Funded Opportunities

The following fully-funded PhD projects are currently available.

Silicon-based semiconductor quantum dot/ring lasers (Dr Qiandong Zhuang)

Supervisor:  Dr Qiandong Zhuang

Applications are invited for a prestigious 4 year EPSRC PhD studentship to join a world-leading research group working on cutting edge III-V compound semiconductor quantum materials and optoelectronics.

Project Description

‌This project will focus on developing advanced lasers operating in infrared ranges for telecom use gas analysing. The project will involve developing a novel buffer technology and efficient semiconductor quantum materials and optimising device processing in a state-of-the-art cleanroom, to demonstrate telecom lasers monolithically on silicon and mid-wavelength infrared lasers for gas analysing. The project is part of newly funded projects through EPSRC Silicon Photonics for Future Systems consortium and Innovate UK. Two industrial partners from UK and China are involved in the project so there are possible secondments to conduct experiment using state-of-the-art test instruments and learn management approaches. 

The Physics Department is holder of Athena SWAN Silver Award and JUNO Championship status and is strongly committed to fostering diversity within its community as a source of excellence, cultural enrichment, and social strength. We welcome those who would contribute to the further diversification of our department.

Please contact Dr Qiandong Zhuang (  for any additional enquires.  You can also apply directly here stating the title of the project and the name of the supervisor.


Academic requirements: Candidates must have a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics, Electrical Engineering or Materials Science, and a relevant Master’s degree or equivalent research experience as demonstrated by international journal publications. A strong curriculum and portfolio of undergraduate courses covering condensed matter physics and optics, as well as additional materials-science related undergraduate or Master’s education is desirable.

Residency Criteria: Due to funding restrictions, this studentship is only open to UK nationals or those eligible according to EPSRC -


The PhD starting date is 1st October 2017. This is a four year fully funded EPSRC scholarship covering UK tuition fees and a maintenance stipend.

Closing Date

31st August 2017

A Twisted Tail of the Earth’s Magnetosphere

Supervisor: Dr Adrian Grocott

The Earth’s magnetosphere is a highly dynamic region of electromagnetic fields, electrical currents and plasma flows. Controlled primarily by coupling between the magnetosphere and interplanetary space, the convection pattern of magnetospheric plasma responds to changes in the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). Significantly, the dawn-dusk component of the IMF will introduce asymmetries to the plasma flow, leading to a twisting of the magnetotail – the part of the magnetosphere that extends far downstream of the Earth in the solar wind flow. This twist then imparts additional asymmetries on the magnetic field, particle populations and the coupled ionospheric electrodynamics. Given that the average orientation of the IMF includes a dawn-dusk component, we expect such an asymmetric state to be the norm for the magnetosphere, yet the magnetosphere is often treated as a symmetric system.  To better understand the dynamics of near-Earth space and the interaction with the solar wind, it is important we understand the mechanisms that control the asymmetry and properly integrate them into our theoretical models of the coupled solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere system.

In a study of Cluster spacecraft and SuperDARN ionospheric radar observations, Grocott et al. [2007] identified a similarity between asymmetric magnetotail plasma flows and their ionospheric counterpart that was consistent with a model of the twisted tail. The aim of this PhD project is to expand on that earlier work, to demonstrate the how asymmetries in solar wind-magnetosphere coupling propagate through the magnetosphere to the ionosphere. Using observations of the magnetospheric magnetic field and flows, from Earth-orbiting spacecraft such as Cluster and THEMIS, the different asymmetries in the magnetotail will first be catalogued. These observations will then be compared with upstream solar wind monitoring satellite data to deduce the dependence on the solar wind conditions of these asymmetries, and on what timescales they are driven. The concurrent ionospheric plasma flows, measured by SuperDARN, will then be inspected in an effort to refine our understanding of the associated magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling mechanisms.

The Solar Wind and Interplanetary Magnetic Field at Mars

Supervisor: Professor Jim Wild

Unlike the Earth, Jupiter and Saturn, Mars lacks a strong planetary magnetic field.  However, the interaction of the ionised Martian upper atmosphere with the supersonic solar wind generates an induced magnetosphere that presents a conductive obstacle to the incoming solar wind and its embedded interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). The resulting solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere interactions, modified by the contribution of localised crustal magnetic fields, are quite different to those at strongly magnetized planets and have been the focus of international research over the last two decades.

At Earth, continuous solar wind and IMF measurements made at the L1 Lagrange point reveal the energy and mass inputs to the coupled magnetosphere-ionosphere system, controlled strongly by the relative orientation of the interplanetary and terrestrial magnetic fields.  However, one of the foremost challenges in understanding the relationships between magnetised solar wind drivers and magnetosphere, ionosphere and atmospheric responses at Mars has been a scarcity of such upstream data.  Except for a relatively small number of fortuitous satellite conjunctions, upstream parameters are usually inferred from proxy data, sometimes requiring unrealistic assumptions regarding spatial and/or temporal variability that would be unacceptable in the terrestrial context.  In this project, the student will assess the credibility and impact of such assumptions and test alternative methodologies through data analysis and modelling.

Project goals include:

  • To characterise the variability of the quiescent/background solar wind and the embedded IMF at Mars through an analysis of in situ field and plasma measurements.
  • To assess how effective current state-of-the-art solar wind/IMF propagation models are at estimating the plasma speed, density and magnetic field properties in the Martian environment.
  • To explore new forecasting techniques to provide reliable solar wind and IMF parameters at Mars and other planets.