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PhD | Postgraduate Research


Entry year
Entry requirements
  • Overview

    The scientific research within the School of Mathematics and Physics was highly rated in the 2014 REF peer-review exercise, with 70% of research being judged as internationally excellent or world-leading. Physics research activity in the School is focused into five specific Research Centres; all members of academic staff belong to one of these Research Centres, listed below.

    Astrophysics (PhD/MPhil)
    Find out more below, or email Professor Francis Keenan (

    Atomistic Simulation (PhD/MPhil)
    Find out more below, or email Professor Jorge Kohanoff (

    Nanostructured Media (PhD/MPhil)
    Find out more below, or email Professor Marty Gregg (

    Plasma Physics (PhD/MPhil)
    Find out more below, or email Professor Marco Borghesi (

    Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (PhD/MPhil)
    Find out more below, or email Professor Mauro Paternostro (

    Registration is on a full-time or part-time basis, under the direction of a supervisory team appointed by the University. You will be expected to submit your thesis at the end of three years of full-time registration for PhD, or two years for MPhil (or part-time equivalent).


    Postgraduate research programmes within CNM provide experience and training in state-of-the art academic research: many of our research strands are world-leading, as evidenced by performance in REF2014. In addition, however, most of our postgraduate researchers are exposed to functional materials and photonics in major multinational companies.

    Staff Member - School of Mathematics and Physics

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  • Course content

    Research information

    Research Themes
    Astrophysics (PhD/MPhil)

    You’ll be involved in the search for distant supernovae and where they came from; study the asteroid and comet population in the Solar system; look for planets orbiting other stars in our Galaxy; study flares and other dynamic processes in the atmosphere of the Sun. You’ll have the opportunity to spend extensive periods at world-leading research centres such as the European Southern Observatory and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

    At Queen’s we lead major European consortia and are supported by a multi-million pounds portfolio of research grants from a range of sources, including the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Royal Society, and European Union.

    Research Themes
    Atomistic Simulation (PhD/MPhil)

    Atomistic Simulation is the use of theoretical and computational methods to study structural, dynamical, and optical properties of molecules, liquids, solids and plasmas at the atomic scale. Computational experiments are used to interpret existing experimental data and to predict phenomena yet unobserved.

    You’ll study problems at the interfaces between condensed matter physics, materials science, chemistry, biology, and engineering.

    You’ll interact with laboratory-based colleagues at Queen's and internationally, addressing fundamental and/or practical questions, and you will develop and program novel simulation methodologies to model situations presently out of reach, like electronic excitations, optical properties of materials, and the interaction between electric currents, heat and light.

    Research Themes
    Nanostructured Media (PhD/MPhil)

    Through your research, you will help advance the world’s understanding of materials used in cutting edge electronics, photonics and computing. You will help uncover new properties and help develop ideas for how these properties might be used to change the way technology develops in future decades.

    You will have access to some of the most advanced equipment and facilities currently available for research, both in Queens University and through international collaborations. By engaging in your research, you will have the opportunity to become an expert in the growth and patterning of materials, the characterisation of magnetic, electronic and optical properties and in high-end microscopy. These are all techniques that make you highly employable in the global electronic and photonic materials market.

    You’ll benefit from recent major funding investments made by the UK Engineering and Physical Science Research Council, US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme and Seagate Technology.

    Research Themes
    Plasma Physics (PhD/MPhil)

    Your research will involve identifying and responding to the major contemporary issues within ionised matter physics, exploiting synergy derived from a close integration of experimental, theoretical and simulation studies, with major activities in laser- and electrically-produced plasmas, ultra-fast atomic and molecular physics and the interaction of ionising radiation and plasmas with biological systems. You’ll also benefit from transferring your research findings into the industrial and medical sectors.

    Research Themes
    Mathematical Sciences Research Centre (PhD/MPhil)

    You will have the choice from a variety of exciting areas in Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, and Statistic and Operational Research. The research centre offers expertise in fields as diverse as Functional Analysis, Spectral Theory, Algebra, Topology, Optimisation, Topological Data Analysis, Survival Analysis, Bayesian Modelling, Data Mining and others. You will join a dynamic and growing group, mastering the latest methods in your field of choice, and contributing to the creation of original mathematics, in a friendly and supportive environment.

    Research Themes
    Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (PhD/MPhil)

    You’ll contribute to a body of work with recent major developments including strong field laser interactions with atoms and molecules, quantum information processing, quantum optics, and quantum thermodynamics, antimatter interactions with atoms and molecules, electron scattering by very complex targets such as the iron peak elements, and by Rydberg atoms, quantum many-body physics, ultra-cold atomic systems, and simulation of their features, and foundations of quantum mechanics.

    Career Prospects


    People teaching you

    Prof Francis Keenan
    Director of Research - Astrophysics Research Centre
    School of Maths and Physics

    Prof Ivan Todorov
    Director of Research - Mathematical Sciences Research Centre
    School of Maths and Physics

    Prof Jorge Kohanoff
    Director of Research - Atomistic Simulation Centre
    School of Maths and Physics

    Prof Marco Borghesi
    Director of Research - Centre for Plasma Physics
    School of Maths and Physics

    Prof Marty Gregg
    Director of Research - Centre for Nanostructured Media
    School of Maths and Physics

    Prof Mauro Paternostro
    Director of Research - Centre for Theoretical and Atomic Molecular Physics
    School of Maths and Physics

    Learning Outcomes

    Course structure

    You will be expected to submit your thesis at the end of three years of full-time registration for PhD, or two years for MPhil (or part-time equivalent).

  • Entry Requirements

    Entrance requirements

    The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. Further information can be obtained by contacting the School of Mathematics and Physics.

    International Students

    For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

    English Language Requirements

    Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.0, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required. *Taken within the last two years

    International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

    For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

    If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

    • Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
    • Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.

    INTO - English Language Course(QSIS ELEMENT IS EMPTY)

  • Fees and Funding

    Tuition Fees

    Northern Ireland (NI) £4,327
    England, Scotland or Wales (GB) £4,327
    Other (non-UK) EU £4,327
    International £20,300

    More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

    Physics costs

    Depending on the area of research chosen there may be extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees.

    Additional course costs

    All Students

    Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.

    How do I fund my study?

    PhD Funded Opportunities

    Find PhD funding opportunities and studentships by subject area.
    Find out more >

    Doctoral Training Centres at Queen's

    Queen's has seven outstanding competitive Doctoral Training Centres, with each one providing funding for a number of PhD positions and more importantly a hub for carrying out world class research in key disciplines.
    Find out more >

    New UK PhD loans

    The UK Government will introduce new doctoral loans of up to £25,000 for PhDs and equivalent postgraduate research programmes from 2019. Loans will be offered to English-resident students to study all types of doctorate at universities across the UK.
    Find out more >

    International Scholarships

    Information on scholarships for international students, is available at

  • Apply

    How to Apply

    Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

    Find a supervisor

    If you're interested in a particular project, we suggest you contact the relevant academic before you apply, to introduce yourself and ask questions.

    To find a potential supervisor aligned with your area of interest, or if you are unsure of who to contact, look through the staff profiles linked here.

    You might be asked to provide a short outline of your proposal to help us identify potential supervisors.

    Download a prospectus

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