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X-ray Free Electron Lasers using ‘Beam by Design’

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  • Full or part time
    Dr B McNeil
    Dr A Yao
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This PhD studentship is part of a joint collaboration between University of Strathclyde’s top-rated Department of Physics and the world leading Stanford University’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory based near San Francisco, California ( student will be based at Strathclyde, but will travel to Stanford as part of the collaboration investigating novel methods of generating high power, coherent X-ray output.

Stanford constructed the world’s first X-ray Free Electron Laser (FEL), the LCLS which was commissioned in 2009 ( The LCLS FEL generates output that is ~10 orders of magnitude brighter than conventional synchrotron sources of X-rays and is opening up completely new frontiers in science. They are now designing LCLS-II, a significant new and improved source (

Strathclyde are also members of the Cockcroft Institute (, based at STFC Daresbury Laboratory. This institute is the leading accelerator and light source research collaboration in the UK and provides post-graduate lecture courses tailored to the needs of the PhD students of the Supervisors - the 1st Supervisor gives a course in Free Electron Lasers at the Institute.

Strathclyde also has very close links with the UK CLARA FEL test facility which will investigate methods for the next generation of FELs such as a future UK X-Ray FEL that will offer increased brightness and shorter pulses to users. We also collaborate with partners at DESY in Hamburg and the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland.

The physics underpinning relativistic free-electron light-sources is an important and exciting area of research, yielding new tools like the Free Electron Laser (FEL) that are transforming scientific research [1]. With a peak brightness ten orders of magnitude greater than conventional synchrotron X-ray sources, they have the potential, for the first time, to simultaneously access the structure and dynamics of matter at its natural atomic length and time scales. This will make feasible the ability to observe, and perhaps ultimately to control, ultra-fast, optionally non-linear, atomic and possibly nuclear processes. With the ability to probe correlated electronic processes within atoms at these timescales, to measure how electrons and nuclei reorganise themselves - either individually within atoms due to external stimulus, during molecular bond making and breaking, or while undergoing subtle catalytic or biological processes - we can begin to unravel how all matter functions at this fundamental level.

You would be involved in the theory and modelling of such sources - including highly non-linear pulse propagation, ultra-short pulse generation, harmonic generation, full 3-D simulation, FEL seeding options and start-to-end simulations - and will contribute to the research in the development of these exciting new light sources. Another option will be to extend the analysis to the generation of X-rays with Orbital Angular Momentum (OAM) – a property of light that at longer wavelengths has led to significant technological advances in optical trapping and manipulation, high resolution imaging and high capacity quantum communication systems. Software developed by the 1st Supervisor’s group is ideally suited to modelling X-ray OAM FELs [2], allowing further innovation to be explored, e.g. in the generation of Poincaré beams, an extension of OAM currently being researched by Dr Alison Yao (2nd Supervisor), who is a leading researcher in OAM in ‘conventional’ laser systems [3].

Applicants should have a good first degree or equivalent in Physical Science, excellent analytical and computational skills, and a willingness to travel both nationally and internationally to work with our collaborators at Stanford and elsewhere and to attend conferences. Successful completion of this highly collaborative PhD should equip you with the skills and contacts to enable you to obtain employment at a host of new international projects and facilities.

Start date is October 2017 (this is flexible) and the approximate stipend in the first year is £14,500 GBP.


[1] Brian WJ McNeil and Neil R Thompson, Nature Photonics, 4, 814 (2010)
[2] E. Hemsing, A. Marinelli, and J. B. Rosenzweig, Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 164803 (2011)
[3] Alison M. Yao and Miles J. Padgett, Advances in Optics and Photonics 3, 161 (2011)

How good is research at University of Strathclyde in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 27.00

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