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  PhD Chemistry: Imaging and controlling nucleation using lasers

   College of Science and Engineering

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  Prof K Wynne  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

A 3.5-year PhD position is offered in an exciting and challenging research area on the border between physics, chemistry, and engineering in the Ultrafast/slow Chemical Physics (UCP) group ( You will be part of an energetic group of chemical physicists and physical chemists who are studying molecular matter using femtosecond lasers, terahertz spectroscopy, and various forms of microscopy. The PhD position on offer involves the study of and control over the nucleation of crystals and other phases.

The nucleation of a new phase from solution, such as the nucleation of crystals, is of immense importance to industry and fundamental science. We will use imaging and powerful lasers to control the early stages of nucleation in liquids and liquid mixtures, thereby testing modern ideas on non-classical nucleation. Driving these systems very far from equilibrium will allow us to create meta- and unstable states that will give rise to complex phenomena. The subsequent highly non-equilibrium processes will be mapped using microscopy and, in particular, fluorescence microscopy using a range of environmentally sensitive dyes.

We have been developing a novel instrument that will change the study of crystal nucleation and will make the first steps towards control over the polymorph that crystallises. It involves laser-induced nucleation using a powerful femtosecond/picosecond laser (installed in September 2016), and programmable diffractive optics, resulting in a novel massively parallel nucleation set-up. We will do spectroscopic imaging of liquids, making images and movies, and carry out fancy data analysis to extract information from these. You will be using some of the most advanced optical and laser technologies helped by other experts in the UCP group. There is an opportunity to go to the Diamond Light Source near Oxford to do x-ray imaging experiments and perhaps combine these with laser excitation.


Applicants should have a good degree in a relevant science discipline (e.g., physical chemistry, physics, engineering), be highly motivated and have excellent English communication skills. The successful candidate will need to be enthusiastic about acquiring new skills. Research experience, laboratory skills, computer programming experience, and demonstrated ability to work independently will be considered an advantage. The position will be available to UK and EU residents to start in October 2017.

A few recent publications from the UCP group:

• C.D. Syme, J. Mosses, M. González Jiménez, Finlay Walton, and K. Wynne, "Frustration of crystallisation by a liquid–crystal phase", Sci. Reports in press (2017).
• M. González-Jiménez, G. Ramakrishnan, T. Harwood, A.J. Lapthorn, S.M. Kelly, E.M. Ellis, and K. Wynne, "Observation of coherent delocalised phonon-like modes in DNA under physiological conditions", Nature Commun., 7, 11799 (2016). (
• J. Mosses, C.D. Syme, and K. Wynne, "The order parameter of liquid-liquid phase transitions", J. Phys. Chem. Lett., 6, 38-43 (2015). (
• D.A. Turton, H.M. Senn, T. Harwood, A.J. Lapthorn, E.M. Ellis, and K. Wynne, "Terahertz underdamped vibrational motion governs protein-ligand binding in solution", Nature Commun. 5, 3999 (2014). (

Funding Notes

This position has been prioritised for funding and covers tuition fees for UK applicants who fulfil the Research Council UK residency requirements, as well as paying a stipend at the Research Council rate (which is £14,254 for Session 2016-17). EU applicants are also eligible for funding to cover fees and will be considered for a stipend at the Research Council rate.