Physics PhD studentship (aligned to EPSRC CDT in Metamaterials): Towards flexible micro-endoscopy: compressive characterisation and control of light propagation through multi-mode optical fibres Ref: 3033

About the award

The studentship is part of the UK’s Centre of Doctoral Training in Metamaterials (XM2) based in the Departments of Physics and Engineering on the Streatham Campus in Exeter.  Its aim is to undertake world-leading research, while training scientists and engineers with the relevant research skills and knowledge, and professional attributes for industry and academia.

Please see our website for more details about the centre and programme  

International students are welcome to apply. This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend.  For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £14,777 per year tax-free stipend.  Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend. In these cases applicants will need to provide evidence of how they will pay the international component of the fees.

Joint supervisors: Dr David Phillips, Dr Jacopo Bertolotti

Statement of Research

Multi-mode optical fibres make excellent candidates for future micro-endoscopes: promising high-resolution imaging deep inside the body with minimal disruption to surrounding tissue due to their small (~300um diameter) footprint. However, before this can become a reality there are some significant challenges to overcome, which this project aims to address:

As light propagates through optical fibres, the spatial information is scrambled in a complicated manner, meaning that the wavefront emerging from the near end no longer forms an image of the scene at the far end. This scrambling operation must be characterised and inverted to reconstruct the image, which is a complex and time-consuming process. Current methods to characterize the scrambling through optical fibres require access to both the near and far ends. Unfortunately, the scrambling is dependent upon the precise configuration of the optical fibres – any bending, twisting, or changes in temperature alter how the light is scrambled, thus requiring its re-characterisation before image reconstruction can be achieved. This limits the use of such a system as an endoscope where only the near end of the optical fibre is accessible.

In this project we will aim to solve these challenges using a combination of cutting-edge laser beam shaping technology and new computational techniques based on the field of compressive sensing – reconstructing images from undersampled data. The project will involve laboratory-based experiments using lasers, liquid crystal displays and fast cameras. It will also involve programming these devices to work together, and designing new data analysis algorithms. This project will suit a highly motivated student who is keen to develop their experimental and programming skills (e.g. LabVIEW, Matlab, Python). The work will be undertaken as part of a larger project with researchers in Europe, and so there will be the opportunity to travel to work with collaborators on mainland Europe, and to present results at international conferences.

This project is aligned with the Exeter centre of doctoral training in metamaterials. You will join a team of ~20 PhD students on this programme, investigating novel ways to shape light and other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum to develop a wide range of innovative new technologies. Through this project you will get the chance to contribute to the development of a new kind of medical instrument – a hair thin endoscope that can see individual cells high resolution inside the body. In the future we hope these devices will help to revolutionise healthcare technologies.

About XM2

Metamaterials are fabricated microstructures having properties beyond those found in nature. They are emerging as an important new class of materials with applications in many technology areas, from energy harvesting, through perfect imaging, to the much-hyped ‘cloaking’. Having recruited over 50 new PhD researchers in its first three years, the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (XM2) hosted by the University of Exeter ( will admit its fourth cohort of 14-18 PhD students in September 2017.

Exeter has a well-established and strong track record of relevant research, spanning a unique mix of interests. We will run projects in the following fields (see our list of themes for full details)

  • Optical, Infra-red and THz Photonics and Plasmonics
  • Microwave Metamaterials
  • Magnonics, Spintronics and Magnetic Metamaterials
  • Acoustic and Fluid-dynamical Metamaterials
  • Wave Theory and Spatial Transformations
  • Graphene and other 2D Materials, and related Devices
  • Nanomaterials and Nanocomposites
  • Biological and Bio-inspired Metamaterials
  • Quantum Metamaterials

The first year of the studentship includes an assessed, stand alone project, and a substantial programme of training. Students will choose from a wide range of taught modules, and participate in academic and personal development skills-based workshops, together with creativity events and conference-style meetings. The cohort will also be expected to disseminate their results to the international community via high-impact publications and international conferences. They will spend time working with our academic and industrial partners.  Full details of the programme are available here, or email us for a copy of our prospectus.

The University of Exeter is a top 10 UK university, in the top 1% of universities globally, and a member of the elite Russell Group of institutions. The University has committed itself to a substantial expansion in its science base and within Physics and Engineering, over £10m has been spent on infrastructure since 2008 and around 30 new academic staff have been appointed across the Centre's themes.


Application deadline:31st March 2018
Number of awards:1
Value:This project is a 3.5 year long PhD studentship. For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £14,777 per year, for 3.5 years (42 months) full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Prof. Alastair Hibbins (Admissions Tutor)

How to apply

Application criteria

During the application process you will need to upload the documents listed below. Please prepare these before starting the application process.

  • A statement describing why you would like to study for a PhD in Physics or Engineering,
  • A statement describing why you are considering a PhD programme that offers a cohort-based doctoral training model,
  • An academic CV,
  • A document outlining your research interests and any relevant expertise,
  • Degree transcript(s) giving information about the qualification awarded, the modules taken during the study period, and the marks for each module taken.

In addition, we advise that you upload a cover letter or provide further information about your your preferred area(s) of study within the XM2 themes and/or your interest in a particular project, and also whether you've been in contact with a particular supervisor. You will be asked to provide the contact details of two academic referees.

Please note that of the 25 projects advertised we expect, as a Centre, to fill 14-18 posts only.


Application procedure

Applications should be made via the Apply Online system.  Please email if you have any queries about this process. 

You will need to specify that you are making a Research application, with a keyword search of Metamaterials, specifying the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, and Full Time.  Please then select the course, Physics / Engineering (CDT) - Metamaterials - Doctor of Philosophy - (Full Time) with the start date September 2018.

Shortlisting and interviews

Applications will be reviewed by members of the XM2 management board and candidates will be short-listed against a set of agreed criteria to ensure quality while maintaining diversity. Failure to include all the the elements above may result in rejection. Criteria will include:


  • Excellence in a lower degree in a relevant discipline;
  • Excellence in written and oral skills in English;
  • Evidence of knowledge of XM2 ethos, research themes and/or supervisors.


  • Specialist knowledge about one or more XM2 topics;
  • Research outputs (e.g. papers) and/or has undertaken training in research methodology (e.g. undergraduate research projects);
  • Ability to work collaboratively

Short-listed candidates will be interviewed by a panel of two academic members of staff drawn from the management board. If successful, a second interview will be undertaken by the potential academic supervisors for the student concerned. Offers are normally made shortly after a successful second interview.