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PhD MPhil

School - School of Computing, Science & Engineering

Start Date(s): September, January, May


Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
One year full-time
Two years part-time

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Three years full-time
Five years part-time

In Brief:

  • Part-time study option
  • International students can apply

Subject Overview

In the national Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2008, 85% of our research was ranked as ‘international quality’ and 50% was judged to be either ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.  Multidisciplinary research groups each contribute to a portfolio of Materials research.  You may contribute to research areas that include:

Applied Optics, Laser Applications and Theory

Laser-induced-breakdown spectroscopy, nanomaterials, photosensitivity of glasses, holographic techniques, photonic crystals and thin films.  Related theoretical research often focuses on non-linear (e.g. Raman, Kerr, metamaterial, and band-gap) effects exploited in contexts such as laser applications, device designs, waveguides, and medical physics.

Chemical Physics and Biomaterials

Growth, synthesis and properties of thin films, transition metals, precursors, crystals, biomaterials and interfaces.  Techniques include: chemical vapour deposition processes, molecular simulations, surface functionalisation and thermodynamical analyses.  Contexts involve: catalytic semi-permeable membranes, photonic band-gaps, self-assembled and 'smart' structures, hybrid cements, and biosensors.

Complexity, Applied Non-linear Science and Metamaterials

Analyses of electromagnetic waves in materials and many-body phenomena.  Work supports applied materials research and draws on universal concepts such as fractals, spatio-temporal solitons, vortices, patterns and chaos.  Contexts include: technological materials, linear and non-linear waves (fluid, optical, elastic), complexity, multi-scale analyses, pattern formation and fluid dynamics.

Energy Conversion and Storage

Fundamental studies into photovoltaic materials have been undertaken at Salford since the 1970’s.  Research involves the development of new hydrogen storage materials, with application to: fuel transport systems, magnetic phase transitions, and hydrogen-bonded systems.  Environmentally-friendly technologies and fuels are developed, alongside a range of nuclear energy materials.

Magnetism and Nanomaterials

Magnetic, electronic and structural properties of novel materials (involving metallic alloys, amorphous materials, biological nano-magnets, superconductors, and nano-wire systems).  Information storage, sensing and actuation applications of thin films and bulk materials are studied, along with new nano-crystalline magnetic phases (formed from amorphous precursors).

Materials Characterisation and Modelling

First principles atomistic modelling is employed to predict material properties; simulations of structure and dynamics permit understanding and design of materials with optimal properties, particularly with a view to comparing with inelastic neutron scattering data.  Further work involves: design and modelling of next-generation high-efficiency solar cells; quantum entanglement and single-photon sources; and semiconductor materials.

Structural Analysis and Functional Materials

Thermodynamical and biomolecular considerations, magnetostrictive effects, mica glass ceramics, and phase transformations and crystallisation.  Techniques involve: x-rays, neutrons and muons at Central Facilities, alongside imaging and spectroscopy methods.  Atomic collisions and ion-beam physics research investigates a variety of topics, involving: electron microscopy, film deposition and plasma studies.

Entry Requirements

For PhD applications, a minimum of an upper second class undergraduate degree is required.  A Masters degree is preferred but not essential.  However, applicants without a Masters degree should provide evidence of previous research methods training.

Applicants for the MPhil degree should have a minimum of a lower second class undergraduate degree or relevant experience.

On the application form, you should include two referees who can comment on your suitability to study at postgraduate level, and you should also indicate a preferred research area or the title of a specific project, where appropriate.  You must also indicate the type of financial support you have (or require).


We welcome applications from students who may not have formal/traditional entry criteria but who have relevant experience or the ability to pursue the course successfully.

The Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) process could help you to make your work and life experience count.  The APL process can be used for entry onto courses or to give you exemptions from parts of your course.

Two forms of APL may be used for entry: the Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) or the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).

English requirement for non-UK/ EU students

Overall IELTS score of at least 6.0 with no less than 5.5 in any one element.

We offer four entry points – October, January, April and July.  Applications can be submitted at any point within the year.

Applicant Profile

You should have an Honours degree in Physics or a Physics-related subject.  Evidence of your ability to study and critically appraise literature independently is essential.  PhD applicants qualified to Masters level are preferred.  

As a student embarking on a postgraduate research degree, you will be assigned a supervisory team, to help guide and mentor you throughout your time at the University.  However, you are ultimately expected to take responsibility for managing your learning; you will be expected to initiate discussions, ask for the help that you need, and be proactive in your approach to study.  

All students will be required to attend for an interview.  International students must provide full evidence of proficiency  in English.

International Students - Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

International Students are required by the Home Office and/or the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) Certificate before they begin studying their course. You may need to obtain an ATAS Certificate before you come to the UK in order for you to comply with Home Office regulations. Please refer to your offer conditions.

You can find out if your programme requires an ATAS by checking the FCO website at with your JACS code which will be on your offer letter should you choose to make an application. If you cannot find it please contact International Conversion team at If you have any queries relating directly to ATAS please contact the ATAS team on

You can apply for your ATAS Certificate via this link:

Current Student Research

Research Topics

Christopher Bostock – 1st year PhD student and GTA
Project: Spontaneous spatial fractal pattern formation in simple optical cavity systems
I read Physics for both my BSc and MPhil degrees at Salford, and finally decided to stay on to undertake a PhD. I'm currently researching complexity theory, studing spontaneous spatial fractal formation in non-linear optical systems. Fractals are patterns with comparable levels of detail that persist across many decades of scale (so that as you look closer and closer at any part of the pattern, more and more detail becomes visible).  Research at Salford (in 2005) proposed a universal signature for predicting the spontaneous emergence of fractal patterns in wave-based non-linear systems.  This mechanism has its origins in the seminal work of Alan Turing in 1952.

As I'm on the GTA programme, part of my working week is devoted to teaching duties.  I'm a postgraduate demonstrator in the computing laboratories, typically helping students to understand non-linear dynamical systems using MATLAB programming. Demonstrating can be quite a challenging role - explaining new (and often quite subtle) concepts that are so unfamiliar to undergraduate audiences, but which I encounter every day!  In this sense, the GTA scheme has provided a good way of improving my communication skills.  I then get to test out these new skills when presenting my work at conferences.

Helen Christie – 1st year PhD student
Project: Molecular dynamics simulations of radiation-induced damage defects in graphite
Molecular dynamics simulations are used to study damage defects in graphite after it has been irradiated.  These studies reveal vacancies and interstitials present in the irradiated graphite, showing the effect they have on the overall structure.

There are three areas of interest in the graphite simulations. The first occurs in the swift heavy ions. A primary knock-on atom (PKA) passes through a region without colliding with any atoms.  It transfers electron energy to the surrounding atoms, causing them to vibrate and resulting in the formation of interstitials and vacancies.  The second area of interest is the cascade region.  The PKA hits one or more atoms, resulting in the displacement and collision of other atoms within the cell.  The final area looks at the vacancies and interstitials created by the cascade.  The irradiated graphite simulations must be tested in a variety of environments.

Graphite behaves very differently from other carbon materials. In order to understand the unique nature of graphite, I'm simulating an assortment of carbon materials (such as diamond and glassy / amorphous carbon). I've recently come back to Salford after a three-month sabatical, learning new computational techniques with our collaborators at the Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia.

Abi Heyes – 2nd year PhD student
Project: Magnetic effects and chiral patterns in photonic structures
It has been demonstrated that light diffracted from a dielectric planar chiral surface undergoes rotation of the polarisation azimuth in the first order beam. The effect is dependent on the sense of chirality of the surface. This work has been extended to show changes in the polarisation state when light is transmitted through a planar chiral structure.
My PhD aims to extend this effect further by performing experimental investigations to identify parameters that can be adjusted to optimise polarisation rotation, such as the type of chiral pattern or the spacing between patterns in the array. Our group is also attempting to observe the effect in a magnetised chiral structure, and to characterise the role magnetisation has on the degree of rotation. The surfaces are patterned using a focused ion beam, and we use Stokes polarimetery to analyse the effect on the incident light.

Emily McCoy – 2nd year PhD student
Project: Propagation of Helmholtz spatial solitons in patterned non-linear optical structures
I am currently researching the properties of spatial solitons (self-trapped beams of light) when they interact obliquely with the interface between dissimilar non-linear dielectric materials.  This class of problem is crucial in the design of essentially any future integrated-optic device architecture.

My research is a blend of mathematical analysis and computer simulations. In my first year of PhD study, I started out by looking at soliton scattering at a single interface.  I'm now in my second year, and have recently been developing new beam propagation models to predict how spatial solitons can be coupled into more exotic optical structures such as waveguide arrays and photonic crystals.  Studies of these geometries have, historically, been hampered by the "paraxial approximation".  Our research allows this approximation to be entirely lifted, and we have made a raft of new physical predictions about phenomena that are directly observable in the laboratory.

One aspect of the PhD that I've particularly enjoyed is attending conferences. Having the opportunity to present my work, and to see what other research is going on in the photonics community, has been an exciting experience.  It also helps in gaining confidence with public speaking (an important part of many jobs today).

Alice Bailey – 3rd year PhD student

Project:  The study of graphitic materials using poly-CINS analysis

Graphitic materials are of interest in several areas of physics, such as a moderator in some nuclear reactors.  Hence, studying natural graphite can give us valuable information about the potential lifespan of reactor graphite.  Graphite-based materials are also under active investigation as a host material for hydrogen storage applications. C60 intercalated graphite has been proposed as a potential candidate, due to the increased pore size created by the C60.

The properties of graphite-based materials can be probed experimentally using the polycrystalline Coherent Inelastic Neutron Scattering (poly-CINS) technique. This particular method tends to yield information about the phonon modes of a material, and it also allows one to infer structural characteristics.

The poly-CINS technique is relatively novel and requires analysis of large complex data sets.  My PhD has been focused primarily on developing a software suite ("Neutronplot") to aid with the visualisation and interpretation of these data sets. To this end, I have been able to attend several relevant training courses at the Universities of Oxford and Warwick. What makes our approach different from other software packages is that we can now provide a full comparison between the predictions of various theoretical models and the poly-CINS data obtained from neutron-scattering experiments.

Christopher Pawley – 3rd year PhD student

Project: The use of in-situ ion-irradiation / TEM techniques to simulate neutron induced radiation damage in SiC

A collaboration between the MIAMI facility (University of Huddersfield), Institut Pprime (University of Poitiers, France) and the JANNuS facility (CSNSM Orsay, Paris) has allowed us to utilise the only two in-situ ion beam microscopy facilities in Europe.  The purpose of this collaboration is to exploit the capabilities of the two facilities to collect a unique set of data, simultaneously combining expertise in ion irradiation with knowledge in microscopy of silicon carbide (SiC) and its behaviour under irradiation.  MIAMI can irradiate with high fluxes of light elements (e.g., helium), which allows us to observe the nucleation and growth of helium bubbles while maintaining the same irradiation and microscopy conditions throughout. JANNuS irradiates with high-energy heavy elements (which has the effect of imparting damage into the crystal structure), providing insight into the behaviour of SiC (and the helium bubbles within) under simulated irradiation from neutrons.

My research aims to provide information about the nucleation and growth of helium bubbles in SiC, and about the behaviour of both SiC and helium bubbles under high-energy displacing irradiation. The motivation behind this research is to assist the nuclear community in making decisions about nuclear design in the coming years.

Christopher Quinn – 3rd year PhD student

Project: Experimental study of the thermal effects in thin-film ferromagnetic binary alloys

My research areas cover magnetic properties and crystallographic structures of thin films and ribbons, and how thermal influences upon them manifest themselves as either magnetic changes, structural differences, or a combination of the two.
The work I undertake involves a variety of ferromagnetic alloys, particularly iron-based binary alloys.  I am currently researching Galfenol (a magnetostrictive alloy consisting of iron and gallium). We have to fabricate several compositions of material, either by physical vapour deposition or melt-spinning, and then use a range of techniques to characterise them. The majority of experiments we undertake are performed using in-house facilities at the University.

The methods I use incude transmission electron microscopy (to examine internal structure), scanning electron microscopy (to observe surface effects), x-ray diffraction (to identify lattice parameters and phase differences) and vibrating scanning magnetometry (to measure magnetisation). We also perform diffraction experiments at neutron facilities such as ISIS, Oxfordshire, and Institute Laue-Langevin, Grenoble.
All our experiments can be coupled with thermal treatments in-situ.  It is therefore possible to monitor any changes in real time, and to record accurate data sets that may subsequently be used in the analysis of our samples.

GTA Student Profiles

Gael Baldissin – 3rd year PhD student and GTA

Project:  Ordering/disordering phenomena in materials

My interest has been focused on studying ordering/disordering phenomena in a wide range of materials: palladium hydride, Ti-Mn based Laves phases, carbon based materials with heteroatom substitutions, and the Li-N-H system for energy storage. Understanding the configurational properties and phenomena related to order/disorder transitions are of fundamental interest for novel applications. The approach has been mainly computational, using density functional theory calculations coupled with the cluster expansion method to map interactions onto a computationally tractable scale. For the Li-N-H system, a series of experiments have been performed involving neutron powder diffraction at ISIS (Didcot, UK), x-ray powder diffraction at ESRF (Grenoble, France) and at Diamond (Didcot, UK).

I have been in charge of a research computational cluster as the Linux System Administrator, providing me with the opportunity to improve my skills in high-performance computing, a field that is gaining increasing importance in industrial and research facilities.

As a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA), I devote part of my work to support teaching for undergraduate students, both in practical laboratory sessions and in computer programming. This has been an invaluable experience that has helped me to improve my communication skills in a foreign language (English) and to revise concepts of basic physics.

Training and Skills

The University offers all postgraduate research students an extensive range of free training activities to help you develop your research and transferable skills.  Research seminars and participation in conferences will also be offered to you.

All postgraduate research students are expected to attend the College’s research methods seminars during your first year of study, covering subjects such as conducting a literature review, methods of data collection, research governance and ethics, along with analysis, presentation, interpretation and rigour in qualitative research.  

The Salford Postgraduate Research Training (SPoRT) programme has been designed to equip researchers both for your university studies, and for your future careers whether in academia, elsewhere in the public sector, or in industry and the private sector.

The University further runs two separate annual conferences – SPARC (Salford Postgraduate Annual Research Conference) and the Doctoral Training School Conference – to provide its postgraduate researchers with the opportunity to hone your research presentation skills within a friendly, informal environment.

Assessment Links

As a postgraduate research student at the University of Salford, you are required to meet a number of milestones in order to re-register for each year of study.  These ‘progression points’ are an important aid for both you and your supervisory team and it is essential that you complete them on time.  

Learning Agreement:  this is completed by you and your supervisor collaboratively in the first 3 months of your research programme.  It encourages both of you to develop a thorough and consistent understanding of your individual and shared roles and responsibilities in your research partnership.

Annual Progress Report: this report is completed by your supervisor at the end of each year of study, and reports on your achievements in the past year, the likelihood that you will submit on time, confirmation of the Learning Agreement and relevant training undertaken.

Self Evaluation Report: this is completed by you at the end of each year of study.  It asks you to comment on your academic progress, supervisory arrangements, research environment, research training, and relevant training undertaken.

Interim Assessment: this is an assessment of your progress by a panel.  It takes place towards the end of your first year, and is designed to ensure you have reached a threshold of academic performance, by assessing your general progress.  The assessment comprises a written report, presentation and oral examination by a panel.  You must successfully complete it in order to register for your second year.

Internal Evaluation: this will take place towards the end of the second year and successful completion is required in order to continue onto your third year of study.  You will be expected to show strong progress in your PhD study - reflected in the submission of a substantial piece of work, generally at least 4 chapters of your thesis.

Research Profile

Research Excellence

The School of Computing, Science & Engineering (CSE) currently has more than 80 postgraduate research students and it is a very international community.  Various student activities are organised through the CSE Doctoral School.

Across the University, research is coordinated through a series of Research Centres.  Physics staff lead the various research groups within the Materials & Physics Research Centre.  Members of this large and prestigious Centre are drawn from experimental, computational and theoretical areas of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics.

Approaching 50 staff from the Centre were submitted in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, where 85% of work was judged to be ‘internationally recognised’ (2* and above) and 50% was judged to be ‘world-leading’ (4*) or ‘internationally excellent’ (3*).  Research Fortnight ranked our research activity as 8th overall in the UK, and 2nd in the North West, for the Materials area.

In addition to enterprise, innovation and well-developed industrial collaborations, a considerable amount of research focuses on the Energy theme.

Our Research Centre provides a fertile environment for a wide range of collaborations, such as those between theoreticians and experimentalists of various disciplines, and also provides an ideal platform for International Excellence in both academic and real-world physics research.  Research is organised through collaborating multi-disciplinary groups, whose topics include:

  • Applied Optics, Laser Applications and Theory
  • Chemical Physics and Biomaterials
  • Complexity, Applied Non-linear Science and Metamaterials
  • Energy Conversion and Storage
  • Magnetism and Nanomaterials
  • Multi-Physics and Engineering Materials
  • Materials Characterisation and Modelling
  • Structural Analysis and Functional Materials

Staff Profiles

Prof.  Ian Morrison

Prof.  Morrison’s main research interest is with ab initio calculations of material properties (vibrational density of states, electronic and magnetic structure, normal modes, ordering, photoisomerisation, and phase diagrams) using a combination of density functional theory and molecular / lattice dynamics simulations.  Materials of key technological interest include MgH2, YCo3 systems, Al3O3 systems, nanomaterials, light metal deuterides, and ice.  He works extensively with experimentalists, using the high-performance computing laboratory (and a suite of materials modelling packages) to provide models capable of predicting and interpreting results from neutron scattering and x-ray diffraction measurements.  Prof.  Morrison also provides crucial theoretical support to experimental collaborations investigating carbon nanotubes as a means of solving the hydrogen storage problem.

Dr.  Graham S.  McDonald

Dr.  McDonald’s research spans a wide range of linear and non-linear photonic systems.  He has extensive expertise in laser resonator theory, fractal laser modes, mode-locking (including applications and design), non-diffraction, and self-imaging of light.  Dr.  McDonald has also played a pivotal role in, and made key contributions to, the development of many research areas in the field of non-linear light-material interactions, including: the generation of ultrabroadband multi-frequency Raman light (using Raman-active media in novel cavity geometries), self-trapping, spatial and spatiotemporal solitons, optical collapse, non-paraxial effects (in Kerr-type and other materials), optical vortices, transverse effects in optics, and general pattern formation & complexity science.

Dr.  Daniel J.  Bull

Dr.  Bull pursues a very active research programme –  comprising a strong theory/experiment overlap – on the physics and chemistry of energy materials, with particular emphasis on hydrogen storage.  Computational modelling uses a suite of codes, based on quantum mechanical density functional theory and computational statistical mechanics (Monte Carlo and molecular dynamics), to predict and elucidate the thermodynamic properties of metal hydrides and other materials.  These data are compared with experimental values obtained from a range of analytical techniques, including gas-sorption, calorimetry and time-resolved neutron diffraction.  A particular research interest is the physisorption (increase in gas density near the surface of a material) of a range of gases by large-surface-area and porous materials.  In addition to applications in energy storage, this has included playing a key role in a cross-disciplinary collaboration with the Acoustics Research Centre in the University investigating the adsorption of air in activated carbon to help understand the unusually large attenuation of low-frequency sound waves in this material.

Dr.  James M.  Christian

Dr.  Christian’s research is in theoretical photonics and complexity.  He is interested in the mathematical and computational modelling of electromagnetic waves in non-linear waveguides, including spatial and spatiotemporal solitons.  A key research project investigates the oblique coupling of spatial solitons into layered materials and patterned optical structures (such as waveguide arrays and photonic crystals).  Other major research activities include spontaneous pattern formation (particularly patterns with multiple spatial scalelengths, or ‘fractals’) in non-linear optical systems, and novel contexts for ultrabroadband Raman light generation.  Dr.  Christian has also been developing new semi-analytical methods for modelling fractal ‘kaleidoscope’ lasers by deploying a virtual-source approach in parallel with fully-two-dimensional Fresnel diffraction patterns.

Dr.  Martin N.  Dawson

Dr.  Dawson’s research involves the application of imaging techniques to many scientific disciplines.  His work on neutron radiography and tomography, undertaken at both Central and European facilities (Institut Laue-Langevin, France; Helmholtz Centre Berlin for Materials and Energy, Germany), spans a diverse range of fields including geology, palaeontology, archaeology, and fluid dynamics.  Dr.  Dawson is also interested in the development of a wide variety of neutron imaging techniques, such as interferometric neutron imaging, spin-polarised neutron imaging and high-resolution neutron imaging.

Prof.  Nigel J.  Mellors

Prof.  Mellors is the  Associate Dean of Enterprise Engagement with the College of Science & Technology.  He is also Director of the Energy Hub and the Energy Theme Leader for the University.  Prof.  Mellors is very active with several Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, has recently patented an applicator nozzle and vent controlling apparatus.  He researches the properties (such as magnetic anisotropy, shape memory phase transitions, magnetomechanical performance, and magnetisation reversal mechanisms) and potential applications (such as biomagnetic nanodevices) of a wide range of magnetic materials, including Fe-Ga alloys, single- and multi-partcle-chain nanofibres, and Terfenol-D.  More recently, he been using M√∂ssbauer spectroscopy and neutron diffraction techniques to investiate the magnetostrictive characteristics of melt-spun alloy ribbons.

Dr.  Richard D.  Pilkington

Dr.  Pilkington researches the deposition and characterisation of thin film multinary photovoltaic materials, and radiation hardness mechanisms in copper indium/gallium diselenide.  He is also interested in the interaction of ultraviolet laser light with a range of host materials used across the solar cell industry.  One key diagnostic tool used in Dr.  Pilkington’s research is Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS).  He is particularly interested in the fundamental physical processes underpinning LIBS; despite being a powerful and widely-used experimental technique, LIBS is still not well understood.  He also fabricates novel physical vapour deposited structures for the protection of high specification electronic devices for use in vacuum environments (such as space technology applications).

Dr.  Tiehan Shen

Dr.  Shens’s interests are the electronic, magnetic and magneto-optic properties of magnetic and semiconductor thin film structures (such as ultra-thin Fe on GaAs with an Ru interlayer, and Fe films on negative-electron-affinity surfaces).  He also investigates spin-dependent electron transport properties in metal-semiconductors.  Dr.  Shen’s collaborations use a range of experimental techniques (magneto-optical Stokes polarimetry, soft x-ray microscopy,  spin-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy) to study magnetic systems such as nanostructured materials, nanowires (and arrays thereof), and a new generation of amorphous alloys.  

Prof.  David W.  Sheel

Dr.  Sheel spent a number of years working in R&D in a wide range of businesses with a particular focus in the coatings area, and specialising in Atmospheric Pressure thermal Chemical Vapour Deposition (APCVD).  He is a founder Board member of EJIPAC (European Japanese Initiative in Photocatalysis Applications and Commercialisation), and holds a number of industrial consultancies with major international companies.  Together with Prof. Martin Pemble (now at NMRC, Cork) in 2000, he established a spin-out company, CVD Technologies Ltd, aimed at the exploitation of state-of-the-art CVD technology, consultancy and new product concepts in the field of CVD.  The company has established an international reputation, and has internationally leading technology, reflected in the fact that over 90% of the company sales derive from outside the UK.  

Dr.  Stanko Tomic

Dr.  Tomic has extensive research experience in the area of semiconductor nanostructures modelling, optoelectronic device design, and theoretical solid state physics.  His recent work is aimed at understanding of electronic and optical properties, as well as the radiative and nonradiative processes, in semiconductor quantum dot based 3rd generation solar cell devices.  His interests include theoretical EXAFS spectroscopy, and the description of excited states in semiconductors and oxide materials obtained from ab initio time dependent density functional theory.  Dr.  Tomic uses our high-performance supercomputering facilities for materials modelling, and is interested in the theoretical analysis and interpretation of experimental results obtained from semiconductor nanostructures.

Dr.  Heather M. Yates

Dr.  Yates’ research involves chemical vapour deposition of III-V semiconductors and various oxides (or metals).  Use of the deposition process can be divided into two specific areas of interest.  Firstly, that of self assembly of 3D photonic materials and 1D nanowires.  This includes exploration of the photonic behaviour of both bare and infilled opals, which led to the production of the first reported inverse opal syatems based on InP and GaP and that of a conducting inorganic medium (SnO2).  The second area studies the formation of thin films of material on a variety of substrates to give 'added value' in the form of thermochromic, photoactive, biocidal or conducting behaviour.  Materials deposited include TiO2, SnO2, Sn, VO2, Cu (oxide) and Ag.  The films can be extended to include the delivery and formation of nanoparticulate powders for film incorporation.


Career Prospects

Many of our graduating PhD students go into postdoctoral positions to pursue a career in academic research within the University sector.  Globally, a postgraduate research qualification is usually a prerequisite for an academic career and several of our alumni are now senior academics.

Our students also have a strong track record in following a diverse and exciting range of career paths in the private sector, both at-home and abroad.  Examples include: the defence industry (BAE Sytems, QinetiQ), the oil industry and pipeline leakage repair (Petroleum Geo-Services, ATMOS International),  the semiconductor and commercial coating industries (NXP Semiconductors, Hardide, Cacuum Equipment Ltd.), and instrumentation companies designing new products for scientific analysis (Kratos Analytical, Waters) and medical imaging (Agilent Technologies).  

We encourage the maintenance of links between graduating research students and their host research group and supervisor.  This means the University can become part of the developing professional network that students take forward into their future careers.

Alumni Profile

Dr.  Philip Edmondson

Our international research can open up opportunities for extended work periods abroad when studying for a PhD.  Philip studied for his PhD in physics at the University of Salford, completing a thesis (entitled "An in-situ TEM study of the formation and annealing of damage resulting from single ion impacts in crystalline silicon") in 2007.  During his PhD, Phil spent an extended period working at Argonne National Laboratory, USA.  While at Argonne, he specialised in in-situ TEM (Transmission Electron Microscopy) experiments, namely ion irradiation of silicon.

Philip worked on a European-funded project to fabricate a nano-scale, ultra-bright Scanning-Electron-Microscope-on-a-chip using a focussed ion beam as the fabricating tool.  He is currently a postdoctoral researcher, exploring materials for fusion and fission power generation at the University of Oxford.

Dr. Robert Moorehead

Robert was awarded his PhD in physics during 2010 and now works at the University of Sheffield.  He says “after completing my Masters degree in physics in 2006, I went on to study the kinetics of phase formation in bioceramics at Salford University at doctoral level.  

During my doctoral training, I worked on a wide range of projects with undergraduate and postgraduate students, including cryogenic processing of metals, characterisation of archaeological samples, and the creation of an optical guitar pickup.  During the final stages of writing my PhD thesis, I started working here at the University of Sheffield as a Research Technician in the Academic Unit of Restorative Dentistry.

I am interested in using novel techniques to characterise the properties of ceramics (for both biomedical and dental applications), such as kinetic neutron diffraction and laser induced breakdown spectroscopy.  I have experience in complementing these with standard laboratory techniques such as Vickers hardness, biaxial flexural strength, x-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy.  I am looking forward to learning more about the biological aspects of implantology and widening my technical abilities.  I am also looking into hybridising current production technologies to create commercially viable materials for multiple applications.”

Dr.  John Cowpe

Having completed both a BSc and an MSc degree within the physics department at the University of Salford, John stayed on for a third degree.  He completed a PhD degree in the subjects of optical spectroscopy and mass spectrometric laser-induced plasma diagnostics.  

John joined the University of Manchester in 2010 as a Senior Scientific Officer, but still maintains strong collaborative links with staff of the Materials & Physics Research Centre, here at Salford University.  He is currently pursuing research on thin film characterisation, fundamental plasma studies, laser-material and laser-plasma interactions.  More recently, his work has involved applying laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy to evaluate bone quality prior to dental implant surgery.

Links with Industry

We are traditionally major users of Central (STFC) Facilities – including the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire (ISIS neutron spallation source, Diamond light source), Darsbury in Warrington, and MEIS at the University of Huddersfield.

A large portfolio of Enterprise and Impact projects have arisen from our work.  Researchers have been very successful in developing techniques that have been taken up by industry in various ways, including the creation of a direct spin-out company CVD Technologies, commercialising research involving these techniques.  

Members have also developed a sophisticated gravimetric measurement technique Рthe Intelligent Gravimetric Analyser Рnow produced commercially by HIDEN Isochema (a new company that already has a turnover of over £3M).

Atomic collisions and ion-beam physics research (concerning low energy implantation) has directly contributed to the development of equipment used in the production of the latest high density microchips.  

The engineering strain-scanning equipment developed at ILL (Grenoble) is also being used by major European industries, such as those in the aeronautical and nuclear engineering sectors that have to deal with critical safety problems.

We also have a rich history of links with private industry though, for example, sponsorship of PhD students.  Companies include Technical Fibres Ltd., 3M, BAE Systems, BNFL, and Seagate.


Experimentalists use advanced  techniques to prepare and characterise materials, particularly nano-materials, having a variety of functional behaviours.  Preparation techniques include chemical vapour deposition, sputtering, implantation, focused ion-beam etching, laser ablation and electro-deposition.  Standard characterisation facilities include a range of x-ray diffractometers, electron microscopes (TEM, SEM, STEM, AFM, MFM), NMR and mass spectrometry, a wide variety of laser systems, and full vacuum training facilities.

Theoreticians researching energy materials modelling have access to the Materials & Physics Research Centre’s high-performance computing facilities and 3D visualisation suite.

There is a further range of equipment for characterising the magnetic properties of materials – for example, vibrating sample magnetometers and magneto-optic Kerr effect spectrometers.

The Materials & Physics Research Centre also has a dedicated Microscopy Centre and the Salford Analytical Services technical suite.