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Doctor of Engineering (EngD) - Visible wavelength optical metasurfaces for use in human-machine interfaces (STMicroelectronics and University of St Andrews)

   School of Engineering & Physical Sciences

  Prof D Reid, ,  Wednesday, May 31, 2023  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Optical metasurfaces offer complete freedom in definition of an optical function and do so on a flat surface. This property enables fabrication of sophisticated optics at wafer-level and therefore opens up the possibility of ultra-high-volume manufacture, in particular to address consumer markets. STMicroelectronics is a world leader in this domain, mass-producing optical metasurfaces for use in consumer sensing applications in its semiconductor fabrication facilities. ST Edinburgh is the design centre for our optical metasurface technology, here we focus R&D on design, simulation and new technology development, working with product design engineers to define technologies that address exciting consumer markets.

This project intends to build on our existing foundation by exploring the use of visible wavelength compatible metasurfaces in the consumer sensing and display space. By moving to the visible wavelengths, we will use metasurface technologies to improve performance and ergonomics of human-machine interfaces. Visible wavelength compatible reflective and transmissive optical metasurfaces have the potential to increase the efficiency and feature-set of human-machine interfaces. The aims of this project are to understand the fundamental principles of optics in Augmented Reality, how current technology solutions perform and how optical metasurfaces can be used to improve this performance.

The successful candidate will develop design and simulation methodologies, collaborate with fabrication partners to develop proofs of concept, have the freedom to introduce new features in this space enabled by optical metasurfaces and do this within a company that is leading the way in the fabrication of optical metasurfaces for use in the consumer electronics markets. 

We observe flexible working in ST, as long as there is sufficient overlap with normal working hours to ensure good contact between the student and their collaborators inside ST.

Working from home is supported, the candidate will receive an ST machine which can be used to log on to ST networks anywhere in the world! We encourage presence on site throughout the week, typically an average of 3 days if possible.

The supervision team are happy to discuss these with candidates when desired.

CDT Essential Criteria

A Masters level degree (MEng, MPhys, MSc) at 2.1 or equivalent

Desire to work collegiately, be involved in outreach, undertake taught and professional skills study

Project Essential Criteria

Imaginative, self-motivated individual with demonstrable problem-solving skills.

Able to operate both individually and as part of a team.

Happy to present their work, the candidate must be a good communicator.

Project Desirable Criteria

Experience in any of the following is desirable:

Fundamental Topics

·      Diffractive optics

·      Laser physics


·      Optical design and simulation using ray-tracing (e.g. Zemax / CodeV)

·      Rigorous optical simulation (e.g. FDTD)

Software development

·      Experience writing scripts and functions in Matlab and/or Python

·      C# experience

Way of working:

·      Experience with working in version controlled environment, collaborating on software with other engineers

·      Understanding principles of design for manufacture


The CDT in Applied Photonics provides a supportive, collaborative environment which values inclusivity and is committed to creating and sustaining a positive and supportive environment for all our applicants, students, and staff. For further information, please see our ED&I statement Forming a supportive cohort is an important part of the programme and our students take part in various professional skills workshops, including Responsible Research and Innovation workshops and attend Outreach Training.

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