Research Studentship in Photonics and Photonic Materials

3.5-year D.Phil studentship, available to start on 1st October 2015

(subject to eligibility requirements below).

Research Area

The studentship is being jointly undertaken by the University of Oxford (Professors Stephen Morris and Steve Elston) and Merck under the EPSRC Industrial CASE award scheme.

The focus of this studentship will be on the development of free-standing chiral nematic and blue phase films that are doped with quantum dots to create novel brightness enhancement films whereby the emission bandwidth and polarisation could be controlled leading to an improvement in the spectral purity and colour gamut. Nanocrystals (2 nm – 10 nm) of semiconductors (quantum dots) behave very differently from their bulk counterparts and demonstrate that the opto-electronic properties are not merely material dependent but are also size-dependent. Furthermore, these quantum dots can be dispersed within organic polymer solvents ensuring that they are then compatible with low-cost manufacturing techniques such as inkjet printing.

To begin with, the project will consider conventional II-VI and III-V quantum dots in chiral liquid crystal hosts, but will also investigate other means of forming liquid crystal-quantum dot films in the form of cellulose nanocrystals in aqueous solutions, which are known to form chiral nematic phases and also free-standing films. The project will focus on the methodologies required to disperse the quantum dots in the liquid crystals in such a way that it does not adversely affect the quantum efficiencies. The project will also consider ways in which to introduce plasmon resonance which will locally enhance the electromagnetic field surrounding the quantum dots leading to an increase in the emission intensity. The project will be initially focused on brightness enhancement films, but the research into these films will also be of significant benefit in the development of solar luminescent concentrators and lighting technology.

The student will be a member of the Soft Matter Photonics Research Group and will be supervised by Professors Stephen Morris and Steve Elston. Further information on the group can be found at

Award Value

The studentship covers University fees at the level set for UK students plus a stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) of £13,863 p.a. for the first year (with up to an additional £3k), and at least this amount for a further two and a half years. The studentship does cover the payment of college fees (c £2765 p.a.).


This studentship is available to all applicants but the University fees are covered only at the UK/EU rate.  Therefore overseas students would have to provide the difference between the UK/EU and the overseas student rates for University fees from some other source, such as a scholarship or personal funds.

Candidate Requirements

Prospective candidates will be judged according to how well they meet the following criteria:

Prospective candidates will be judged according to how well they meet the following criteria:

  • A first class or 2.1 honours degree in Engineering, Physics, or Material Science;
  • Strong interest in photonics;
  • Excellent English written and spoken communication skills.

The following skills are desirable but not essential:

  •  Ability to program in C/C++;
  •  Ability to program in Matlab,
  •  Experience with Linux and Windows.

Application Procedure

To apply for this studentship, candidates should send the following documents to :

  • CV
  • Covering letter (explaining your suitability for the study, what you hope to achieve from the DPhil and your research experience to date)
  • Contact details for two academic or professional referees

NOTE: Candidates are expected to meet the graduate admissions criteria available at and a full graduate application must be made at the same time as applying for this studentship.  Your studentship application will not be considered until you have submitted a graduate application. Further details about making a graduate application are available at

Please quote SMM_Merck in all correspondence to the Department and in your graduate application.

Informal enquiries may be addressed to . Please note that applications sent directly to this email address will not be accepted. 

Application deadline:  Noon on 1st July 2015