Skip to main content

Funding and scholarships for students

Award details

Disentangling the Chiral Clutter: Optically Enhanced Rotational Spectroscopy. (CDT in Metamaterials, PhD in Physics) Ref: 4370

About the award



Prof Euan Hendry, Department of Physics & Astronomy, Streatham Campus, University of Exeter

Prof Jacopo Bertolotti, Department of Physics & Astronomy, Streatham Campus, University of Exeter


Department of Physics and Astronomy, Centre for Metamaterials Research and Innovation, Streatham Campus, Devon, University of Exeter

The University of Exeter’s Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship. The studentship can commence in early 2022 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £16,062 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study. 

The student would be based in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter.

Project Description:

Chiral molecules are distinct from their mirror image; much like a human hand. These handed molecules play a vital role in many biological functions. However, the handed properties of chiral molecules are difficult to determine, and the information that conventional chiral spectroscopy can provide is minimal and always incomplete. For example, standard techniques such as circular dichroism cannot measure oriented properties of molecules (only rotational averages), cannot resolve molecular mixtures and provides sensitivity only for samples with one handed molecule in excess. As a result, academic and industry labs invest much time, effort and money in developing asymmetric synthesis routes to chirally pure samples, while running many sequential characterisation techniques to obtain even only fragmented and patchy information about the molecules they are synthesising or studying.

In this project, you will be at the heart of a collaborative project aiming to develop the next generation analytical measurement tools for chiral molecules. Working with colleagues from the University of Glasgow, this project will develop a completely new measurement approach, one capable of resolving chiral molecular properties even in the most challenging of circumstance, e.g. determining anisotropic properties of molecular mixtures, and even resolving an equal mixture of right and left handed molecules. The general approach relies on femtosecond pulsed lasers, which can provide electromagnetic fields orders of magnitude larger than by using continuous wave lasers. Using these intense fields, one can manipulate the rotational energy levels of molecules depending on the precise molecular polarisability. Measuring these rotational shifts provides the missing piece of the puzzle: the information required to determine the complete chiral structure of a molecule. Detailed molecular modelling has revealed the feasibility of this approach, and the project here will develop the capability in experimental measurement, and with it a major step change in molecular characterisation and drug development.

Applicants must have a working knowledge of optics, and have taken modules in optics and/or electromagnetism during their undergraduate degree. Proficiency in programming using Python, Matlab or Labview would also be helpful.

Cohort-based training in the CDT in Metamaterials:

You will be part of the Centre for Metamaterials Research and Innovation and join its doctoral training programme, the Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials (XM2).

Since 2014, XM2 was and is home to more than 100 PhD students (~55 active, ~50 graduates) and their individual research projects, embedded in strong academic groups and supervisor teams.

The PhD students learn together in targeted courses, self-driven activity groups, and events with exposure to industry to gain scientific background knowledge beyond their areas of expertise, and to equip themselves with transferable professional skills such as creative thinking, project management, and leadership.

To date, our graduates went on to careers in academia and industry, and started to act as role models for the next generation of researchers.

We believe in the benefits of a cohort model that fosters knowledge exchange and peer support to prevent isolation.

Contact the student advisory group if you'd like to learn more about the CDT from your potential new peers!

The Award:

This award provides annual funding to cover Home tuition fees and a tax-free stipend.  For students from the UK who pay Home tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £16,062 per year tax-free stipend (increasing each year as per UKRI standard PhD stipend).  The conditions for eligibility of home fees status are complex and you will need to seek advice if you have moved to or from the UK (or Republic of Ireland) within the past 3 years or have applied for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3.5 years of full-time study to commence as soon as possible. 

For further information on the project, please contact Professor Euan Hendry, e-mail, or telephone 01392 725654.

Entry requirements

This studentship is open to UK and Irish nationals, who if successful in their application will receive a full studentship including payment of university tuition fees at the home fees rate.

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 Physics or an appropriate area of science or technology.  

Applicants must have a working knowledge of optics, and have taken modules in optics and/or electromagnetism during their undergraduate degree. Proficiency in programming using Python, Matlab or Labview would also be helpful.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 7.0 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.  

  • CV
  • Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
  • Research proposal
  • Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
  • Names of two referees familiar with your academic work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.
  • If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

Applications will be considered on a rolling basis with interviews expected to be within four weeks of receipt of application. Once a successful applicant has been appointed the project will be withdrawn and no further applications will be considered. You are advised to apply early as the application process will be competitive. The project start date is negotiable. However, the latest start date will be September 2022, which would align with the new PhD student cohort starting in the next academic year.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process or the project itself please email

Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor, Professor Euan Hendry, e-mail, or telephone 01392 725654.


Application deadline:30th June 2022
Value:Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £16,062 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Admissions Office