temperature theories of matter. These materials have varied and interesting properties with the possibility of technical applications. It has been found that there is a strong inter-relationship between structure, electronic and magnetic properties. The aim of this project is to investigate variations in the crystal structure in a number of magnetic systems and relate these changes to the electronic and magnetic properties of the materials. This would be done by performing x-ray diffraction measurements and computational modelling. The balance between can be tailored to the students interests. For example a project could incorporate experimental and computational work or all computational. I am happy to discuss the various options.

Entanglement Phenomena in Quantum Magnets (Dr Jorge Quintanilla)
Entanglement is one of the defining features of quantum theory and also one of the most puzzling. The results of measurements carried out on two objects are correlated even when the objects are separated by large distances (so even light would not be able to travel between the objects in time to transmit a signal). This correlation exists even when the measured properties themselves are entirely undetermined before the measurement. Although most experimental information about entanglement has been obtained using carefully-prepared states of individual particles, e.g. photons, we believe that the individual magnetic moments of atoms in quantum magnets are also naturally entangled. You will use analytical and computational techniques to predict experimental signatures of entanglement-related phenomena in such systems e.g. in neutron scattering. You will work as part of an international collaboration involving theorists and experimentalists, including the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory's neutron scattering facility.

Unconventional superconductors: New Paradigms for New Materials (Dr Jorge Quintanilla)
Superconductivity is a fascinating phenomenon in which electrons display macroscopic quantum coherence. It has many applications from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to ultra-fast levitating trains (MagLev). There is, however, a growing number of so-called "unconventional superconductors" with many puzzling and potentially useful properties which do not fit existing theories. In this project we will investigate such materials using theoretical and computational techniques. You will become a member of the EPSRC-funded collaboration "Unconventional Superconductors: New Paradigms for New Materials", working as part of an international team of theorists and also in close contact with some of the top experimental groups in this rapidly-growing field.

Designing Frameworks with Advanced Magnetic and Electronic Functions (Dr Paul Saines)
Modern technologies need compounds that respond to electric or magnetic signals with more advanced function than conventional materials. This includes relaxor ferroelectrics, which enable improved precision motors and ultrasound devices through their high susceptibility to polarisation, and multiferroics, in which ferroelectric and magnetic properties can couple, promising great advances in computer memory density. Recently Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs), in which cations are connected by an organic ligand into an extended structure, have attracted great attention for their ability to exhibit such functional properties by new routes. Projects are available in the Saines group examining the smart design of functional frameworks with greatly improved properties through an understanding of how these properties arise from their atomic structure, with the balance of focus on synthesis of new compounds and materials characterisation flexible to meet a student's interests.

Ionic Conducting Frameworks for "Green" Energy Applications (Dr Paul Saines)
The need to develop improved clean energy technologies to minimise the effects of climate change becomes more important every year.  This includes both Li and Na ion batteries and low temperature fuel cells in which energy is generated from the efficient reaction of hydrogen and oxygen to make water. Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs), in which cations are connected by an organic ligand into an extended structure, have recently shown tremendous promise as a new class of ionic conducting materials for these applications because of their ability to incorporate functional groups in their organic ligands and their significant porosity. Projects are available creating new ionic-conducting MOFs through a microscopic understanding of the link between atomic structure and physical properties, with the balance between making new compounds and materials characterisation tuneable to meet a student's interests and background.

Although we offer a number of funded research positions, if none of these are suitable for you there are a number of sources for funding. If you are interested in a project from our self-funded projects list or you have your own research in mind that we can support check the links below to see if you are eligible for funding.

University of Kent Scholarships

You can use the Scholarship Finder tool to find a scholarship suitable for you. More general information and advice can be found on our Scholarships page.

External PhD and Masters funding opportunities


A loan scheme is available to UK/EU students for funding Masters degrees. You can see more information here: https://www.kent.ac.uk/scholarships/search/FNADPGLOAN02 (please note, certain criteria applies).

There are a number of institutions that will provide funding to carry out postgraduate studies. Below is a list of examples.

If you are considering applying to any of them, often you will find that the application requires a project and the backing of a higher education institution. Please contact Dr Silvia Ramos-Perez who will be happy to discuss this with you.

There are also a number of countries that offer funding to carry out postgraduate studies in the UK. We recommend you check what sources of funding might be available in your own country. Below is a list of some of those programs.

School of Physical Sciences, Ingram Building, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NH

Enquiries: contact us

Last Updated: 29/11/2017