Future-forming interdisciplinary research

Narrative and Nuclear Materials: Fully Funded PhD studentship (3 year) in Department of Languages and Cultures


The Leverhulme Centre for Material Social Futures Research 

Lancaster University’s Leverhulme Doctoral Training Centre in Material Social Futures is a major new strategic collaborative partnership between two of the university’s recently formed research Institutes – the Institute for Social Futures and the Material Science Institute. Based in the Department of Languages and Cultures you will be part of a growing team of PhDs who will examine how to create more sustainable and socially beneficial futures, and who will be trained to engage in diverse aspects of materials discovery and the analysis of cultural, social and economic structures to achieve these ends. In short, the goal of PhDs in Material Social Futures will be to help produce futures that people want and the world needs.


Lancaster University is one of the top 10 universities in the UK. Literary research at the Department of Languages and Cultures contributed to a 3rd-place ranking in the UK in terms of world-leading research power in the most recent research excellence framework exercise (REF2014). The project will benefit from full access to the state-of-the-art facilities of Lancaster’s library, its Special Collections and archives, the Materials Science Institute and the new ultra-isolated environment lab.


  • Funding: Annual tax-free stipend of £14,777 (which will increment yearly)
  • Hours: Full Time
  • Eligibility: UK and EU Students
  • Closing Date: 1st June 2018, for October 1st 2018 start



We live in a world where energy demand continues to expand. Individuals and institutions do not just use more, they consume it in ever more diverse ways. Whilst there might be a willingness to use more sustainable power sources, the increase in demand outstrips the pace with which new sources can be developed, and no source of energy is without its ecological and social consequences. Furthermore, the cultural narratives that shape and frame public expectations around energy are sometimes as powerful as the possibilities of technology. A body of literary, cinematic, graphic and visual work mediates the public imaginary when it comes to nuclear power. From eco-literature, to dystopian and utopian imaginings, through science fiction, comics and the gothic, these potent cultural narratives intersect with scientific discourse, as well as with the social narratives constructed through broader public discourse on nuclear power, its weaponization, legacy, and waste.


The project

The central premise of this research is that long-term solutions to nuclear materials cannot be found through technological innovation alone but through a joined-up approach that combines scientific knowledge with far-reaching cultural and social epistemologies. Your proposed project will therefore investigate the relationship between narrative, broadly conceived, nuclear materials and social futures as they play out in a particular cultural area (this may be defined geographically, linguistically, or by some other discrete parameter, e.g. genre). The project will combine scientific research into nuclear materials, their legacy and distribution, with social-sciences and humanities methodologies that involve taking seriously the cultural narratives that inform public perceptions of nuclear materials.


The concerns of the project will be cultural, sociological, environmental, and material, though in this PhD the emphasis will be on the socio-cultural. Your project may propose close work with civic communities in the North West of England, where the issue of nuclear materials legacy remains highly contentious and urgent, or engage with communities addressing similar issues in other parts of the globe. The PhD on ‘Narrative and Nuclear Materials’ will be undertaken alongside and in collaboration with a PhD on ‘Safer nuclear fuels for a sustainable world’ based in the Engineering Department. The combination is intended to develop a multidimensional understanding of a nuclear future.

Further Details

  • Cover full payment of academic fees (at the standard RCUK rate);
  • A maintenance stipend (£14,777 pa);
  • Access to a Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) for reimbursement of research-related expenses including – but not limited to – conference attendance, training courses and equipment of at least £800 p.a.;
  • Access to a range of training and development provided by the Material Social Futures PhD Programme, the Department of Languages and Cultures, the Engineering Department, the Faculty of Science and Technology, the Institute for Social Futures and Lancaster University;
  • The Material Social Futures PhD programme will offer internships (including international placements) in the second and/or third year of training.



You should have, or expect to obtain soon, a Master’s Degree or equivalent in the Social Sciences, Modern Languages, English Literature, Comparative Literature or a related discipline. You should have excellent skills in literary and cultural analysis and the desire to work in a multidisciplinary environment.


Application details

Please apply online via the University Postgraduate Admissions Portal at http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/how-to-apply-for-postgraduate-study/ with:

  • A CV (2 pages maximum)
  • Cover letter
  • Research proposal
  • Two references
  • University grade transcripts (where available)


You should clearly state on your application that you are applying for a funded PhD opportunity on ‘Narrative and Nuclear Materials’.


Contact Us

We very much welcome informal queries about this opportunity, which should be directed to Dr. Emily Spiers (e.spiers@lancaster.ac.uk).


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