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EPSRC DTP PhD Studentship in Chemistry – Solar Energy Materials in Action: Real-time Molecular Movies of Pyroelectric Switching by Time-resolved X-ray Diffraction

   Cardiff School of Chemistry

  Dr L Hatcher, Prof K Harris  Tuesday, April 11, 2023  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The School of Chemistry at Cardiff University is delighted to offer this fully funded EPSRC PhD studentship starting in October 2023. The aim of the PhD project is to develop new, electrically switchable materials for solar energy generation by exploiting advanced techniques in Structural Chemistry to understand the crucial relationships between the structural and functional properties of the materials of interest. In particular, the research project will combine time-resolved (TR) experimentation, in which fast processes are studied in real time, with state-of-the-art X-ray diffraction (XRD) facilities that allow rapid data collection and accurate structure determination, and the project will exploit a globally unique lab-based TR-XRD instrument that is being developed by our research team. The ultimate aim is to apply this instrumentation to create “molecular movies” in which the switching processes are observed through changes in the 3D crystal structure as a function of time, leading to a detailed mechanistic understanding of the structural features responsible for switching, and facilitating the development and optimization of the materials of interest for applications in next-generation solar cells.

The student will focus on electrically switchable crystals designed within the team and will use the TR-XRD instrument to establish the structural changes responsible for electrical switching, yielding new insights into the switching mechanisms. This knowledge will be fed back into materials design, leading to optimization of the materials for enhanced properties in solar harvesting. Through this research, the student will play a crucial role in the development of the new TR-XRD instrument in Cardiff and will also have the opportunity to be involved in the design of auto-processing and control procedures to enhance the efficient operation of the instrument. The research project will also include a complementary programme of TR-XRD experiments at Diamond Light Source (the UK synchrotron radiation facility), giving the student significant experience of carrying out research at a national research facility.

The student will join a dynamic and dedicated research team at Cardiff University, and will gain considerable experience in advanced techniques in Structural Chemistry. The student will also have the opportunity to develop skills in equipment design, data processing and computer programming, and will receive training in complementary analytical techniques including infrared, Raman and NMR spectroscopies.


Dr Lauren Hatcher - Dr Lauren Hatcher - People - Cardiff University

Professor Kenneth Harris - Professor Kenneth Harris - People - Cardiff University

Start date - 1st October 2023

Academic Criteria

Candidates should hold or expect to gain a first-class degree or a good upper second-class (2.1) degree and/or an appropriate Master’s level qualification (or their equivalent). We welcome applications from candidates with non-traditional academic backgrounds.

English Language criteria

Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to demonstrate proficiency in the English language (IELTS 6.5 or equivalent) English language requirements for postgraduate students - Study - Cardiff University

How to apply

Applications should be received no later than Tuesday 11th April. All applications should be submitted via the online application portal, stating your supervisor’s name(s), at https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/research/programmes/programme/chemistry

Short-listed applicants will be invited to interview. We are planning on interviews being held on-line by Zoom on Friday 28th April. As part of the interview process, applicants will be expected to give a short (5 minute) presentation on their experience and suitability for the position, and on their future aspirations in research.

Further information

For any enquiries about the PhD studentship and the research project, please contact Dr Lauren Hatcher () or Professor Kenneth Harris ().

For further information about the application and interview process, including informal questions, please contact the Chemistry PGR office (). 

Funding Notes

The PhD studentship is funded by the EPSRC DTP for 3.5 years and covers tuition fees, an annual tax-free living stipend in line with UKRI minimum rates (currently £17,668), and access to a Research Training Support Grant (currently £4000). Students with a disability may be entitled to a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) on top of the studentship.
We welcome applications for both full-time and part-time study.
The funding for this post is currently for applicants classed as UK (Home) students only.


Cardiff University is committed to supporting and promoting equality and diversity, and to creating an inclusive environment for all. We welcome applications from all members of the global community irrespective of age, disability, sex, gender identity, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, and sexual orientation.
Cardiff University is also committed to supporting students from a range of backgrounds and circumstances. If required, we will work with the student to take reasonable project adaptations into consideration (e.g., to support caring responsibilities, disabilities, or other significant personal circumstances) as well as requests for flexible working and part‐time study. Please feel comfortable to discuss these matters further with the listed PhD project supervisors.

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