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Astrophotonic technologies for exoplanet hunting

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Photonic technologies facilitate the manipulation of light in ways that are simply not possible using traditional optical technologies e.g. lenses, mirrors and diffraction gratings. As a result, they open up powerful possibilities in astronomical instrumentation, examples of which include exquisites optical fibre-based spectral filters to remove unwanted bright celestial light before it enters a sensitive instrument [1], and also the use of integrated photonic circuits for beam combination in stellar interferometry [2].

The photonic instrumentation group is a world leader in the development of advanced astrophotonic technologies, and we work with world leading astronomical instrumentation groups to translate these technologies into on-sky demonstrations [3, 4].

Through this PhD position, the successful student will have the opportunity to develop advanced astrophotonic technologies, such as mid-IR integrated beam combiners, that will transform the field of exoplanet science [2].

The student will gain experience in
• Free-space and integrated optics
• Photonic device simulation.
• Laser microfabrication
• Instrument control and automation
...and there may even be the opportunity to take devices to leading telescopes for on-sky testing, as we have done previously [3, 4].

The successful applicant will join the photonic instrumentation group at Heriot Watt University (, but will work with a multidisciplinary team from across the university and beyond.

Funding Notes

This 3.5 year fully-funded studentship comes with a significant amount of ring-fenced funding for conference travel.

Eligibility: This is a Research Council funded studentship, and thus only UK students, or EU students who have been resident in the UK for 3 or more years continually, are eligible for an award of a tax-free stipend (~£15k / year) and fees.


[1] J. J. Bryant et al, "Focus issue introduction: recent advances in
astrophotonics," Opt. Express 25, 19966-19967 (2017)
[2] A. Rodenas et al, "Three-dimensional mid-infrared photonic circuits in chalcogenide glass," Optics Letters 37, 392 (2012)
[3] R. J. Harris et al, “Photonic spatial reformatting of stellar light for diffraction-limited spectroscopy,” Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 450, 428–434 (2015)
[4] D. G. MacLachlan et al, “Efficient photonic reformatting of celestial light for diffraction-limited spectroscopy,” Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 464, 4950–4957 (2017)

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