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Laser Astrocomb Development for the Extremely Large Telescope (EPS2022/24)

   School of Engineering & Physical Sciences

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  Prof D Reid  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

When construction is completed by the end of the decade, the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will be the world's largest telescope. Its massive 39 metre diameter mirror will allow it to collect starlight whose spectra encode the periodic motions of exoplanets, and may even reveal the presence of signatures-of-life chemicals in exoplanet atmospheres.

The Ultrafast Optics Group at Heriot-Watt is part of the UK ELT consortium developing the components for the HIRES high-resolution spectrograph for the ELT. A critical component of HIRES is a "laser astrocomb"— a femtosecond laser that produces a regularly-spaced series of thousands of wavelengths, which can be used like a ruler to provide a highly precise calibration scale for the spectrographs used on the ELT.

We are seeking a talented MPhys, MEng or MSc graduate to join our team developing astrocomb systems at Heriot-Watt by working on new laser sources that cover wavelength ranges from the blue to the infrared, and new techniques for exquisitely controlling and characterising the laser performance.

Suitable applicants will have a 1st class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in a physics or engineering course and be strongly motivated to pursue three to four years of intensive practical and theoretical work. Candidates must have a solid understanding of optics and lasers, and experience of laboratory work, although not necessarily in optics. Relevant undergraduate research project experience is desirable but not essential. Experience with Matlab also is desirable.

The Ultrafast Optics Group is a group of 5 postdocs and 2 PhD students with excellent gender and nationality diversity. Our three laboratories on Heriot-Watt's Riccarton campus host a variety of state-of-the-art laser and diagnostic equipment. The expertise of our team and our group's excellent research resources will allow the PhD student to make rapid progress, leading to high quality journal publications and international conference presentations.

The research project is based within Heriot‑Watt’s Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences (IPaQS), a thriving environment for PhD research, having a total of 160 academics, postdocs, PhD and EngD students working full‑time in the general photonics field. Heriot‑Watt is based on a modern campus on the outskirts of Edinburgh (Scotland, UK), with excellent transport links to the centre of one of Europe’s most exciting cities.

This vacancy is open to individuals who qualify for home fee status as UK residents.

Interested candidates can contact the group head, Professor Derryck T. Reid () to arrange an informal call to discuss the project in more detail.

How to Apply

1. Important Information before you Apply

When applying through the Heriot-Watt on-line system please ensure you provide the following information:

(a) in ‘Study Option’

You will need to select ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Postgraduate Research’. ‘Programme’ presents you with a drop-down menu. Choose Chemistry PhD, Physics PhD, Chemical Engineering PhD, Mechanical Engineering PhD, Bio-science & Bio-Engineering PhD or Electrical PhD as appropriate and select September 2022 for study option (this can be updated at a later date if required)

(b) in ‘Research Project Information’

You will be provided with a free text box for details of your research project. Enter Title and Reference number of the project for which you are applying and also enter the potential supervisor’s name.

This information will greatly assist us in tracking your application.

Please note that once you have submitted your application, it will not be considered until you have uploaded your CV and transcripts.

Formal applications must be made through the Heriot-Watt on-line

application system,

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