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Run by Faculty of Science
Awards available PhD, MSc by research
Programme length PhD: Three years full-time or equivalent part-time (minimum period of study).
MScR: One year full-time or equivalent part-time (minimum period of study).
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available Yes
Start date Not fixed, but the usual start date is September 2021

Programme overview

For more than 100 years, the Bristol School of Physics has made major research contributions, including the discovery of the pi meson (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1950) and fundamental advances in quantum mechanics.

The School of Physics has a world-class reputation for cohort-based research training and has over the past ten years received UK national funding for Centres of Doctoral Training in Functional Nanomaterials, Condensed Matter Physics, Quantum Engineering, Particle Physics, Artificial Intelligence Machine Learning, and Advanced Computing.

Our Physics Graduate School community comprises nearly 200 students from a diverse global background, and with a very good gender balance. We have strong interactions with industry, and are very well connected to the unique Bristol start-up and SME community.

As a research student you will be a member of the Graduate School, which organises social and scientific events to support you, coordinates skills training in Physics, organises induction, builds a community, and helps you navigate through the University procedures.

Our research degree programmes are offered across six diverse Research Themes (see below). For informal discussions before making an application, prospective students are encouraged to contact either the academic lead in the Research Theme of interest for guidance, or the potential supervisor for project discussions.

Once you have settled on a research area and/or supervisor, you will need a CV, a Personal Statement introducing yourself and outlining your motivation for research, and details of your qualifications.

Fees for 2021/22

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2021/22 are as follows:

UK: full-time
UK: part-time
Overseas (including EU): full-time
Channel Islands/Isle of Man: full-time

Bench fees: For postgraduate research students who are not funded by UK Research Councils or (specific) UK charities, it is usual to charge a bench fee. A bench fee covers the costs of laboratory consumables, specialist equipment and other relevant costs (e.g. training) for the duration of the programme. The bench fee charged can vary considerably depending on the nature of the programme being undertaken. Details of specific bench fee charges can be provided on request and will made clear in the offer letter sent to applicants.

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to a five per cent increase in fees each year. Find out more about tuition fees.

Alumni scholarship

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a ten per cent reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni scholarship.

Funding for 2021/22

The school provides financial support for PhD students from a number of sources, including research councils, industry and scholarships. For further details, see the School of Physics website.

Further information on funding for prospective UK, EU and international postgraduate students.

Entry requirements

A first degree in physics or a related subject, normally at a level equivalent to at least UK upper second-class honours, or a relevant postgraduate master's qualification.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you need to meet this profile level:
Profile F
Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Admissions statement

Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Admissions statement

Research groups

The School of Physics has more than 90 teaching and research staff across six Research Themes: Astrophysics, Materials and Devices, Quantum and Soft Matter, Quantum Engineering Technologies, Particle Physics, and Theoretical Physics. It is housed in the H. H. Wills Physics Laboratory that has recently undergone a major investment programme designed to create a new state-of-the-art research environment for both students and staff. The latest facility to be added is a new clean room which is used to process ultrasmall scale electronic/photonic devices. The School is well positioned to carry out cutting-edge research in most major fields of physics.

The School of Physics has an immensely strong international reputation in a wide range of research fields. The Research Themes, each with a dedicated academic first point of contact, are as follows:


Academic contact for enquiries: Dr Zoe Leinhardt

Researchers within the Astrophysics theme study a range of important phenomena in the Universe, including extrasolar planets, black holes and their related relativistic phenomena, galaxies and clusters of galaxies, and cosmology. Observations are made with the world's best ground- and space-based telescopes across the electromagnetic spectrum. Theoretical work is closely tied to the interpretation of observational results, with numerical and computational studies making use of the University of Bristol's powerful supercomputing facilities. Students present their work to the wider scientific community at high-profile conferences and may be involved in one of the major international projects in which the group participates. The group provides a friendly and dynamic research environment. Graduate-level courses and training in observations, data reduction, and numerical techniques are offered.

Materials and Devices

Academic contact for enquiries: Dr Henkjan Gersen

The Materials and Devices theme covers topics that are driven by innovation and technology – the application of Physics to solve real-world problems. It exploits advances in engineered materials and devices that are crucial to the continued vitality of countless industries, and our postgraduates bridge the gap between science and engineering, becoming expert not only in their area of research but in material and device innovation in general. Key areas of research include Surface Physics, working on catalysis and electro-deposited ultrathin films, and Materials for Energy, focusing on the synthesis and characterisation of nanostructured, wide bandgap materials for applications in energy harvesting, radiation detectors and electron sources.

The Nanophotonics and Biophysics area focuses on the development, application and exploitation of novel imaging and characterisation techniques for biology and medicine. A particular strength is in Scanning Probe Microscopy and biophotonics, measuring sub-femtoNewton optical forces at the nanoscale at high speeds.  The Centre for Device Thermography and Reliability (CDTR) focuses on improving the thermal management, electrical performance and reliability of novel devices, circuits and packaging. The CDTR develops and applies new techniques for temperature, thermal conductivity, electrical conductivity and traps analysis, especially for microwave and power electronic semiconductor devices, made of wide bandgap materials, such as GaN, SiC and diamond. The Interface Analysis Centre (IAC) is involved in research on materials and material surfaces, including strong activities in nanoscience and nuclear materials.

Quantum and Soft Matter

Academic contact for enquiries: Professor Walther Schwarzacher

Our aim is to find and understand new exciting phenomena of quantum and classical matter. We study soft materials like liquid crystals and colloids as well as solid matter ranging from superconductors to insulators. We are particularly interested in systems that show a large response to small perturbations as often found close to phase transitions and out of equilibrium. Our research contributes important insights to many emergent phenomena like superconductivity at the boarder of quantum magnetism and glass formation in colloids.

Quantum Engineering Technologies

Academic contact for enquiries: Dr Jorge Barreto

Quantum technologies can perform certain tasks beyond the capabilities of classical systems, such as factoring large numbers or simulating the behaviour of quantum systems. The theme explores fundamental aspects of quantum physics, as well as work towards future photonic quantum technologies, by generating, manipulating and detecting single photons and probing the quantum systems that harness these photons. Students who join the research group typically work in one of three key areas of research:

  • Quantum computing and quantum simulations
  • Quantum communications
  • Quantum sensing and metrology.

Students can explore a range of theory and experimental topics to devise and demonstrate new devices and protocols for quantum information processing, including quantum simulations, quantum computing and quantum key distribution.

Particle Physics

Academic contact for enquiries: Dr Konstantinos Petridis

The Particle Physics theme is at the forefront of the data analysis and upgrade of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) and Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) experiments at the CERN LHC.  Within CMS, the focus is on the search for Supersymmetry and Dark Matter (DM), as well as studying properties of the top quark. Within LHCb, the focus is on pioneering new methods to measure CP violation, the asymmetry between matter and antimatter, and studying rare decays of beauty hadrons in order to discover new particles and forces. The theme is also involved in future neutrino experiments such as DUNE, and direct DM detection experiments such as LZ. Furthermore, the theme is involved in developing novel detector technologies and systems, including applications outside particle physics, such as homeland security and medical imaging. Bristol PhD students will usually join one of the experiments and undertake physics analysis as their main activity, and will also be involved in some aspect of the detector operation. Students can also work on new particle detector techniques using CVD diamond, novel integrated detectors, or other future experiments that the theme is actively involved in.

Theoretical Physics

Academic contact for enquiries: Dr Stephen Clark

Theory is an essential complement to experimental physics, guiding and interpreting real-world results. Bristol has a very distinguished heritage in theoretical physics, including the discovery of the Aharonov-Bohm effect in 1959 and the geometric or Berry phase in 1983. In soft condensed matter we apply methods from algebraic and geometric topology to study solitons, topological defects and other structures in liquid crystals. Furthermore, we are interested in novel computational techniques applied to topological phase transitions and machine-learning methods applied to problems in statistical physics. Our condensed matter research focuses on unconventional and novel phases in the spin, charge, and superconducting order of complex materials. In particular, we predict experimental observables, such as electronic, thermodynamic and transport properties induced by symmetry-breaking transitions, as well as the behaviour of many-body systems driven far from equilibrium. Our quantum information research focuses on fundamental problems, such as paradoxes and nonlocality, ultimately to understand why quantum mechanics has the counterintuitive properties it does. We are also interested in the foundations of statistical mechanics and thermodynamics applied to small quantum systems.


A PhD in Physics is an essential qualification for a career as a research physicist, whether in industry, academia or elsewhere. It is highly valued by employers looking for leadership, initiative, numeracy and an ability to plan and execute strategically. Our research graduates work in a variety of fields, from finance to high-technology start-ups to academia. Please see the School of Physics website for case studies from recent graduates.

Staff profiles


Professor Mark Birkinshaw, (William P. Coldrick Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics)

Professor Malcolm Bremer, (Professor)

Dr Zoë Leinhardt, (Lecturer)

Dr Ben Maughan, (Senior Lecturer)

Professor Steven Phillipps, (Professor)

Dr Hannah Wakeford, (Lecturer)

Professor Diana Worrall, (Professor)

Dr Andrew Young, (Senior Lecturer)

Materials and Devices

Dr Dong (Lilly) Liu, (Lecturer)

Dr Massimo Antognozzi, (Senior Lecturer)

Dr John Day, (Research Fellow)

Professor Peter Flewitt, (Visiting Professor in Interface Analysis Centre (URC))

Dr Neil Fox, (Reader)

Dr Henkjan Gersen, (Senior Lecturer)

Dr Keith Hallam

Dr Peter Heard, (Research Fellow)

Professor Martin Kuball, (Professor)

Dr Tomas Martin, (Lecturer)

Dr Jennifer Mcmanus, (Associate Professor)

Dr Terry McMaster, (Reader)

Dr Andrei Sarua, (Senior Lecturer)

Professor Tom Scott, (Professor)

Dr Annela Seddon

Dr Ross Springell, (Lecturer)

Dr Natasa Vasiljevic, (Senior Lecturer)

Particle Physics

Dr Jim Brooke, (Lecturer)

Dr Henning Flächer, (Reader)

Professor Joel Goldstein, (Professor)

Dr Helen Heath, (Reader)

Dr Konstantinos Petridis, (Lecturer)

Professor Jonas Rademacker, (Professor)

Dr Jaap Velthuis, (Reader)

Quantum and Complex Matter

Dr Adrian Barnes, (Reader)

Dr Chris Bell, (Senior Lecturer)

Professor Antony Carrington, (Professor)

Professor Stephen Dugdale, (Professor)

Dr Sven Friedemann, (Lecturer)

Professor Stephen Hayden, (Professor)

Dr Jude Laverock, (Graduate Teaching Fellow)

Professor Paddy Royall, (Professor)

Professor Walther Schwarzacher, (Professor)

Quantum Engineering Technologies

Dr Jorge Barreto, (Lecturer)

Dr Anthony Laing, (Lecturer)

Dr Jonathan Matthews, (Senior Lecturer)

Dr Dara McCutcheon, (Lecturer)

Professor Ruth Oulton, (Professor)

Dr Dondu Sahin, (Lecturer in Quantum Engineering)

Dr Peter Turner, (Lecturer)

Theory of Condensed Matter and Quantum Information

Professor James Annett, (Professor)

Dr Stephen Clark, (Senior Lecturer)

Dr Martin Gradhand, (Lecturer)

Dr Simon Hanna, (Reader)

Dr Thomas Machon, (Lecturer)

Professor Sandu Popsecu, FRS, (Professor)

Dr Tony Short, (Senior Lecturer)

Dr Paul Skrzypczyk, (Royal Society University Research Fellow and Lecturer)

Professor Nigel Wilding, (Professor)

How to apply
Application deadline:

We welcome applications at any time of year; early application is advised.

Get in touch

Dr Terry McMaster Director of the Graduate School Phone: +44 (0) 117 33 17946 Email:

Ms Krissy Stothard Senior Postgraduate Student Administrator Phone: +44 (0) 117 33 17946 Email:

HH Wills Physics Laboratory
University of Bristol
Tyndall Avenue
Bristol BS8 1TL
School website: School of Physics

Open days and visits

Find out how to attend one of our upcoming online events.

International students

Find out more about becoming a student at Bristol, applying for a visa and the support we offer to international students.

Bristol Doctoral College

The Bristol Doctoral College facilitates and supports doctoral training and researcher development across the University.

REF 2014 results

  • Physics:
  • 23% of research is world-leading (4*)
  • 62% of research is internationally excellent (3*)
  • 15% of research is recognised internationally (2*)
  • 0% of research is recognised nationally (1*)

Results are from the most recent UK-wide assessment of research quality, conducted by HEFCE. More about REF 2014 results.


Important disclaimer information about our programmes.

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