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Award details

Quantum Correlations for Sensing and Imaging in Biochemical Applications Ref: 4107

About the award


Academic Supervisors:

Prof Frank Vollmer. Streatham Campus, University of Exeter.


Streatham Campus, Exeter. Prof Vollmer’s Laboratory is part of the newly established Living Systems Institute.

This award provides annual funding to cover Home tuition fees and a tax-free stipend.  For students who pay Home tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £15,285 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.

Project description:

Optical studies of single molecules have led to important advances in chemistry, physics and biology. However, those discoveries are often limited by the sensitivity of the instruments. In an effort to overcome measurement noise and detection limits, researchers around the world seek ways to apply quantum optical precision measurements in single molecule studies. Quantum enhanced single molecule sensors could enable more precise studies of Life’s complexity at molecular level. They could reveal information hidden in the sensor signals.
You will establish a novel single-molecule “nanoprobing” technique by means of analysing the statistical and quantum optical properties of photons emitted from a molecule on a microcavity-based sensor. You will use the highly sensitive optical micro-interferometer together with quantum measurement techniques to study the light matter interaction in either a weak or strong coupling regime. Moreover, measurements extracting more information per photon resource will be ideally suited to study biological samples with minimal perturbation, and to probe samples for longer time periods than otherwise possible using classical light. This approach will be capable of discerning changes in the nano-environment of a molecule (pH, temperature, binding of ligand molecules) and discerning molecular conformations and states with a microsecond time resolution that were previously difficult to detect, fluorescence lifetime imaging. In a second part of the project that will be a team effort at the Living Systems Institute, you will apply your quantum sensing techniques in bio-imaging. The goal is to develop a set of neuro-imaging techniques based on novel quantum approaches to visualise brain function.
We are looking for well-motivated students with a passion and strong background in optics, quantum  optics, and ideally some knowledge in biophysics and optical precision measurements akin to atomic optics for this cutting-edge doctoral project.


Xavier, Deshui, Vollmer et. al. (Review): Quantum nanophotonic and nanoplasmonic sensing

Vollmer (Book): Optical Whispering Gallery Modes for Biosensing

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.  Knowledge in quantum optics is desirable. The ideal candidate has a strong background in physics, optics, engineering, or a related discipline.

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

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents.  Please note our preferred format is PDF, each file named with your surname and the name of the document, eg. “Smith – CV.pdf”, “Smith – Cover Letter.pdf”, “Smith – Transcript.pdf”. 

• 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 proficiency in English

The closing date for applications is midnight 2nd of May 2021. Interviews will be held virtually in the following weeks.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 722730 or +44 (0)1392 725150.

 Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor:


Application deadline:2nd May 2021
Number of awards:1
Duration of award:per year
Contact: STEMM PGR Admissions