"Hands-on" molecules: using microwave metamaterials as analogues of molecular systems Ref: 3367

University of Exeter

  • South West England
  • ¬£Attractive
  • Academic - PhD/MSc

Job ref: N/A

EPSRC CDT in Metamaterials: "Hands-on" molecules: using microwave metamaterials as analogues of molecular systems Ref: 3367

About the award

This exciting 3.5 year project is for self-funded students only. You need to be able to cover at least fees (UK/EU approx. £4,320 per year; International approx. £23,700 per year) and your living expenses (minimum of £15,000 per year is recommended) to take up this opportunity.

International applicants seeking a scholarship are advised to consider the Global Excellence Scholarships scheme (deadline 4 March 2019), and to contact metamaterials@exeter.ac.uk in advance of any application.  Sanctuary Scholarships (deadline 17 May 2019) to enable individuals seeking asylum and refugees who are not able access student finance to study at the University of Exeter, are also available. In exceptional circumstances the College may be able to waive the additional study fees for international applicants.

The succesful candidate will have the opportunity to join the additional training programme of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials (XM²).

XM2 now has over 80 post graduate researchers.  Our aim is to undertake world-leading research, while training scientists and engineers with the relevant research skills and knowledge, and professional attributes for industry and academia.

Please visit www.exeter.ac.uk/metamaterials for more information about the current CDT and an indication of what to expect.

This studentship will be based on the Streatham Campus in Exeter.

Joint supervisors: Prof Bill Barnes, Dr Ian Hooper

External partner: Prof Frank Spano (Temple Univeristy, USA)

Statement of Research

Molecular aggregates are an important and interesting class of materials particularly in the context of optical (pigmented) materials, both in nature and in synthetic materials, for example in semiconducting polymers for solar cells and light emitting diodes (Spano, Ann Rev Phys Chem (2014) 65 p477).

However, there is a serious sub-wavelength problem in studying such aggregates. Typically inter-molecular separations are very much smaller than the wavelengths associated with the optical transitions of the pigments so that the interactions between the molecules in an aggregate are dominated by near-field interactions, typically of a dipole-dipole character. Despite the near-field nature of the inter-molecular interactions involved, optical investigations are almost universally based on far-field optical spectroscopy techniques, making, for example, the role of disorder and noise very difficult to investigate in a systematic way. In this PhD the student will explore an alternative approach, one that involves making cm-scale analogues of molecular aggregates based on microwave-domain metamaterials.

An excellent start in this area has been made by two previous CDT PhD students, Seetharaman and Baraclough [Seetharaman et al. Phys Rev B (2017) 96 p085426, Baraclough et al. Phys Rev B (2018) 98 p085146, and Seetharaman et al. for submission to Nature Photonics]. The student will develop and very significantly extend the use of these radio-frequency (RF) molecular aggregate analogues to help us better understand some of the processes involved in molecular systems, e.g. the role of disorder in defining the extent of coherent modes supported by the aggregate. The student will build 1 and 2D structures (chains, sheets and tubes) from meta-molecules (split-ring resonators etc.) to mimic some of the different molecular structures found in nature.

About us 

Exeter has a well-established and strong track record in functional materials and metamaterials research, spanning a unique mix of interests in our focus areas:

  1. Acoustic, Phononic and Fluidic Metamaterials

  2. Microwave and RF Metamaterials and Devices

  3. Nanocomposites and Manufacturing

  4. Photonic and Plasmonic Materials

  5. Soft Matter, Biomaterials and Sensors

  6. Spintronics, Magnonics and Magnetic Materials

  7. Theory and Modelling to drive Targeted Material and Device Design

  8. Two Dimensional Electronic and Photonic Materials

Exeter is amongst the top 150 universities worldwide according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the most influential global league table.
Functional Materials (from fundamentals to manufacturing) is one of 5 key themes supported by the UoE as part of its £320 million Science Strategy investing in staff and facilities. This theme has benefitted from the appointment of 23 new academics (including 7 full professors) along with £20m of investment in research infrastructure (including 3 new electronics/photonics clean-rooms, a graphene engineering laboratory, a nano-functional materials fabrication suite, a materials characterisation suite).

This is in parallel to significant external capital investment in our research including over £2m of equipment funding from the EPSRC/HEFCE SIA award (Exeter-Bath Centre for Graphene Science), the £2.6m ERDF-EADS funded Exeter Centre for Additive Layer Manufacture (CALM); £1.1, for Exeter’s EPSRC Time-Resolved Magnetism Facility; £1.2m for equipment funding from the EPSRC Graphene Engineering Call. Such investments ensure that we have, in-house, all the state-of-the-art materials, fabrication and characterisation facilities required by our PGRs.

Our research and PhD training experience, expertise, facilities and network makes the University of Exeter one of the very best places to pursue postgraduate and early career research.

How to apply


Application criteria

During the application process you will need to upload the documents listed below. Please prepare these before starting the application process.

  • An academic CV;
  • A cover letter outlining your research interests in general, the title of the project you are applying for;
  • A Personal Statement consisting of two parts*:
  1. Describe a) why you would like to study for a PhD, b) why you would like to focus on this particular topic, c) any relevant expertise and d) your future career ambitions;

  2. Describe the qualities that you believe will make you a great researcher (in particular as part of a team).

  • Degree transcript(s) giving information about the qualification awarded, the modules taken during the study period, and the marks for each module taken;

You will be asked to provide the contact details of two academic referees.

* We foster creativity and utilisation of individual strengths. Applicants are encouraged to provide evidence to support their statements. This might include conventional written documents (e.g. examples of work), but we also encourage alternatives such as audio or video recordings, websites, programming etc. Please ensure to include accessible links to such files in an appropriately named document as part of the upload process.

Application procedure

Shortlisting and interviews

Applications will normally be reviewed within two weeks of receipt from February 2019.

Candidates will be short-listed against a set of agreed criteria to ensure quality while maintaining diversity. Failure to include all the the elements listed above may result in rejection.

The essential criteria:

  •     Undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline;
  •     Vision and motivation (for research & professional development);
  •     Evidence of the ability to work collaboratively and to engage in a diverse community;
  •     Evidence of excellent written and oral skills in English.

The highest quality candidates will also be able to demonstrate one of more of the following:

  •     Specialist knowledge about one or more of the 8 research areas listed above;
  •     Training in research methodology (e.g. undergraduate research projects);
  •     Research outputs (e.g. papers) and/or other indicators of academic excellence (e.g. awards).

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an entry interview to assess whether they are suited to the CDT concept. The panel will normally consist of 3 people, including members of the CDT's Strategic Leadership Team and a current postgraduate researcher or post-doc in Physics or Engineering. If the applicant is successful, a second interview will take place to assess academic skills and fit to the project by the project supervisors.

Interviews are expected to start in February 2019.

Please email metamaterials@exeter.ac.uk if you have any queries about this process.


Application deadline: 30th April 2019
Number of awards: 1
Value: self-funded applicants only. Approx. £68,000 (UK/EU) - £120,000 (International); Scholarship opportunity for international applicants: www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/money/fundingsearch/awarddetails/?id=3425
Duration of award: per year
Contact: Prof. Alastair Hibbins (Admissions Tutor) metamaterials@exeter.ac.uk

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