PhysicsFind a programme
|Run by||Faculty of Science|
|Awards available||PhD, MSc by research|
PhD: Three to four 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 2022|
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 more than 200 students from a diverse global background, and with a very good gender balance. We have very strong interactions with industry, and are very well connected to the unique Bristol start-up and SME community, including joint training activities.
As a research student you will be a member of the Physics 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.
At the top of your personal statement, state the research area that overlaps with your research interests (you can choose up to two research areas).
Choose from the research themes of the School of Physics:
- Materials and Devices
- Particle Physics
- Quantum and Soft Matter
- Quantum Engineering Technologies
- Theoretical Physics
If you have already contacted a potential supervisor or are replying to a studentship advert, please indicate the potential supervisors name in the ‘Research Proposal’ section of the application.
Fees for 2022/23
We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2022/23 are as follows:
- UK: full-time
- UK : part-time
- Overseas: 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 (eg 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.
Following the recent changes to fee assessment regulation, Channel Islands and Isle of Man students will no longer be charged a separate tuition fee. From the 2021/22 academic year they will be charged the same fees as Home students.
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.
University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a 25% reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni discount.
Funding for 2022/23
In each academic year, the School of Physics has a number of scholarships for PhD degrees, which are awarded competitively to candidates with the highest research potential. The type of scholarship varies according to the Research Theme of the PhD opportunity. Applicants are encouraged to contact the postgraduate opportunities rep in their Research Theme of interest for more information.
We warmly welcome applications from candidates who are applying for funding in their home country, for example; your own Government scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships, Charities.
If you are unsure about which Research Theme your interests align with, please contact the admissions team.
Further information on funding for prospective UK, EU and international postgraduate students.
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:
Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.
Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 Dong Liu email@example.com
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 semiconductor materials and devices, nuclear and aerospace materials, surface Physics and nanomaterials.
Specifically, the Centre for Device Thermography and Reliability (CDTR) is a world-leading group 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. The Advanced Mechanics of Advanced Materials (EMAM) group uses cutting-edge unique techniques to investigate the deformation and fracture of a large range of nuclear and aerospace materials ranging from nuclear graphite and ceramic-matrix composites to ultra-high temperature nuclear fuel particles and accident tolerant fuels collaborating with UK and international key players in the field. 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 surface physics aspect of the work involves catalysis and electro-deposited ultrathin films.
Quantum and Soft Matter
Academic contact for enquiries: Professor Walther Schwarzacher firstname.lastname@example.org
Our aim is to find and understand new and exciting phenomena of quantum and classical matter. We are world-renowned for our research on high-temperature superconductors, solid-liquid interfaces, glasses, and proteins. Postgraduate students in our group conduct cutting-edge research and have made discoveries like the strange metal phase in cuprate superconductors published in the prestigious journal Nature in 2021. Our students use a wide range of experimental techniques including low temperature, high pressure (< 20 mK and up to 2 megabar), acoustic levitation, and state-of-the art optical techniques to probe phase transitions.
Quantum Engineering Technologies
Academic contact for enquiries: Dr Jorge Barreto email@example.com
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.
Academic contact for enquiries: Dr Konstantinos Petridis firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Academic contact for enquiries: Dr Stephen Clark email@example.com
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.
Graduates with research degrees are valued by employers and universities across the world. If you are considering a research career, a PhD in Physics is an essential qualification.
For other professional occupations the skills you will have gained through your research degree will be invaluable, whether in industry, academia or elsewhere.
The ability to analyse problems, the capability to plan a project, the expertise of communicating complex ideas - all of these and more are 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.
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 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 Matt Smith, (Lecturer)
Dr Ross Springell, (Lecturer)
Dr Natasa Vasiljevic, (Senior Lecturer)
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)
We welcome applications at any time of year. However, for opportunities linked to School of Physics funds, it is advised the application should be with us before the end of the calendar year.
Open days and visits
Watch on-demand recordings from November's virtual open week.
Get in touch
Dr Terry McMaster Director of the Graduate School Phone: +44 (0) 117 33 17946 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms Eszter Szatmari Senior Postgraduate Student Administrator Phone: +44 (0) 117 33 17946 Email: email@example.com
HH Wills Physics Laboratory
University of Bristol
Bristol BS8 1TL
School website: School of Physics
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REF 2021 results
The University of Bristol is ranked fifth for research in the UK (Times Higher Education), with 94% of our research assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent.
Full REF 2021 results for the University of Bristol.