PhD Opportunities and Other Vacancies

Below are details of currently open positions to join the Leeds Condensed Matter Physics group at all levels.

In general, funded PhD positions and Post-Doctoral research positions are only available when advertised. We regret that we do not have funding available to support internships or other visiting scholarships.

PhD Projects Available

Priority Project: Ultra-thin topological insulator spin-current transistor
Dr Satoshi Sasaki

  • UK/EU/International: UK and EU
  • Value: This project is one of the priority DTA projects of the School of Physics and funded by the University of Leeds. The studentship consists of the award of fees with a maintenance grant for 3.5 years. It is also open to self-funded students and is eligible for funding in an open competition across the School of Physics, see funding schemes for details.
  • Number of awards: 1
  • Deadline:  8th December 2021

Supervisor(s)

Dr Satoshi Sasaki. Contact Satoshi Sasaki to discuss this project further informally.

Project description

Topological insulators are an existing class of band-gap insulators, whilst they do conduct through their edge (or the surface in the case of 3 dimensional materials). These gapless metallic surface states are naturally generated with helically-polarized spin texture due to strong spin-orbit coupling with a peculiar energy band structure of materials. Moreover the states are protected by time-reversal symmetry simply due to prohibition of back scattering and realize almost dissipationless pure spin currents (no net charge current) at the edge (surface) of materials. Spin-current devices based on the topological insulators save energy because it requires small current that flow at the edge (the surface) not in the bulk to access their surface properties.

In this project, we will fabricate a spin-current field effect transistor with an ultra-thin topological insulator Bi2-xSbxTe3 film1 grown by molecular beam epitaxy in ultrahigh vacuum, a part of a new multi-deposition system in Leeds. Existence of gapless states in topological insulators are one of peculiar characteristics but we will open a gap in the surface state by employing ultra-thin films where the top and bottom surface states get unstable due to an interference between two. The gapped surface state with a gating technique will provide us a capability of fabricating a spin-current filed effect transistor that can switch on/off the spin-polarized current. We will also keep our eye on other topological insulator materials suitable for this device project.

This is a project in an exciting and very active research area which allows us to closely interact and collaborate with other research teams in the University of Leeds including a theoretical group. We are looking for a motivated student with a background in physics, physical chemistry, or material science.

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with or expecting a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1), and/or a Master’s degree in physics or a related subject.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university’s website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the PhD you wish to be considered for is the ‘Ultra-thin topological insulator spin-current transistor‘ as well as Dr Satoshi Sasaki as your proposed supervisor.

Our department is proud to create inclusive student, research, and working cultures that are supportive and welcoming to those from all backgrounds, genders, ages, disabilities, religions, and other protected groups. We are committed to providing a postgraduate program that not only equips you with the technical and professional skills you will need in your career, but which is also enjoyable, supportive, diverse, and inclusive. We welcome all applications, but especially those from the under-represented groups in physics. Everybody’s needs will be supported, but if you do have any concerns, you can contact us, in confidence, to discuss how we can support your particular needs during a research degree at the University of Leeds.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office, e: maps.pgr.admissions@leeds.ac.uk

Skyrmions under strain
Dr Thomas Moore

  • UK/EU/International: UK and EU
  • Value: Diamond Studentship funded jointly by Diamond Light Source and the University of Leeds. This includes UK/EU fees (£4,400 Session 2018/19 rate), student stipend (£17,777 Session 2018/19 rate) and funding for travel/accommodation between Diamond and Leeds at a rate of £2,000 p.a. for 3.5 years.
  • Number of awards: 1
  • Deadline: 3 May 2019

Supervisor(s)

Dr Thomas Moore, Dr Sarnjeet Dhesi, and Dr Francesco Maccherozzi. Contact Thomas Moore to discuss this project further informally.

Project description

There has been an explosion of interest in skyrmions in recent years, with the very first x-ray images of skyrmion dynamics being released recently. Skyrmions exist in magnetic thin films as nanoscale whirls of magnetization. Their topological stability, nanoscale size and potential for energy-efficient manipulation means that they are being actively developed for technological applications.

In this project, electron microscopy combined with intense polarised x-rays in a PhotoEmission Electron Microscope (PEEM) will be used to image skyrmions and their dynamics in thin magnetic films under strain. A major avenue of the research will involve manipulating skyrmion shape via strain from a piezoelectric transducer which significantly affects their magnetization dynamics. The aim of this project is then to understand how static or impulsive strain influences skyrmion dynamics using the high-resolution magnetic imaging capabilities of the PEEM housed at the UK national synchrotron facility (Diamond Light Source, Oxfordshire).

The ultimate goal is to build computing components, such as neural networks, that use skyrmions under strain as key functional parts. The project will begin at Leeds with the nanofabrication of arrays of magnetic thin film disks containing skyrmions, which will be placed on a piezoelectric transducer. A substantial part of this project is based at Diamond Light Source where magnetic imaging using the PEEM will be developed to understand novel skyrmion spin textures under strain. The work at Diamond Light Source will also involve developing the capability of a new aberration-corrected PEEM which will allow imaging skyrmion spin textures at the highest spatial resolution available.

Links: University of Leeds Condensed Matter Group, Diamond Light Source, Beamline I06, Diamond Light Source

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with or expecting a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1), and/or a Master’s degree in physics or a related subject.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university’s website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the PhD you wish to be considered for is the ‘Skyrmions under strain’ as well as Dr Thomas Moore as your proposed supervisor.

Our department is proud to create inclusive student, research, and working cultures that are supportive and welcoming to those from all backgrounds, genders, ages, disabilities, religions, and other protected groups. We are committed to providing a postgraduate program that not only equips you with the technical and professional skills you will need in your career, but which is also enjoyable, supportive, diverse, and inclusive. We welcome all applications, but especially those from the under-represented groups in physics. Everybody’s needs will be supported, but if you do have any concerns, you can contact us, in confidence, to discuss how we can support your particular needs during a research degree at the University of Leeds.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office, e: maps.pgr.admissions@leeds.ac.uk

Fluctuation and equilibration in artificial magnetic quasicrystals
Prof. Christopher Marrows

  • UK/EU/International: Worldwide (International, UK and EU)
  • Value: This project is open to self-funded students and is eligible for funding in an open competition across the School of Physics, see funding schemes for details.
  • Number of awards: 1
  • Deadline: Applications accepted all year round

Supervisor(s)

Contact Professor Christopher Marrows to discuss this project further informally.

Project description

Frustration is the inability of a physical system to simultaneously satisfy competing constraints. It occurs across physics and beyond, but is a particularly important topic in magnetism, a field in which (relatively) simple systems can be represented by toy statistical mechanical models that can then be extended into other fields model phenomena as diverse as forest fires and financial networks.

The study of frustration in magnetism has recently been given a new lease of life since artificial frustrated systems can now be built and studied using nanotechnology: in the case of magnetism, this is done by constructing arrays of magnetic nanoelements arranged in patterns where their magnetostatic interactions are frustrated.

The advantages of this approach is that it is possible to build experimental realisations of models that nature does not provide crystal structures for, with every parameter in the model tunable by adjusting the element size, shape, and spacing. Moreover, the microstates of these artificial statistical mechanical systems can be inspected in detail using advanced magnetic microscopy methods, including time-resolved imaging to study thermal fluctuations in those microstates.

To date, almost all artificial frustrated spin systems have been ‘crystalline’ in that they are periodic arrays. In particular, square and hexagonal arrays have been studied as analogs of spin ice crystals. Thermal excitations in spin ices show appear as emergent quasiparticles with many of the properties of magnetic monopoles, physics that has been reproduced in their artificial counterparts. In this project we will study quasicrystalline systems, where the magnetic nanoelements are arranged on a Penrose tiling. Whilst small parts of this pattern repeat, the whole pattern never does.

We have begun to study these Penrose-based systems in an athermal state, where the energy scales are all much larger than kT and so the state of the system is frozen in. In this project we will build systems that are thermally fluctuating by tuning these energy scales towards kT. In this way we will study collective nature of the freezing and melting of the artificial spin system and seek to understand the nature of its emergent excitations.

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with, or expecting, a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1) in a relevant discipline, a Master’s degree in a relevant discipline, or both.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

Additional staff contact

Gavin Burnell

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university’s website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the PhD you wish to be considered for is ‘Fluctuation and equilibration in artificial magnetic quasicrystals’ as well as Professor Christopher Marrows as your proposed supervisor.

Our department is proud to create inclusive student, research, and working cultures that are supportive and welcoming to those from all backgrounds, genders, ages, disabilities, religions, and other protected groups. We are committed to providing a postgraduate program that not only equips you with the technical and professional skills you will need in your career, but which is also enjoyable, supportive, diverse, and inclusive. We welcome all applications, but especially those from the under-represented groups in physics. Everybody’s needs will be supported, but if you do have any concerns, you can contact us, in confidence, to discuss how we can support your particular needs during a research degree at the University of Leeds.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office, e: maps.pgr.admissions@leeds.ac.uk

Magnetic skyrmions in chiral multilayers
Prof. Christopher Marrows

  • UK/EU/International: Worldwide (International, UK and EU)
  • Value: This project is open to self-funded students and is eligible for funding in an open competition across the School of Physics, see funding schemes for details.
  • Number of awards: 1
  • Deadline: Applications accepted all year round

Supervisor(s)

Contact Professor Christopher Marrows to discuss this project further informally

Project description

In this project we will study magnetic skyrmions, nanoscale swirls of spins that possess a special topology. They appear in properly designed magnetic multilayers at room temperature and are candidates for next-generation data storage technology. It is now over a decade since the carbon footprint of the internet grew larger than that of commercial air travel, much of this energy is used to physically spin hard disks, write data to them, and write and refresh volatile memory. To drive skyrmions along a crystal using spin torque requires several orders of magnitude less current density then driving magnetic domains under ideal conditions, but this is not seen in practice in these systems so far. Magnetic skyrmions offer the prospect of vastly reducing the energy needed to write and store digital data if their properties can be controlled.

In Leeds we have a rich programme of research on skyrmions carried out with several leading European laboratories in France, Germany and Switzerland. Potential topics for PhD study include studying the thermal stability of skyrmions in order to establish their reliability as a store of digital data (arXiv:1706.01065 [cond-mat.mes-hall]), studying their transport properties as a means of electrically detecting them (arXiv:1706.06024 [physics.app-ph]), and the mobility of skyrmions at room temperature under the influence of the torques exerted by spin-polarised currents.

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with, or expecting, a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1) in a relevant discipline, a Master’s degree in a relevant discipline, or both.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university’s website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the PhD you wish to be considered for is ‘Magnetic skyrmions in chiral multilayers’ as well as Professor Christopher Marrows as your proposed supervisor.

Our department is proud to create inclusive student, research, and working cultures that are supportive and welcoming to those from all backgrounds, genders, ages, disabilities, religions, and other protected groups. We are committed to providing a postgraduate program that not only equips you with the technical and professional skills you will need in your career, but which is also enjoyable, supportive, diverse, and inclusive. We welcome all applications, but especially those from the under-represented groups in physics. Everybody’s needs will be supported, but if you do have any concerns, you can contact us, in confidence, to discuss how we can support your particular needs during a research degree at the University of Leeds.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office, e: maps.pgr.admissions@leeds.ac.uk

Superconducting Spintronics
Dr Gavin Burnell

  • UK/EU/International: Worldwide (International, UK and EU)
  • Value: This project is open to self-funded students and is eligible for funding in an open competition across the School of Physics, see funding schemes for details.
  • Number of awards: 1
  • Deadline: Applications accepted all year round

Supervisor(s)

Contact Dr Gavin Burnell to discuss this project further informally.

Project description

Superconducting computers operating at 4.2K have been proposed to solve the problems of energy usage by large-scale computing, and interfacing a quantum computer operator at mili-Kelvin temperatures with conventional room temperature electronics. Whilst the technology to implement logic in such a 4.2K computer is well established, there remains, as yet, no suitable technology to implement cryogenic memory. We are aiming to address this need by developing the physics and materials to implement memory technologies based on superconductor-ferromagnetic Josephson junctions.

A ferromagnetic Josephson junction combines elements from magnetic RAM where data is stored in the magnetic configuration of magnetic tunnel junction with the low dissipation/ low voltage readout inherent in a superconducting Josephson junction. The primary challenges that are to be overcome in realizing this concept are to develop on-chip methods of writing the data – either through local magnetic field control or preferably through direct electrical writing of the magnetic state via spin-transfer-torque.

This project will build on our most recent publication [1] we have demonstrated a proof of concept device combining a perpendicular magnetic anisotropy spin-valve with a Josephson junction to produce a device with a controllable 60% change in critical current for two different magnetic states.

[1] Satchell N, Shepley P M, Algarni M, Vaughan M, Darwin E, Ali M, Rosamond M C, Chen L, Linfield E H, Hickey B J and Burnell G 2020 Spin-valve Josephson junctions with perpendicular magnetic anisotropy for cryogenic memory Appl. Phys. Lett. 116 022601

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with, or expecting, a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1) in a relevant discipline, a Master’s degree in a relevant discipline, or both.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

Additional staff contact

Prof. Christopher Marrows
Prof. B.J. Hickey

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university’s website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the PhD you wish to be considered for is ‘Fluctuation and equilibration in artificial magnetic quasicrystals’ as well as Professor Christopher Marrows as your proposed supervisor.

Our department is proud to create inclusive student, research, and working cultures that are supportive and welcoming to those from all backgrounds, genders, ages, disabilities, religions, and other protected groups. We are committed to providing a postgraduate program that not only equips you with the technical and professional skills you will need in your career, but which is also enjoyable, supportive, diverse, and inclusive. We welcome all applications, but especially those from the under-represented groups in physics. Everybody’s needs will be supported, but if you do have any concerns, you can contact us, in confidence, to discuss how we can support your particular needs during a research degree at the University of Leeds.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office, e: maps.pgr.admissions@leeds.ac.uk

We can obtain funding for PhD projects in a number of ways. In a few cases dedicated funding for a studentship exists, in this case the project will be listed as being funded. The details of who is eligible for the funding will be listed on the page describing the project in detail.

For all other projects, you can ask to be considered for a scholarship from the School. The School has a limited number of Dotoral Training Grant studentships from EPSRC each year for UK students, as well as other scholarships to which special eligibilty conditions can be attached. Students from outside the EU will need to apply for a Overseas Research Scholarship, as described below. The group aims to recruit the strongest candidates to the projects most closely meeting our strategic priorities each year.

IOP Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund

The IOP Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund is for full or part-time graduates wishing to study towards a doctorate in physics and from groups that are currently under-represented in physics.

We have an internal deadline of 8th December 2021. You need to be interviewed and sent an offer letter by this date.

If you would like to talk to us about this scholarship then please email m.e.ries@leeds.ac.uk

To find out more information go here: https://www.iop.org/about/support-grants/bell-burnell-fund

Watch this YouTube video from Jocelyn Bell Burnell herself, talking about this funding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EigAPYgJo0M