Functional Nanomaterials

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Run by Faculty of Science
Awards available PhD
Programme length Four years full-time
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available No, full-time only
Start date September 2020

Programme overview

Our four-year integrated PhD programme begins with a structured year of training, giving you all the foundation skills necessary to prosper in your PhD research and beyond. In the Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials, not only will you be guided in developing your career as a research scientist, but you will also learn the skills and approaches necessary to translate your findings into technological innovations that impact the wider world.

There is a strong emphasis on exploration and you are actively encouraged to experience different research disciplines and environments before beginning your core PhD research.

Other features of the training year include:

  • short interdisciplinary projects giving you practical training in all the key characterisation and fabrication techniques in a variety of different labs;
  • expert-led group-work, practical sessions and lecture courses in advanced topics;
  • intensive training from scientists working in innovative companies from post-doc-led start-ups to world-leading multinationals;
  • extensive skills training in leadership, creativity, writing, presenting, group work, leading discussions, etc.

The summer term starts with a six-month extended project, immersing you in your chosen research area. For students who apply for industry-funded projects, you will know your research project on application and the vital experience you have gained through the interdisciplinary taught programme and short research projects allows you to hit the ground running.

Self-funded students (including those applying for scholarships and funding internationally) may select a project from BCFN’s network of over 100 academic supervisors, drawn from a wealth of cutting-edge challenges from across the materials spectrum. Alternatively, you may develop a project in collaboration with supervisors from our network. This long project normally continues as your PhD project.

After your training year, you will move to an academic department in the Faculties of Science, Engineering, Health Sciences or Life Sciences for your PhD project. However, you will remain part of the BCFN community and will maintain close ties by taking part in teaching, regular seminars and events.

Fees for 2020/21

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2020/21 are as follows:

UK/EU: full-time
Overseas: 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 2020/21

Up-to-date funding information is available via the BCFN website.

We welcome applications from self-funded students from anywhere in the world.

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

Programme structure

The first year of our four-year programme has been designed to provide you with all the skills needed for effective interdisciplinary research in functional nanomaterials. Training and research run in parallel, with the first six months weighted towards lecture courses and skills training. The second half of the year focuses on the extended project, which has the possibility of becoming your PhD project. There are also regular industrial training modules and transferable skills sessions.

After your first year you will start work on your PhD project. You will continue to take part in a wide range of BCFN activities, including research seminars, transferable skills training, international travel opportunities and the annual BCFN conference.

In the first year you will be based in the BCFN PhD cohort office in the School of Physics. From the second year onwards you will be located in the academic departments of your supervisors.

Visit our programme catalogue for full details of the structure and unit content for the first year of the EPSRC Functional Nanomaterials CDT programme.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class honours degree (or international equivalent) in physics, chemistry, materials science or a related subject (eg MSci, MPhys, MEng, MChem). Applicants with a upper second-class honours BSc degree may be considered if they can demonstrate very good potential for research.

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

Functional nanomaterials represent an exciting area of materials science, bridging the traditional disciplines of physics, chemistry and engineering. This PhD offers diverse research opportunities, including:

  • fundamental investigations into exploiting and controlling the assembly and ordering of atoms, molecules and the macroscopic structures they form to achieve desired properties;
  • fabrication and characterisation of highly complex structures and surfaces;
  • the application of functional nanostructures in fields as diverse as computing, healthcare, communications, robotics, energy storage and production, and pharmaceuticals.

The Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials is highly interdisciplinary and all research projects have supervisors in at least two departments. Academic departments involved with the BCFN include aerospace engineering, biochemistry, biological sciences, chemistry, clinical sciences, dentistry, electrical and electronic engineering, engineering maths, mathematics, ophthalmology, physics, and physiology, pharmacology and neuroscience.


Graduates of this programme have gone on to a wide range of careers, including postdoctoral research, industry, accountancy and intellectual property law. Alumni have established major healthcare technology companies, launched internationally recognised academic research careers, and directed science policy within research funders and government.

Our international reach is also rapidly increasing, providing research and entrepreneurial opportunities with partners in locations such as Canada, Ireland and China.

Staff profiles

How to apply
Application deadline:

1 August 2020.

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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.

Bristol Doctoral College

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

Open days and visits

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Get in touch

BCFN Manager Phone: +44 (0) 117 928 7485 Email:

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


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