Quantum Correlation in Three-Radical Systems: A New Avenue to Magnetic Field Effects - Physics - EPSRC DTP funded PhD Studentship Ref: 2900

About the award

This project is one of a number funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership to commence in September 2018. This project is in direct competition with others for funding; the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding.

The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,553 per annum for 2017-2018. It will provide research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.

Please note that of the total number of projects within the competition, up to 15 studentships will be filled.

Dr. Daniel Kattnig

Streatham Campus, Exeter

Project Description
Our vision is to harness the extraordinary quantum effects that arise in organic molecular systems from subtle spin-dependent interactions. We aim for a fundamental understanding of the governing principles, which will translate into new technological applications, a reassessment of related health implications and insights in the emerging field of quantum biology.

Remarkable quantum effects can render radical pair reactions sensitive to weak magnetic fields. Despite their small magnitude, these magnetic field effects are thought to underlie a compass sense in many animals, most notably migratory songbirds. Furthermore, magnetosensitive radical pair reactions have been implicated in, partly controversial, studies of health risks related to magnetic field exposure (such as those produced by household appliances and power lines). The common, established mechanism - the radical pair mechanism - requires that the chemical kinetics are matched to the quantum-coherent evolution of a spin-correlated and often entangled pair of electron spins and that decoherence processes are slow.

We have recently proposed an alternative mechanism that relies on the chemical Zeno effect and involves the interaction of three instead of two radicals. Preliminary model calculations suggest that through this process the sensitivity of the quantum magnetic compass can be dramatically boosted. Furthermore, the effect could provide a new avenue to magnetic field effects under conditions for which the established radical pair mechanism is inefficient because the above-mentioned requirements are not fulfilled.

The aim of this EPSRC-funded PhD scholarship is the identification of conditions and related constraints under which the chemical Zeno effect can give rise to sizable magnetic field effects in response to weak magnetic fields (of the order of 0.1 mT). The candidate will develop the theoretical models and numerical tools needed to provide a deep understanding of the underlying quantum physics and enable potential applications of the new mechanism in fields ranging from Quantum Biology (avian quantum compass) through the assessment of health hazards (e.g. those related to magnetic field effects on lipid autoxidation) to material science (sensor applications). The focus will be on modelling spin dynamics and decoherence processes in reaction-diffusion systems; investigating the role of correlation in multi-radical mechanisms; developing approaches to accelerate Liouville-space simulations of large, densely coupled spin systems, and the application of the derived models to questions of biological significance.

Advantageous skills and traits: interest in quantum mechanics, biophysics and interdisciplinary research; affinity to theoretical work; familiarity with programming in a scripting language (e.g. Matlab, Julia, Python) and basic numerical methods. Candidates unfamiliar with programming may expect to acquire the essential skills during the course of this project.

Entry Requirements
You should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in Physics, Mathematics or (Physical) Chemistry. Experience in Spin Chemistry, Quantum Physics, magnetic resonance theory, Biophysics, numerical mathematics or a cognate subject area is desirable.

The majority of the studentships are available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK and are classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes.  If you have not resided in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship, you are not eligible for a maintenance allowance so you would need an alternative source of funding for living costs. To be eligible for fees-only funding you must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU.  For information on EPSRC residency criteria click here.

Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are NOT eligible for funding. International students interested in studying at the University of Exeter should search our funding database for alternative options.


Application deadline:10th January 2018
Value:3.5 year studentship: UK/EU tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate. Current rate of £14,553 per year.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Doctoral Collegepgrenquiries@exeter.ac.uk

How to apply

You will be required to upload the following documents:
•       CV
•       Letter of application outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to
        undertake the project.
•       Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.  This should be an interim
        transcript if you are still studying.
•       If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your current
        proficiency in English.  For further details of the University’s English language requirements please see

The closing date for applications is midnight (GMT) on Wednesday 10 January 2018.  Interviews will be held at the University of Exeter in late February 2018.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email: pgrenquiries@exeter.ac.uk.
Project-specific queries should be directed to the supervisor.

During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates.  These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to:

• the selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant programme, which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;
• administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant programme.

Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent.