Physics

The Physics and Astronomy Department offers a world-class environment for students interested in a diverse array of problems in the physical sciences. Our research seeks both to uncover the fundamental laws that govern natural phenomena on all scales, and to apply these to the understanding of real-world problems.  A PhD here could involve an analytical investigation of quantum systems that are at the heart of modern technology, or the fabrication of nano-scale structures that exploit the unique properties of such systems; it could mean using cutting-edge laboratory equipment (bolstered by recent multi-million pound investments into ultra-fast lasers, a multiphoton microscopy and spectroscopy suite, and more), or carrying out simulations on the University’s dedicated supercomputer. In whatever you do, you will be guided by one of our 50-plus permanent academic staff, many of whom have been recognised internationally for their world-leading research, and you will benefit from a lively and supportive community of other students and researchers.  We collaborate extensively with researchers in other departments, other universities (both in the UK and abroad), the private sector, and public/governmental organisations, and our students are active, valued participants in these collaborations.  We welcome students of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and genders.  

In general, PhD projects funded by the EPSRC DTP will revolve around one of the following themes —Quantum systems and Nanomaterials, Electromagnetic and Acoustic materials, Biomedical Physics, Astrophysics, Theoretical Physics and Metamaterials — these themes are not mutually exclusive and many projects will work across multiple themes.  Each of the themes hosts projects ranging from fundamental to applied physics, with students often working in teams that combine theory, modelling and/or experiments.  Interested applicants should visit the research pages listed below, and contact prospective supervisors to discuss potential projects of mutual interest before submitting an application. 

Previous projects funded through the DTP scheme have explored the interaction of electromagnetic and sound waves with matter, and how this can be manipulated using advanced materials; others have involved analysing (both analytically and experimentally) the physical properties of systems at the nanoscale, where classical and quantum physics combine to create an exotic world.  Others have applied insights derived from fundamental biophysics research to major problems in biology and clinical medicine.  Frequently these research strands are blended in novel ways: for example, recently researchers here have applied radiative transfer techniques developed here for astrophysics to the study and diagnosis of cancer. 

Applying for a Studentship

This webpage lists research themes based in Physics. When you submit an application you will be expected to submit a research proposal aligned to a theme listed below. Examples of research projects previously available are included for reference. 

For full details of eligibility criteria and the application process, please click here.

Physics has for decades played a crucial role in the development of new techniques for medicine and is becoming increasingly important in understanding the behaviour of biological systems.
With many years of experience in Magnetic Resonance Imaging, we are now establishing complementary expertise in the development and application of optical imaging and vibrational spectroscopy. Physics relates to a wide range of fundamental questions in modern biology.
Our current activities range from studies of the cell membrane, through investigations of the ways in which cells sense and respond to physical signals, to integrative studies on touch perception. This work helps us to understand processes that may be involved in diseases ranging from diabetes to cancer, and hence to develop novel therapeutic approaches.

Topics of specific interest include biomedical spectroscopy and imaging, the biophysics of membranes and of the vasculature, nonlinear biophotonics, optical super-resolution microscopy,
the extracellular matrix, multiphoton imaging and spectroscopy, and optics and fluorescence microscopy.

For more information about research in this area, please visit http://emps.exeter.ac.uk/physics-astronomy/research/biomedical/phdpostdoc/

Informal enquiries about this research area should be directed to: Prof Christian Soeller

We explore the interaction of matter with electromagnetic radiation (from x-ray to microwave), sound and fluids. We investigate how this interaction can be manipulated, using geometric and magnetic structuring (from the nm to the cm scale, "metamaterials"), to provide novel and improved materials and devices.

Our experimental work involves material synthesis and nanofabrication, and imaging and characterisation using microwave, ultrafast laser, sound and synchrotron sources. In parallel, we use numerical and analytical quantum theory, spatial transformation methods, and micromagnetic theory.

For more information and specific topics of interest, please visit http://emps.exeter.ac.uk/physics-astronomy/research/emag/ and www.exeter.ac.uk/metamaterials

Informal enquiries about this research area may be directed to Prof. Rob Hicken, or to any other of the individuals academics working in this area (see theme website for details). 

The Quantum Systems and Nanomaterials Group studies the physical properties of systems at the nanoscale. At this scale, classical and quantum physics combine to create an exotic world that we explore both experimentally and theoretically using a range of advanced techniques.


We investigate the optical, electrical, thermal and mechanical properties of scientifically and industrially important materials. Materials studied include graphene, carbon nanotubes, semiconductor quantum dots and superlattices, topological insulators and dichalcogenides. We aim to understand these systems at the deepest possible level, to not only establish the underlying physics but also the potential for industrial applications.


Topics of specific interest include quantum transport (i.e., classical and quantum mechanical aspects of charge transport in nanostructures), thermodynamic properties (i.e., investigating the strong electron-electron interactions and collective electronic and photonic excitations that occur in confined systems), and theoretical condensed matter physics (i.e., the properties of systems in which fundamental aspects of quantum mechanics are important).
For more information about research in this area, please visit http://emps.exeter.ac.uk/physics-astronomy/research/qsn/

Informal enquiries about this research area may be directed to Prof. Saverio Russo, or to any of the individual academics working in this area (see theme website above for details).

The Theoretical Physics group’s interest lies in advancing our understanding of fundamental physics phenomena, and using this knowledge to predict and describe new experiments and applications. Our research ranges from classical wave theory to quantum information theory, to condensed matter physics and nano physics. For example, we investigate the electromechanical properties of nanoscale materials such as graphene, the spin dynamics of magnetic materials at ultrafast timescales, the light-matter interactions between light and metamaterials, and the occurrence of Hawking radiation in laboratory systems.

To tackle these topics we use analytical and numerical methods including classical wave theory, quantum optics, density functional theory (DFT), micromagnetics and magnonics, and exactly solvable models.
For more information and specific topics of interest, please visit http://emps.exeter.ac.uk/physics-astronomy/research/theoretical/

Informal enquiries about this research area may be directed to Prof. Janet Anders, or to any of the individual academics working in this ares (see theme website above for details).

Exeter’s EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials (XM2) has a well-established track record of relevant research, spanning a unique mix of interests, from microwave metasurfaces to carbon nanotubes, from the fundamental theory of electromagnetism and quantum mechanics, to new understanding in acoustics, from graphene plasmonics to magnetic composites, and from terahertz photonics to phase change materials.

 In 2014, we started off as a £12 million Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Metamaterials, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC/EP/L015331/1), the University of Exeter and industry.

 The Metamaterials doctoral training programme is part of Exeter’s Centre for Metamaterial Research and Innovation (www.metamaterials.center), and consists of more than 30 academic staff, and 60 active PhD students from the UK, the EU and beyond, who are training in a stimulating, challenging yet supportive cohort-based environment. Since 2018, over 30 graduates went into employment in industry (e.g. QinetiQ and Metaboards) and as postdocs in Higher Education Institutions in and outside of the UK.

 What are metamaterials?

  • Metamaterials are fabricated microstructures with properties beyond those found in nature.
  • They are emerging as an important new class of electromagnetic and acoustic materials.
  • They have a wide range of applications in areas including energy harvesting, efficiency and storage; imaging; communications; electronic circuitry; sensing and ‘cloaking’.

For more information about the CDT and specific topics of interest, please visit www.exeter.ac.uk/metamaterials. Informal enquiries about this research area may be directed to Dr Isaac Luxmoore (metamaterials@exeter.ac.uk), or to any other of the individuals academics working in this area.