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PhD supervisors

PhD supervisors

Materials

Professor Geoff Nash joined the University in 2011, having spent the previous 11 years in industry. He is a Fellow of both the Institute of Physics and Royal Society of Chemistry, and his research crosses traditional discipline boundaries, whilst spanning basic to applied science and engineering. Current research interests include 2D materials and devices, metamaterials and phononics, bio-inspired swimming, and infrared spectroscopy.

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My research interests are in novel materials and devices for quantum photonic applications. Currently the main focus of my research group is to develop single photon sources and spin qubits based on atomic defects in two-dimensional semiconductors.

An example of a currently advertised PhD project:

Quantum networks promise to revolutionise computing and communication, with the underlying idea to link individual or small clusters of qubits via a photonic channel. Amongst many potential architectures, colour centres in wide bandgap semiconductors provide a versatile platform and considerable progress has been made, particularly with the negatively charged nitrogen vacancy in diamond (NV) (see ref. 1 for a recent review). NV-centres fulfil many of the criteria necessary for a spin qubit, but also have several inherent disadvantages. Most notably, NV centres have poor optical properties and scalability is hindered by the challenge of fabricating devices from diamond. Colour centres in hBN [2] are an interesting alterative and have shown considerable early promise, thanks to their excellent optical properties, potential for photonic integration and recently the report of optically detected spin resonance [3]. This project will build on our recent work, using multicolour laser excitation to control and stabilise hBN colour centres [4], with an integrated microwave and photonic platform to control and investigate their spin properties. Ultimately, this will allow us to probe their potential as a spin qubit, with applications in quantum information, communication and nanoscale sensing.

Research interests

  • Quantum Nanophotonics with 2D materials
  • Graphene based mid-IR and THz optoelectronics
  • Integrated Quantum Photonics with III-V Semiconductors

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Atmospheric, climate and planetary science

My research interests are in: climate-carbon cycle feedbacks, dynamical global vegetation modelling, emergent constraints on climate change.

Possible projects:

  • Modelling carbon accumulation under forest expansion scenarios.
  • Constraints on future climate change from seasonal, interannual, and interdecadal variability.
  • Tipping points in a rapidly changing climate.
  • Quantifying the links between land-use, biodiversity and carbon storage.

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Jim has 25+ years of experience working in atmospheric science with a focus on atmospheric aerosols, which are sub-millimetre airborne particles that are ubiquitous in the atmosphere. He works as a professor of atmospheric science at the Universoty of Exeter and also as a Research Fellow at the Met Office.

Research into atmospheric aerosols was invigorated in the early 1990s, when it was realised that human emissions of aerosols from industrial activities formed a blanket around the Earth that acted to reflect sunlight back out to space and hence cool the Earth and offset a proportion of the global warming. Over the last decade Jim has become the UK's leading expert on assessing proposals that deliberately enhance this reflective effect - so called "geoengineering" schemes, which offer a last-gasp climate intervention to combat the impacts of global warming.

Jim is seeking capable prospective PhD students who are interested in global climate modelling aspects of geoengineering using Met Office climate model simulations and those from other modelling centres under GeoMIP (Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project).

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Professor Hugo Lambert is an atmospheric scientist interested in the atmospheres and climates of the Earth and other rocky planets.

At present, my main research interests are:

  • Large scale atmospheric physics and climatology of the Earth and other planets, with a particular focus on how small-scale processes interact with large-scale processes.
  • Clouds and the hydrological cycle.
  • Understanding model parameterisations using statistical analysis and machine learning techniques.

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Dr Dan Partridge is a Lecturer of Atmospheric Science whose research surrounds aerosols (tiny particles suspended in the atmosphere) and clouds. This is a challenging and important research area. as improving model estimates of climate change to greenhouse gas emissions is hampered by our lack of understanding of the counterbalancing cooling that aerosol particles have on the climate via their complex interactions with clouds.

Both anthropogenic and natural aerosols act as “seeds” for cloud droplet formation, affecting cloud properties, and thus influencing in a strongly non-linear way, cloud albedo, rain formation and cloud lifetime. I personally find this topic fascinating as I wish to understand how these tiny aerosols that are so small, they are barely visible in a microscope, can influence cloud systems so large they can only be seen in their entirety from space.

Accordingly our research aims to directly improve our understanding of aerosol-cloud interactions. To achieve this we work with both process-scale cloud models and global climate models and have strong links with the UK Met Office as well as a number of international climate modelling centres. Dan is seeking capable prospective PhD students who have a passion and curiosity for understanding climate change, and are interested in working with in-situ observations and modelling: at the process scale using cloud microphysics models, and/or at global scales using Earth System Models.

For a taster of some of the exciting research topics we are involved with please take a look at the EU project Forces we are a project partner for, as well as the Aerosol GCM Trajectory Experiment we are leading.


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I study the large-scale dynamics of planetary atmospheres, using a combination of theory, numerical modelling, and observational data. I would be particularly excited to supervise students who want to combine studies of Earth’s atmosphere and climate with those of other solar system planets and exoplanets. I am also interested in projects at the interface between atmospheric circulation and broader Earth system science.

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Biomedicine

Ozgur is a senior lecturer in mathematics. His main areas of research are: (i) developing computationally efficient methods to construct and calibrate models of GRNs and neural networks; (ii) experimental design for biotechnology experiments; and (iii) bioprocess optimisation (e.g. biofuel production).

Sample projects:

  • Machine learning and optimisation for combined antibiotic treatments.
  • Computational approaches to maximising yield in plant factories.

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My research focusses on using mathematical tools to understand psychiatric disorders, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These disorders are associated with alterations in the electrical activity of the brain. The aim is to characterise patterns of brain activity that reflect or govern susceptibility to neurological disorders and predict treatment response. This involves a combined approach using data analysis, mathematical modelling, and model fitting.

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I am interested in how systems of interacting parts (genes, organisms, environmental stresses and so on) impact microbial behaviour. To approach this, I marry microscope and optical instrument development with theory and synthetic biology to create tools for measuring these systems and controlling them in real-time. I look forward to collaborating with creative students interested in working across biological, quantitiative, and technical disciplines.

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I am interested in understanding how plant cells respond to attack through redistributing their resources. This is a fundamental cell biology question that affects human food security as this is the first line of defence against invasive microbes in crops. This is a biological problem we approach through cross-disciplinary science, where advanced cell biology methods are combined with biophysics approaches and mathematics to guide hypothesis testing. My laboratory works with experts across these fields to decipher the mechanisms that protect our food supply.

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My research aim is to use enzyme cascades to generate new chemicals and biological structures for human and veterinary healthcare. We study protein structure, function and enzyme activity, and combine this with physical techniques and mathematical modelling to choose the right enzyme tools. Our core interests are in making polysaccharide-protein complexes for vaccines and sustainably making pharmaceutical building blocks. We collaborate with many other groups to share our expertise in protein structure and function.

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A Potential project: Nature’s cryptic magnetosensitivity

Recombination reactions of pairs of radicals (i.e. molecules with odd, unpaired electrons) are potentially sensitive to weak magnetic fields. This surprising phenomenon has a truly quantum underpinning, found the form of the dynamics of electron and nuclear spins that are coupled to the reaction event. This Radical Pair Mechanism is thought to underpin a compass senses in certain animals, predominantly migratory songbirds, the magnetosensitivity of plant development, and magnetic field effects on lipid autoxidation, to name a few examples. It might also proof relevant to the assessment of health risks associated with the exposure to weak magnetic fields or their potential use in therapy. However, our current understanding of radical pairs in biology is limited and many questions about the mechanism have remained unanswered, both on the level of theory and experiment. If you are interested in decrypting nature’s subtle magnetosensitivity, we are happy to offer interdisciplinary project ranging from theoretical spin physics and simulation to experimental protein biophysics and beyond.

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My research is focused on the development of Brillouin, Raman and FTIR spectroscopy methods for applications to the biomedical sciences. I am particularly interested in the physical and chemical aspects of biological systems at a molecular level, as well as their implications in disease. Previously, I developed the application of attenuated total reflection (ATR) FTIR imaging to atherosclerosis in small animal models. I applied both ultrafast time-resolved optical Kerr effect (OKE) and THz-Raman scattering to elucidate the dynamics, structure and interactions in ionic solutions. My PhD was focused on investigating the hydrogen bonding properties of octanols from liquid to supercritical fluid conditions using FTIR, Raman and depolarised Rayleigh scattering.

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It is the ability for proteins to dynamically and rapidly reconfigure that underpins many critical activities in biology, disease and medicine. In the Phillips group we are pioneering an integrated experimental and computational approach to determine with unprecedented spatio-temporal resolution how enzymes are dynamically regulated and how they catalyse chemical reactions. We now have a unique opportunity to make measurements of the structural perturbations in large enzymes both with high structural resolution (per amino acid building block) and high temporal resolution (per millisecond). We apply this to answer fundamental questions in biology, to engineer new biotechnology tools and to discover new medicines.

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My work focuses on the use of various forms of vibrational spectroscopy and imaging to measure phenotypic changes in diseased cells, tissues and bio fluids and to develop novel tools for research into clinical diagnosis. These can range from microscopic analysis, point of care testing and in vivo diagnostics coupled to AI and machine learning approaches. I am a Medical Physicist by background and currently lead a programme of work (Raman Nanotheranostics rant-medicine.com ) to utilise the power of light and nanoparticles to provide a nano medicine method for specific diagnosis and therapy in one procedure.

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I am happy to talk to any student keen to use mathematical models to understand biological systems, or interested in applying machine learning to biomedical research.

 Possible PhD topics include:

  • Combining machine learning and mathematical models to stop abnormal rhythms in heart cells.
  • How neurones build functional networks through their own activity: a computational/mathematical study.
  • Electrophysiology without electrodes: using new tools to record and stimulate neurones non-invasively.
  • Can we ever understand the brain? A study using deep neural networks as a system for neuroscience experiments.
  • How does one neural network produce the multiple rhythmic activities that drive tadpole behaviours?
  • Cellular diversity is advantageous: a computational and experimental study to determine how electrically active cells become diverse.

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Professor Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova has over 20 years of experience in mathematical modelling and analysis of biological and physiological systems. She is always open to hearing from prospective PhD students who are genuinely interested and passionate to work in an interdisciplinary setting within the area of biomathematics and applications to healthcare.
See https://scholar.google.com/citations?hl=en&authuser=1&user=9UKx8DMAAAAJ for details of her published work.

Potential Project titles:

  1. Fighting bacterial antibiotic resistance using mathematical modelling and analysis
  2. Modelling calcium dynamics in fungal pathogens
  3. Modeling neuronal circuits in a ciliary micro-swimmer
  4. Modelling and analysis of coordination and dynamics in human movement
  5. Predicting emotional states based on multimodal physiological signals

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I run an interdisciplinary lab at the LSI where we combine mathematical and physical modelling, biophysics, and cell biology to study eukaryotic cell motility. We are particularly interested in (micro)organismal behaviour and fluid-based propulsion, via tiny hair-like appendages called cilia and flagella. An ideal student would already have had some training in physical/mathematical concepts during their undergraduate degree, be willing to perform wet-lab experiments, and be excited by the prospect of making discoveries in non-traditional organisms/non-model systems.

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My primary research focus is to understand how electrical rhythms are generated in networks of neurons. To address this, I work at the interface of mathematics and electrophysiology, building mathematical models of neural networks and testing predictions from these models in real systems. I am interested in supervising students who genuinely wish to pursue interdisciplinary research in mathematics and wet lab science.

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