Advanced computational electromagnetics for nanophotonics and biosensing MPhil/PhD Ref: 3030

About the award

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences (CEMPS), in partnership with A*Star, Singapore, is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in September 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter.  The studentship will cover tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £14,777 for 4 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.  The student will be based in the CEMPS at the Streatham Campus in Exeter. As per the program plan, the studies in year 2 and 3 will be conducted at the A*Star Institute for High Performance Computing (IHPC) in Singapore when the student will be supported by an A*STAR ARAP studentship which includes a monthly stipend, one-time airfare grant and a one-time settling-in allowance.


Department of Physics and Astronomy, Living Systems Institute, Streatham Campus, Exeter, UK
Institute of High Performance Computing, A*STAR Singapore

Academic Supervisors:
Professor Frank Vollmer, Living Systems Institute, University of Exeter
Dr Jolly Xavier, Research Fellow, University of Exeter
Dr Ong Phuong Khuong (IHPC main supervisor), Dr Yuriy Akimov, IHPC, A*STAR, Singapore

Project Description:
Photonic technologies play a key role as building blocks in advanced biomolecular sensors and new generation medical diagnostics tools. They offer the potential for advanced sensing in healthcare and as novel analytical tools in the life sciences. We are now at the stage where advanced computational electromagnetic techniques are required to analyse complex nanophotonic architectures in response to intricate biomolecular structure and resulting light matter interactions [1, 2].

The present PhD project will explore full-wave electromagnetic simulation techniques of advanced optical sensor structures to achieve these goals. The student will develop the theoretical electromagnetic modelling, algorithms and advanced optical simulation tools at IHPC in Singapore. The student will apply the suite of analysis tools to nanophotonic single-molecule sensors developed in Prof Vollmer’s laboratory at the Living Systems Institute, University in Exeter.
Fully utilising the advanced computational capabilities of the A*STAR Institute for High Performance Computing in Singapore the student will combine the computational photonics, nanophotonics and plasmonics with molecular dynamics and density functional theory simulation techniques.

Our goal is to dramatically advance modelling and simulation capabilities of complex nanophotonic structures and their response to biomolecular structure and dynamics. We would like to develop a computational suite that allows us to analyse single-molecule sensor data to visualise the structural dynamics of single proteins [1,2]. The results of this study is expected to nurture  in depth impact on our understanding of light-matter interactions at the nanoscale. The results will lead to entirely novel designs for nanophotonic sensors for high-resolution visualisation of protein structure beyond the diffraction limit. 

In summary, the student will be work on the following cutting-edge computational techniques:
1. Advanced computational electromagnetics of photonic and plasmonic nanostructures
2. Advanced molecular dynamics modelling and simulations of single protein dynamics
3. Density Functional Theory simulations for molecules attached to plasmonic nanoantennas
4. Perturbation theory for hybrid metal-dielectric (opto-plasmonic) sensor systems

The award of this studentship will be conditional on the candidates successful application to the A*STAR Research Attachment Programme (ARAP). The A*STAR ARAP scheme will fund PhD students to spend up to 2 years in Singapore with a stipend. This includes a monthly stipend, a one-time airfare grant, a settling in grant, medical insurance and conference allowance.

Entry requirements:
Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology. 
If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable see



Application deadline:27th February 2018
Number of awards:1
Value:£14,777 per year
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Postgraduate Research

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents. 
• CV
• Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
• Research proposal
• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
• Names of two referees familiar with your academic work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.
• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English

The closing date for applications is midnight on February 27th, 2018.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus from March 2nd, 2018.
If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 722730.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.