University of Exeter funding: Nanoscale 3D printing of next gener

PhD in Physics: Nanoscale 3D printing of next generation photonic devices Ref: 3443

About the award

The studentship is aligned to the UK’s Centre of Doctoral Training in Metamaterials (XM2) based in the Departments of Physics and Engineering on the Streatham Campus in Exeter.  Our 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.

This 3.5 year studentship covers UK/EU/international tuition fees and a tax-free stipend.  For students who pay UK/EU/international tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £14,777 per year tax-free stipend. This studentship is funded through the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 804626).

The studentship will be aligned to the CDT in Metamaterials to enable access to comprehensive technical and transferable skills training.

Exeter has a well-established and strong track record of relevant research, and prospective students can consider projects from a wide variety of fields:

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

Please visit to learn more about our centre and see the list of projects that we have on offer this year.

Statement of Research

Supervisors: Dr David Phillips, Dr Alex Corbett.

Imagine looking through a frosted glass window: the scene on the other side is distorted and the detail cannot be discerned. Now hold up a second piece of frosted glass in front of the first - suddenly you can see clearly through both as if they were transparent. This second piece of frosted glass doesn’t currently exist. The aim of this project is to design and build it.

Unscrambling light in this way enables more than simply looking through frosted glass: it heralds a range of powerful new applications to the fields of in vivo imaging, microscopy and blind 3D ranging (e.g. looking around corners), promising systems capable of imaging in situations previously considered intractable. For example, infra-red light can penetrate biological tissue, but the scattering scrambles spatial information it carries making direct imaging impossible. Understanding how to design and build photonic devices that unscramble this light will allow us to take the first steps towards high-resolution imaging inside the body, with harmless non-ionizing radiation. In addition, development of these new light-shaping systems simultaneously offers a wealth of new applications in, for example, optical computing, optical communications, and quantum optics.

To tackle this challenging area, through this project we will build a 3D direct laser writing system capable of creating waveguides and scattering occlusions directly into glass. These will designed to perform precise optical transformations. To achieve this, the project builds upon a number of recent computational and experimental breakthroughs, to both design and characterize the photonic devices, in which the supervisory team has lots of experience. Therefore, realizing the first of these artificial scattering systems is now within our reach. This is a primarily experimental project, although it will also involve some computational simulations, and programming for data analysis. There is a range of directions that the research can take, and during the latter stages of the project you will be encouraged to develop and follow your own ideas in this exciting new field.

In summary: This is an experimental project to develop photonic components and explore their applications to next generation imaging systems and beyond. You will be based in the University of Exeter physics department, and conduct your research in brand new dedicated laser lab facilities. You will join a friendly and enthusiastic team of eight researchers in the Phillips and Corbett research groups working in the area of photonic nanoscale 3D printing at Exeter. During the project you will develop significant expertise in programming, optical system design and, more generally, the fields of photonics and imaging. Throughout the project, there will also be opportunity to develop your communication skills through publication of peer-reviewed papers and attendance at international conferences. This research project would ideally suit a candidate with a background in one of the following disciplines: Physics, Electronic Engineering, Computer Science, Natural Sciences, although we will also consider enthusiastic applicants who demonstrate skills in related areas of science and technology.

About XM2

Metamaterials are fabricated microstructures having properties beyond those found in nature. They are an important new class of electromagnetic and acoustic materials with applications in many technology areas: energy storage and improved efficiency, imaging, communications, sensing and the much-hyped ‘cloaking’. Having recruited over 80 PhD researchers since 2014, the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (XM2) ( will admit the next cohort of PhD students in September 2019.

The University of Exeter combines world class research with excellent student satisfaction. It is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive universities. Formed in 1955, the University has over 20,000 students from more than 130 different countries. Its success is built on a strong partnership with its students and a clear focus on high performance. Recent breakthroughs to come out of Exeter's research include the identification and treatment of new forms of diabetes and the creation of the world's most transparent, lightweight and flexible conductor of electricity. Exeter is ranked amongst the UK’s top 10 universities in the Higher Education league tables produced by the Times and the Sunday Times. It is also ranked amongst the world’s top 200 universities in the QS and Times Higher Education rankings.

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.

  •  Degree transcript(s) giving information about the qualification awarded, the modules taken during the study period, and the marks for each module taken.
  • An academic CV;
  • A cover letter outlining your research interests in general, the title of the project you are applying for;
  • A Personal Statement consisting of two parts*:
    •  Describe a) why you would like to study for a PhD, b) why you would like to focus on this particular topic, c) any relevant expertise and d) your future career ambitions;
    • Describe the qualities that you believe will make you a great researcher (in particular as part of a team).

You will be asked to provide the contact details of two academic referees.

* We foster creativity and utilisation of individual strengths. Applicants are encouraged to provide evidence to support their statements. This might include conventional written documents (e.g. examples of work), but we also encourage alternatives such as audio or video recordings, websites, programming etc. Please ensure to include accessible links to such files in an appropriately named document as part of the upload process.

Application procedure


Applications will normally be reviewed within two weeks of receipt.
Candidates will be short-listed against a set of agreed criteria to ensure quality while maintaining diversity. Failure to include all the elements listed above may result in rejection.

The essential criteria:

  •     Undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline (minimum 2:1);
  •     Vision and motivation (for research & professional development);
  •     Evidence of the ability to work collaboratively and to engage in a diverse community;
  •     Evidence of excellent written and oral skills in English.

The highest quality candidates will also be able to demonstrate one of more of the following:

  •     Specialist knowledge about one or more of the 8 research areas listed above;
  •     Training in research methodology (e.g. undergraduate research projects);
  •     Research outputs (e.g. papers) and/or other indicators of academic excellence (e.g. awards).


Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an entry interview to assess fit to the CDT concept. This will be held prior the academic interview with the supervisors and will normally be undertaken by a panel of 3 people, including a current postgraduate researcher or post-doc in Physics or Engineering.

Please email if you have any queries about this process.


Application deadline:31st December 2019
Number of awards:1
Value:approx £14,777 per year tax-free stipend for 3.5 years plus tuition fees
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Dr. Isaac Luxmoore (Admissions Tutor)