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Award details

Nanoscale computer modelling of blush in protective coatings, Natural Sciences – PhD (Funded) Ref: 5069

About the award

The University of Exeter’s Department of Physics and Astronomy is inviting applications for a PhD studentship fully-funded by AkzoNobel and University of Exeter to commence on 23 September 2024 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend in line with the UKRI minimum 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 Faculty of Environment, Science and Economy at the Streatham Campus in Exeter.

Location: Natural Sciences, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Streatham Campus, Exeter

Project Description:

Aluminium drinks cans are ubiquitous in everyday life to store and transport beverages and other liquids. These cans have an internal protective coating that acts to protect both the internal contents and the can itself. During coating development, simulation tests have been created to increase the speed of iteration and reduce the time required to screen prototypes. One of the failure mechanisms observed during these is an undesirable whitening (or blush) of the polymer film. The work will develop a nanoscale model of a simple coating using state-of-the-art computational approaches including molecular dynamics and free energy calculations to unravel the fundamental science behind the causes of blush. This project crosses multiple traditional disciplines including chemistry, physics, materials science, and computer science and will provide the successful candidate with the opportunity to broaden their scientific knowledge and communication skills across a range of scientific disciplines. This research makes use of the University of Exeter’s high performance computing (HPC) facility, ISCA, and access to regional, national, and international HPC resources as required.  

This project is co-funded by AkzoNobel AkzoNobel | AkzoNobel, one of the world’s largest protective coating manufacturers. The successful candidate will work within a multi-disciplinary group and have the opportunity to work closely with the industrial sponsor, forging a close working relationship and industrial contacts.
We are seeking a motivated and resourceful student with an interest in Computational Chemistry/Physics and Materials. A familiarity with programming languages (e.g. python) and HPC environments is desirable. We welcome enquiries from all interested candidates. For informal enquiries please contact Dr Charlie Wand (c.wand[at]

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 a tax-free stipend in line with the UKRI minimum.  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. 

The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3.5 years of full-time study to commence on 23 September 2024. The collaboration with the named project partner is subject to contract.  Please note full details of the project partner’s contribution and involvement with the project is still to be confirmed and may change during the course of contract negotiations.  Full details will be confirmed at offer stage.

International applicants need to be aware that you will have to cover the cost of your student visa, healthcare surcharge and other costs of moving to the UK to do a PhD.

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.

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 (e.g. Chemistry, Physics, Chemical Engineering, Mathematics, Natural Sciences). 

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the required level (Profile A) as per our guidance at

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).
• 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.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 12th April 2024.  Interviews will be held either virtually / on the University of Exeter Streatham in the week commencing 29th April 2024.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone 0300 555 60 60 (UK callers) +44 (0) 1392 723044 (EU/International callers)  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.


Application deadline:12th April 2024
Value:For eligible students the studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend in line with the UKRI minimum for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Admissions Team