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The programme at a glance

Programme structure

Programme structure

Programme structure

Programme structure

Programme structure

The training and research elements of our PhD programme will be spread throughout your degree, as per the tabs below. If you have any queries, please contact us at

Year 1

To ensure that you continue to develop your general scientific knowledge, we require you to attend a lecture course of your choice from within the College of Engineering, Maths and Physical Sciences in both your first and second years.

Please see the list of Optional Modules, with links to the module descriptions. You will not be required to undergo the examination for the lecture course, but evidence of notes and problems should be contained within your training portfolio.

This acoustics course, led by Dr Tim Starkey, is run as a first primer for metamaterials and surface waves. Using guided reading and tutorial-style discussions, this course arms participants with some fundamentals of metamaterial physics.

By applying simple acoustic phenomena to demonstrate band gaps, surface waves, absorption, and resonances, we explore how these relate to different research themes across the Centre for Metamaterials Research and Innovation (CMRI).

‌This is a half-day introduction to COMSOL, run by their trainers.

You will engage in two creativity sessions, led by Skillfluence. The first session will take place during Induction Week, the second session at the start of year 4.

The LTHE programme introduces the underlying principles and practical methods of effective learning and assessment in higher education, and forms the minimum requirement to teach undergraduates. Students may also undertake Stage 2 later on in the PhD programme.

This session will give an introduction to Open Access and Symplectic, and also cover Open Research and Research Data Management.

This session is mandatory for first years; second and third years are welcome to attend if they would like a refresher.

Led by Prof Bill Barnes, this two-day workshop will take you on a journey through over a hundred years of scientific literature on plasmonics. Each lecture will focus on one or more seminal articles, and after an introduction to the topic, the paper will be openly discussed. Emphasis will be placed on how numerous strands of science from many varied topic areas have led to the current state-of-the-art, the applications and challenges faced by the field.

Being able to programme or use specific computational software is an essential skill for all scientists and engineers. To ensure you develop these skills you will undertake at least twenty hours of training in this area.

An indicative list of workshops might include the following:

  • Mathematica: An Introduction
  • Mathematica: Programming in the Wolfram Language
  • Mathematica: The wolfram language -visualisation fundamentals
  • Matlab Fundamentals
  • Matlab for data Processing and Visualisation
  • Matlab Programming techniques
  • Labview Core 1
  • Labview Core 2
  • R programming
  • Programming for everybody (Python)

After completion of the workshops you will undertake a project using the skills that you have learnt. This project will relate to one of the workshops you have attended, and could involve writing a Labview project to control an experiment, developing a complex Comsol model, or developing a piece of code to solve a problem using one of the programming languages. The project aim will be decided in conjunction with your supervisor, should be directly related to your research, and would be expected to require approximately 20 hrs to complete.

This training element is to be completed in year 1 of your studies.

This two-hour course is run by the Doctoral College as part of their Researcher Development Programme

This two-day course, run by Fistral Training and Consultancy Ltd, provides a comprehensive introduction to the process of managing projects and the tools to assist in planning and tracking progress.

Run by Dr Simon Horsley, this lecture course provides an introduction to the theoretical methods used to solve wave propagation problems.

In Simon’s words, “The subject of metamaterials is largely about doing stuff to waves. And all waves have a lot in common, be they ocean, acoustic, or electromagnetic. This course aims to teach some mathematical methods for solving the wave equation. The aim is that you can start to solve the theoretical problems in your research without being reliant on expensive ready-made commercial packages.”

Write About Science is a unique scientific writing workshop run by Mark Buchanan and Justin Mullins, whose joint experience includes writing and editing for Nature, New Scientist and the New York Times. Through lectures, exercises and one-to-one feedback, the course focuses on the fundamentals of good communication and how to use them to produce scientific papers of the highest quality.

Year 2

To ensure that you continue to develop your general scientific knowledge, we require you to attend a lecture course of your choice from within the College of Engineering, Maths and Physical Sciences in both your first and second years.

Please see the list of Optional Modules, with links to the module descriptions. You will not be required to undergo the examination for the lecture course, but evidence of notes and problems should be contained within your training portfolio.

This two-day course, delivered by Vox Coaching, will boost your ability to interact with others in a confident, engaging and authentic manner. It will help to ensure that your communication skills match your expertise, whether you’re appearing in-person or on screen. We’re all needing to adapt to remote working and it’s more vital than ever to understand the unique requirements and potential of video calls, distance collaboration and online teamworking.

You’ll gain valuable insights into authentic communication, interpersonal dynamics and how to network confidently. During these lively, interactive sessions, you will explore your natural communication style, strengthen your physical and vocal presence, and discover techniques for speaking so that others want to listen. You will enhance your ability to establish rapport, to win trust and look at how to adapt your style to suit the context while still being yourself – with an added dash of flair.

This course will be run by Dr Alex Powell.

This training is run by Dr. Hong Chang and will involve one lecture, plus a session on SEM EDS and TEM EDS in the morning session; and a session on XRD, CT and AFM in the afternoon.

Year 3

You will engage in two creativity sessions, led by Skillfluence. The first session will take place during Induction Week, the second session at the start of year 4.

The one-day leadership training course, run by Skillfluence, takes place in the third year of the programme, and is designed to help you recognise different management styles and explore ideas in effective leadership.

This one-day workshop is delivered by Spin Up Science. Using examples of local technology start-ups, they will explore how researchers and inventors spot ideas for innovation, and how you know if your research might have some real-world application.

Year 4

To help you prepare for the next step in your career, this two-day course, delivered by VOX Coaching, will give you an insight into the assessment criteria used by selection panels and make sure that you are ready to give your best in interview situations.

All years

The Beyond-a-PhD series will take place roughly every six months, where three visiting speakers from a variety of industrial and academic research environments will give insights into the myriad of career pathways open to a doctoral graduate in science and engineering.

The speakers outline their careers, what challenges they faced along the way, and how they tackled these challenges. How did their PhD training benefit their subsequent roles, what did they had to learn on the job, and was there something they wished they had done differently or known before?

The talks are open to all PGRs and postdocs in the College. The series' aim is to demonstrate the broad range of options that lie beyond the PhD and to provide networking opportunities with potential role models to learn from their experiences.

Previous speakers include:

  • Dr Jade Phillips (Research and Development Ingredient Specialist at Jacobs Douwe Egberts)
  • Dr Laura Stoica (Piezoelectric Materials Research Manager at Thales UK)
  • Dr Celia Butler (Senior Applications Engineer at Synopsys)
  • Dr Elena Ginina (Head of Data Science at Centre for Virtual Reality and Visualisation (VRVis), Vienna)
  • Prof John Bessant (Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at University of Exeter)
  • Dr Ben Masheder (Innovation Specialist at Business West)
  • Dr Emma Newton (Team Lead of Novel Materials at QinetiQ)
  • Dr James Claverley (Science Governance Co-ordinator at National Physical Laboratory (NPL))
  • Dr Chris Maynard (High Performance Computing Software Specialist at Met Office)
  • Dr Richard Watts (Chief Investment Officer for BMO Global Asset Management)
  • Dr Nina Meinzer (Associate Editor at Nature Communications)
  • Dr Rob Kelly (Teacher at Okehampton College)




Cognitive Behavioural Coaching is available for each cohort. These optional meetings are aimed at strengthening academic adaptability and problem-solving commonly experienced obstacles to progression. You will receive a mandatory introductory session during the Autumn term of your first year.

To provide a platform for experience exchange, we have a yearly PGR Presentation Conference for second and third year CDT PGRs to present to all cohorts. This is an opportunity for students to learn about each other's projects as well as enhancing their presentation skills and providing support for each other in their professional development.

There are also various social activities for PGRs including an away day during induction week, movie nights and Christmas social. These are PGR-driven initiatives.

CDT postgraduate researchers are expected to attend the CDT colloquium series, and the Physics or NEST colloquium, or Physics Theory seminar or equivalent, where national and international experts will present the latest developments in the wider science community.

Recent guest speakers in our colloquia have included:

  • Prof Marc Holderied, University of Bristol, UK
  • Prof Roland Fischer, Technical University Munich, Germany
  • Prof Isabelle Staude, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany
  • Prof Mario G. Silveirinha, University of Lisbon, Portugal
  • Prof Cinzia Casiraghi, University of Manchester, UK
  • Prof Steve Barnett, University of Glasgow, UK
  • Prof Maria Kafesaki, ESL-FORTH, Greece
  • Prof Rachel Grange, ETH Zürich, Switzerland

We set up a variety of events for our PGRs to engage with industry partners and gain further business understanding on a regular basis:

  • They receive training in commercial awareness and entrepreneurship via Spin Up Science's SPARK training session.
  • We run an annual mentorship scheme programme for CDT PGRs with the industrial Advisory Board members.
  • Conduct on-site group visits to industrial collaborators throughout the study programme. These visits provide an opportunity to gain insight to research and career pathways at potential employers.
  • In addition, we host annual careers events with research and HR representatives from industial partners. These events provide a platform for companies to introduce their research and recruitment processes through talks and networking sessions, and offer an opportunity to CDT PGRs and other interested early career researchers (PGRs and Postdocs) to learn about potential roles and to create direct links with the company representatives.

Part of our training programme is learning how to engage the wider public with science and research. This can be achieved through participation at science fairs, in external outreach schemes such as CoachBright or the Brilliant Club, collaborating with local schools to share knowledge and introduce research challenges, or through social media.

The Researcher Development Programme (RDP) is run by the university to provide PhD students, and other early career researchers, with personal and professional development opportunities to enhance your research and employability, in academia or beyond.

The RDP activities are tailored to the needs of postgraduate researchers with courses offered in research management, communications skills, networking and team building, the impact agenda, and personal effectiveness.

In the first year, the course on presentation skills is mandatory. In subsequent years, you must undertake a further 50 hours of RDP courses of your choice and are strongly recommended to consider taking sessions in Career Planning, Research Integrity, Communicating your Research, Confidence and Resilience, Networking, Internationalisation and Research Impact.

As well as workshops, the Researcher Development team have useful online resources, including PGR Careers resource on the Exeter Learning Environment (ELE) and Profiling for Success – an online suite of self-assessment tools that can help you in your personal and career development.