PhD Projects available for 2017 start


Job Opportunities

There are currently no vacancies within the group.


PhD Studentships

For a variety of projects, we seek candidates with knowledge of physics or materials science, a keen interest in optics and photonic technologies, and a desire to develop advanced skills in experimental photonics, computational electromagnetic modelling, electron and optical microscopy, materials discovery, and nanofabrication. You will join a strong international group of students, postdoctoral and academic staff working together on many aspects of cutting-edge nanophotonics research.

Fully funded PhD positions are available for UK applicants. Overseas students who have secured external funding are also encouraged to apply. EU students with no external funding may additionally contend for a small number of competitively allocated scholarships.

Informal enquiries, including a copy of your CV, should be directed by email to Prof. Zheludev and Dr. Plum. For entry requirements and application procedures please see details of the ORC PhD Programme, in which all students will be enrolled.

Magneto-optic Metamaterials

Advanced materials offer dramatically enhanced and indeed completely new modes of interaction between light, matter, and electric or magnetic signals in ultrathin films, opening the door to an era of ‘flat optics’ and a step-change in the miniaturization of optical devices.

This PhD project, sponsored by the British multinational advanced technology company QinetiQ ( under the Dstl Materials for Strategic Advantage (MSA) programme, will investigate magneto-optic effects in planar metamaterials, looking at ways in which new materials and nanostructures can provide novel and/or enhanced functionalities such as components transmitting light only in one direction and optical switches controlled by magnetic field. (Applicants for this project must be a UK or EU nationals; dual nationals will be considered.)

Nanostructured photonic metamaterials on fibre-optic platforms

The integration of new functional materials and metamaterial-enabled devices with optical fibre telecommunications technology is the core mission of our photonic metamaterials research programme.

This PhD project will investigate and demonstrate ways in which metamaterials can help to guide and control light signals in optical fibres, by engaging a variety of phenomena such as structural phase transitions in nanostructured and confined solids, nano-mechanical motion, or nonlinear and coherent light-matter interactions.

Novel nano-mechanical materials and devices for photonics

One of the main research directions of our programme is developing metamaterials consisting of nanoscale building blocks that can be moved by external forces [e.g. due to electrical or magnetic signals and light illumination; see: Nature Nanotechnology 11, 16 (2016]. Such nanoscale motion can radically change the optical properties of matter and will enable the development of a new generation of optical devices such as re-focusable flat lenses, dynamic holographic displays and optical components with programmable properties.

This PhD project will look at the intriguing physics of electromagnetic, mechanical and optical forces at the nanoscale and will aim to develop practical applications of nano-opto-mechanical metamaterials in photonic devices.

Materials Discovery for Photonic Metamaterials

The University of Southampton is home to a unique ‘materials discovery’ facility enabling synthesis of thin films composed of almost any combination of elements to achieve designer optical materials with unique characteristics: For example, extremely high- or low-refractive index media; materials with properties that can be switched by light, electric or magnetic signals; and ‘topological insulators’ with intriguing electromagnetic surface states.

This PhD project will investigate how these advanced materials can be used to create new functionalities for photonic applications and to enhance the performance of metamaterial devices.

Super-Oscillatory Telescope

In 2007 we pioneered a new super-resolution imaging technology that allows microscopy with resolution far beyond the diffraction limit of conventional systems. This “super-oscillatory” approach is now being deployed and tested at the university’s Institute for Life Sciences to study living cells [see: Nature Materials, 11, 432 (2012)].

We now propose to develop a new family of telescopes - devices for forming images of remote objects - based on super-oscillatory concepts. These will achieve better angular resolution in smaller and much lighter packages than conventional glass- or mirror-lens instruments, offering applications in navigation, range-finding and alignment instruments (including automated systems on space platforms); metrology, surveillance; robotics; and directed energy sources.

This PhD project will investigate and demonstrate new physical principles underpinning the operation of super-oscillatory telescopes based on nanotechnology-enabled lenses and will aim to develop working prototypes in a variety of configurations.

Free-electron Nanophotonics

When free-electrons fly past or impact on nanostructures, they generate light. These interactions can be used to create new types of tuneable nanoscale light sources. Moreover, the light generated can serve as a probe to obtain detailed information about the nanostructure itself.

This PhD project, involving close collaboration with partners at The Photonics Institute in Singapore, will engage a new type of electron source that generates ultrashort pulses. This presents us with a unique opportunity to develop novel nanoscale optical sources and to study nanostructures with an unprecedented combination of spatial and temporal resolution, and so to investigate how advanced dielectric and plasmonic material platforms and nanostructures can provide novel new free-electron functionalities for photonics at the nanoscale.

Ultrafast Dynamics in Photonic Metamaterials

Advanced materials with unique dielectric and plasmonic properties offer new and enhanced modes of light-matter interaction. They are redefining the limits of what is possible in terms of the magnitude and speed of material response to optical excitation over nanometre-scale interaction lengths, and promise step-changes in the miniaturization and reduced energy consumption of optical modulation, sensing, switching and memory devices.

This PhD project will investigate nonlinear and phase-change response mechanisms in a variety of ultra-thin and nanostructured designer optical materials, for example extremely high-/low-refractive index dielectrics, and plasmonic ‘topological insulators’ with intriguing electromagnetic surface states.

Metamaterials for Toroidal Spectroscopy

Toroidal dipole excitations were observed for the first time at the ORC in 2010 and now are subject of growing interest because of their unusual electromagnetic properties [see: Nature Mater. 15, 263 (2016)].

This PhD project will pursue proof-of principle demonstrations of a new type of optical spectroscopy sensitive to toroidal transitions in matter. We hope to develop a unique new tool for investigating the physics of interactions, and energy/information transfer involving toroidal excitations at the molecular and macro-molecular level in novel artificially structured media and biologically important systems.