Quantum optics of van der Waals heterostructures, Engineering, condensed matter physics – PhD (Funded) Ref: 3220

About the award


Dr Freddie Withers, University of Exeter

Tel. (+44)(0)1392 72 4134

Professor Bill Barnes, University of Exeter


Physics and Astronomy, Streatham Campus, Exeter

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in February 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU/International tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £14,777 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.  The student would be based in Physics and Astronomy in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter.

This project will allow the applicant to be at the forefront of an interdisciplinary team conducting world-leading research in condensed matter physics and quantum optics at Exeter. Specifically, the successful applicant will be focussed on the quantum optical phenomena of layered van der Waals materials and heterostructures as well as developing technology for the realisation of hybrid material structures and devices. The applicant will build upon work carried out by the Supervisor [1], by placing these complex structures within optical and plasmonic cavities [2]. The properties of the resultant devices will be studied from liquid helium to above room temperature with magnetic fields as high as B = 15 T.

The research field of 2D materials has been growing with unprecedented pace since the isolation of graphene in 2004 [3,4]. Two-dimensional materials have been found to display ferromagnetism and superconductivity, as well as semiconducting, insulating and metallic properties. This behaviour is found to persist even down to the single layer thickness. As a result, this family of materials will allow for an unprecedented range of new quantum devices.

During the PhD the applicant will gain a variety of skills in the areas of vacuum technology, materials science, measurement and control, cryogenics, optical systems development and nanofabrication. The project is primarily experimental in nature, but there is scope to develop some theoretical aspects as well. The applicant will have access to world class cleanroom and measurement facilities in Exeter. The applicant will have the opportunity to attend conferences and collaborative work placements globally and nationally.

For further information please email. f.withers2@exeter.ac.uk f.withers2@exeter.ac.uk

[1] Withers et al Nature Mat. 14, 301 (2015) [2] Xia et al Nature Photonics, 8, 899-907 (2014)   [3] Novoselov et al., Science, 306, 5696 (2004) [4] Geim & Grigorieva, Nature, 499, 419 (2013)

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 http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply/english/).

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).
• 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 31st December 2018.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus the week commencing 7th January 2019.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email stemm-pgr-admissions@exeter.ac.uk or phone +44 (0)1392 722730 or +44 (0)1392 725150.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.


Application deadline:31st December 2018
Value:£14,777 per year for 3.5 years
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Office Office +44 (0)1392 722730 / 5150 stemm-pgr-admissions@exeter.ac.uk