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Postgraduate research opportunities 

Physics and Astronomy

Horse Head and Flame Nebula in the Hubble Palette

The School of Physics and Astronomy is a vibrant centre of research in a wide range of fields. Our research is highly rated and our research groups are internationally renowned for their work.

PhD Research Projects

We are looking for smart, enthusiastic PhD UK/EU applicants to take up funded places in:

  • Quantum Imaging (making images from light that has never seen the object)
  • Quantum Storage (using cold atoms to store quantum images)

Anyone interested should e-mail Sonja Franke-Arnold or Miles Padgett


Our strong collaborations with UK and international institutions contribute to an excellent environment for top quality research.  For example:

We are third in the Russell Group (a group of UK research-intensive universities) in terms of income per academic member of staff. With over 45 academics, 25 research associates and 115 PhD students, the School is home to eight research groups.

With a 93% overall student satisfaction in the National Student Survey 2016, Physics and Astronomy at Glasgow continues to meet student expectations combining both teaching excellence and a supportive learning environment.

Research groups

Astronomy and astrophysics 

We cover a wide range of topics, including solar and plasma physics, cosmology and radio astronomy. Much of our research in solar physics concentrates on the theory, diagnostics and observation of solar flares, complementing our work in more general plasma theory and atmospheric plasmas.

Our research in radio astronomy and cosmology ranges from low frequency astronomy in space to probing the distribution of dark matter with galaxy surveys.

More information: Astronomy and Astrophysics

Imaging concepts

We conduct research into new imaging techniques at optical and radio-frequency wavelengths and work closely with collaborators in industry, biology and medicine to apply these techniques in real-world applications.  Our main research fields are computational imaging, spectral imaging and biomedical imaging, particularly in the retina.

More information: Imaging Concepts

Institute for Gravitational Research

Our work includes a broad spectrum of research in and around the field of gravitational wave astronomy and cosmology. This includes:

  • the analysis and astrophysical interpretation of gravitational wave signals from the ground-based network of interferometric gravitational wave detectors including the LIGO observatories.
  • studies of precision novel interferometric sensing techniques to allow detectors to operate at and beyond the Standard Quantum Limit and the development of systems of ultra -low optical and mechanical loss for the suspensions of mirror test masses.

The group is also involved in the space-based LISA mission.

More information: Institute for Gravitational Research

Materials and condensed matter physics 

We study fundamental phenomena and find solutions for critical issues such as energy, healthcare and information technology. Our research is underpinned by our capabilities in advanced characterisation, theoretical modelling, computational simulation, and a long-standing reputation for the development of transmission electron microscopy techniques. The group facilities include: advanced materials preparation and characterisation, ferromagnetic resonance, scanning probe microscopy, and state of the art high resolution electron microscopy.

More information: Materials and Condensed Matter Physics

Nuclear physics 

The group undertakes fundamental research into the structure of matter and understanding the processes of Quantum Chromodynamics (the strong nuclear interaction). We study the structure of nucleons (protons and neutrons) and also the spectrum of strongly interacting particles (hadrons). The group is involved at the highest level of international research in hadronic and nuclear physics, and in development of the latest detector technologies and analysis techniques for use in experiments. Our experimental programme is based in the US and Germany.

 We also have a programme of applying nuclear physics techniques to applications in radioactive waste disposal, healthcare diagnostics and environmental monitoring.

More information: Nuclear Physics


We are best known for our work on optical angular momentum (where light beams can spin microscopic objects) and our development of optical tweezers (which use laser beams to manipulate the microscopic world). We also study how tiny prisms and lenses can create strange optical transformations and how optical beams interact with cold atoms and gases.

More information: Optics

Quantum theory 

Our research covers a range of topics in quantum theory, centred mostly on quantum information and quantum optics. We are interested in the foundations of quantum theory and especially he ways in which these appear in light-matter interactions. We work on:

  • quantum-limited measurements
  • the mechanical effects of light
  • the optics of chiral molecules
  • open systems
  • quantum thermodynamics.

We are theoretical physicists but we also enjoy working with experimentalists.

More information: Quantum Theory

Experimental and theoretical particle physics

As part of several major international collaborations, we perform world-class research into fundamental particles and their interactions.

We are interested in phenomena that can be probed at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN as well as at future facilities. The theorists use the current Standard Model of particle physics, as well as credible extensions of it, to make predictions that can be tested by the experimentalists.

Theoretical work has a focus on the behaviour of the strong force as described by Quantum Chromodynamics, using both perturbation theory and nonperturbative methods of lattice QCD; the physics of the Higgs boson and the top quark, and the phenomenology of exotic new physics beyond the Standard Model.

The experimental group is a key member of both the ATLAS and LHCb experiments as well as leading work on the computing grid used for data analysis and detector developments for future collider and neutrino experiments.

More information

Study options

Phd 3-4 6-8
EngD 4-5 8*
MSc (Res) 1-2 2-3
MPhil 2-3 3-4

* Part-time study is only available at EngD level in Optics and Photonics


All our postgraduate research students are allocated a supervisor who acts as the main source of academic support and research mentoring.

You may want to identify a potential supervisor and contact them to discuss your research proposal before you apply.

Entry requirements

2.1 Honours degree or equivalent

Required documentation

Applicants should submit:

  • Transcripts/degree certificate 
  • Two references
  • CV

English Language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English.

Fees and funding



  • £4,260 UK/EU
  • £20,150 outside EU

Prices are based on the annual fee for full-time study. Fees for part-time study are half the full-time fee.

Additional fees for all students:

  • Submission by a research student £480
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work £1,200
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed £300
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship £680
  • Research students registered as non-supervised Thesis Pending students (50% refund will be granted if the student completes thesis within the first six months of the period) £270
  • General Council fee £50

Depending on the nature of the research project, some students will be expected to pay a bench fee to cover additional costs. The exact amount will be provided in the offer letter.

Alumni discount

A 10% discount is available to University of Glasgow alumni. This includes graduates and those who have completed a Junior Year Abroad, Exchange programme or International Summer School at the University of Glasgow. The discount is applied at registration for students who are not in receipt of another discount or scholarship funded by the University. No additional application is required.

2017/18 fees

  • £4,195 UK/EU
  • £19,500 outside EU

Prices are based on the annual fee for full-time study. Fees for part-time study are half the full-time fee.

Additional fees for all students:

  • Fee for re-submission by a research student: £460
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work: £1,050
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed: £250
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship: £730
  • Research students registered as non-supervised Thesis Pending students (50% refund will be granted if the student completes thesis within the first six months of the period): £300
  • Registration/exam only fee: £150
  • General Council fee: £50


We have PhD and MSc by research studentships provided by:

  • UK research councils such as (STFC and EPSRC),  primarily designed for UK residents.
  • SUPA prize scholarships which pay all fees and living expenses, open to outstanding candidates irrespective of nationality or residency.

Download the College of Science & Engineering: postgraduate research funding flyer 2018-19


We are a member of the Scottish Universities Physical Alliance (SUPA), a research alliance in physics between six Scottish Universities (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt, St. Andrews, Strathclyde, West of Scotland). The SUPA graduate school gives Glasgow students access to expertise from all the SUPA institutes through the various courses.

The school has a vibrant research colloquia programme delivered by recognised experts.

With a 92% overall student satisfaction in the National Student Survey 2013, the School of Physics and Astronomy combines both teaching excellence and a supportive learning environment.

You will be part of a Graduate School which provides the highest level of support to its students.

The overall aim of our Graduate School is to provide a world-leading environment for students which is intellectually stimulating, encourages them to contribute to culture, society and the economy and enables them to become leaders in a global environment.

We have a diverse community of over 750 students from more than 50 countries who work in innovative and transformative disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields. An important part of our work is to bring our students together and to ensure they consider themselves an important part of the University’s academic community.

Being part of our Graduate School community will be of huge advantage to you in your studies and beyond and we offer students a number of benefits in addition to exceptional teaching and supervision, including:

  • A wide-ranging and responsive research student training programme which enables you to enhance your skills and successfully complete your studies.
  • Mobility scholarships of up to £4000 to enable you to undertake work in collaboration with an international partner.
  • A diverse programme of activities which will ensure you feel part of the wider-research community (including our biannual science slam event).
  • A residential trip for all new research students.
  • The opportunity to engage with industry-partners through training, placements and events.
  • Professionally accredited programmes.
  • Unique Masters programmes run in collaboration with other organisations.
  • State-of-the-art facilities including the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre and the Kelvin Nanocharacterisation Centre.
  • Highly-rated support for international students.

Over the last five years, we have helped over 600 students to complete their research studies and our students have gone on to take up prestigious posts in industries across the world.

Email: scieng-gradschool@glasgow.ac.uk


Our research groups work with a range of international collaborators and students have the opportunity to visit and work at a range of international institutes and laboratories including:

  • CERN (European Laboratory for Particle Physics, Switzerland)
  • Jefferson Laboratory (USA)
  • Ligo lab (USA)
  • ICRR (Japan). 


Our in-house research facilities include:

  • The Glasgow Laboratory for Advanced Detector Development (GLADD) developing the next generation of advanced sensor systems for particle physics experiments, medical applications and security systems.
  • The SRDG Materials Characterisation Laboratory, developing materials for gravitational wave detectors.
  • The Kelvin Nanocharacterisation Centre, researching the atomic, electric and magnetic structure of materials using one of the world's highest performance electron microscopes.
  • ScotGrid, providing leading edge e-science facilities.
  • The Optics group provides world-class facilities in structured light and quantum imaging.

Our research teams are also partners in many major national and international research projects including:

  • The ATLAS experiment at the LHC at CERN, studying the fundamental structure of matter at unprecedented energies.
  • LHCb at the LHC in CERN, studying the origin of matter-antimatter asymmetry.
  • The GEO660, LIGO and Virgo Scientific Collaborations, seeking to detect gravitational waves and use these as an additional probe of major astrophysical phenomena.
  • Jefferson Lab, the top nuclear physics research facility in the United States.
  • The SuperSTEM facility (the EPSRC National Facility for Aberration-Corrected Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy) running one of the highest resolution electron microscopes in the world, and accessible to scientists from all round the UK and the rest of the world.
  • The award winning NASA RHESSI X-ray mission, studying solar flares and several other forthcoming international space missions such as ESA's Solar Orbiter.
  • The F-CHROMA project, focusing on space-based and ground-based multi-mode, multi-wavelength study of solar flares.

Our staff and students have the opportunity to use these facilities, and PhD students are in some cases seconded to external facilities for a significant part of their research.

Graduates leave with numeracy, problem-solving skills, a capacity for logical thought and the capability to apply abstract concepts to the real world, as well as experience of working in teams. Career opportunities for physicists can be found in research in universities or in many areas of industry: high tech manufacturing, semiconductor, materials, finance, consultancy and teaching.

How to apply
Related links


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