Dr G Sarri
Prof M Borghesi
No more applications being accepted
Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
How to apply: Applications should be made through the QUB application portal at the following link: https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/user/u_login.php. Please, ensure that your application is directed to the School of Mathematics and Physics. Deadline for applications is: 17 February 2019. Interviews to take place soon 21 February. Your application must include a CV and a presentation letter (max 1 page on your motivation to apply) – these can be attached as the proposal.
Full Award Eligibility:
To be eligible to apply for a fully-funded DfE studentship, you must:
• be a UK or EU citizen or a non-EU citizen with permanent settled status in the UK (known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’)
• have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship
Fees Only Award Eligibility:
EU citizens who will not have lived in the UK for the last 3 years preceding the start of the studentship would normally be eligible for a Fees Only Award.
The Fee Award does not include a stipend, therefore funding to cover living costs for at least 3 years will need to be sought from another source.
For further guidance regarding please refer to DfE Postgraduate Studentships Terms and Conditions and the regulations at:
Funding: For UK domiciled students the value of an award includes the cost of approved fees as well as maintenance support. In academic year 2018-2019 the basic rate of maintenance support for a Research Studentship was £14,777 per annum.
To be eligible, candidates should hold at least a 2.1 BSc (or equivalent) in Physics or relevant subject.
Project background and description: Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) is one of the most advanced theories in modern physics, elegantly combining quantum mechanics and special relativity in a unified and powerful manner. In the low-field regime, QED has been tested and validated up to unprecedented precision. However, the high-field limit is still only speculatively accessed experimentally. In this regime, exotic and yet fundamental phenomena are expected to occur, such as vacuum breakdown, photon-photon scattering, pair production, and radiation reaction, i.e., the back-action of the radiation emitted by an electron on itself . Fields in excess of the critical field of QED, or Schwinger field (~1.3x1018 V/m), have to be generated in order to trigger these phenomena. These ultra-intense fields are believed to be present in a wide and diverse range of physical scenarios, such as the atmosphere of ultra-massive astrophysical objects, the early Universe, and the inner regions of atoms. However, they have not been produced in the laboratory yet, limiting our experimental knowledge of this exciting branch of physics only to indirect observations.
Recently, the group of Dr. G. Sarri and collaborators has been able, for the first time, to access this high-field regime by exploiting the interaction of a highly relativistic electron beam with an intense lase pulse, providing the first experimental indication of the quantum nature of radiation reaction [2-4]. The success of these experiments granted 3 years of access to the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) in the period 2019 – 2022 to carry out systematic studies of high-field Quantum Electrodynamics. These campaigns will be carried out in collaboration with world-leading universities including Stanford, Princeton, UCLA, and Ecole Polytechnique and they will provide the first experimental evidence of a series of iconic phenomena in modern physics, effectively inaugurating a new branch of experimental physics.
The successful candidate will take an active role in designing and performing these experiments at SLAC, working at the forefront of experimental physics worldwide. The work will be carried out under the supervision of Dr. G. Sarri and Prof. M. Borghesi and in collaboration with world-leading Universities, including Stanford, Princeton, UCLA, and Ecole Polytechnique. The majority of the experimental work will be carried out at the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) and financial support for several periods of work at SLAC will be provided to the successful candidate.
Skills: The student will gain skills at the frontier of ultra-intense laser science, detector design, particle physics, and accelerator physics. Also, the necessary coding skills for advanced data analysis and numerical modelling will be developed. Finally, the successful candidate will be encouraged to organise and lead sizeable research teams and present their work at international conferences and in high-profile scientific publications.
 A. Di Piazza et al., Rev. Mod. Phys. 84, 1177 (2012).
 G. Sarri et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 224801 (2014).
 K. Poder et al., Phys. Rev. X 8, 031004 (2018).
 J. Cole et al., Phys. Rev. X 8, 011020 (2018).