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Research degrees in Physics



We welcome postgraduate students and visiting research fellows to undertake research in our areas of interest (see below). Research students are registered for University of London degrees (MPhil/PhD) and work under the supervision of members of academic staff.

Students may receive financial support (research studentships) offered by the research councils (including CASE studentships in collaboration with an industrial sponsor). A limited number of College studentships are also available.

See also: Research degrees in the Astronomy Unit.

Research in the School is focused in three main areas:

  • Experimental Particle Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Theoretical Physics

See also: the website for School of Physics and Astronomy

Particle Physics Research Centre (PPRC)

Research in the Particle Physics Research Centre (PPRC) at Queen Mary concentrates on the following core areas of particle physics (please note, the experiments in which the group is involved are indicated in parentheses):

  • Flavour Physics, Standard Model and beyond at hadron colliders (ATLAS and its upgrade)
  • Neutrino physics (T2K, Super-K, and future long baseline experiment Hyper-K, SNO+ and IceCUBE)

Experiments and collaborations:

  • The PPRC is participating in the ATLAS Experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.  The LHC started operations in 2010 and is the highest energy collider in the world.  The group is engaged in efforts to understand the nature of the Higgs boson and search for signs of new physics such as supersymmetry.  In addition we study Standard Model processes, the structure of the proton and weak interactions of heavy quarks. QMUL has made major contributions to the design, construction and operation of the Level-1 Calorimeter Trigger and the silicon detectors and front-end electronics that are integral components of the ATLAS Semiconductor Tracker.  We are also involved in upgrades of the trigger and tracker systems for the High Luminosity LHC expected to start operations in the mid 2020s.
  • The T2K (Tokai-to-Kamioka) experiment is a long baseline neutrino experiment that probes physics beyond the Standard Model. The experiment, which started collecting data in 2010, consists of the world's most powerful neutrino beam, generated at the JPARC facility in Japan, the 'ND280' near detector, which measures the beam before it oscillates, and the 'SuperKamiokande' far detector 295km away. The PPRC group made major contributions to the design and construction of the near detector Electromagnetic Calorimeters and is now involved and providing leadership in neutrino oscillation and cross section analyses, as well as work on data quality, event reconstruction and calibration.

    In 2012 T2K was the first experiment to measure electron neutrino appearance from a muon neutrino beam, confirming that the third and final neutrino oscillation mixing angle is non-zero. This has opened the way to the possibility of searching for CP violation in neutrino oscillations with T2K and its upgrades (T2K-II and Hyper-K) focusing on measuring oscillation effects of both muon neutrino and anti-neutrino beams.
  • SNO+ is a multi-purpose low energy neutrino experiment, currently being commissioned in an active Nickel mine in Canada, due to start taking data in 2016. The main goal of SNO+ is a search for neutrino-less double beta decay, the so-called golden-channel for testing the nature and mass of the neutrino. To achieve this, excellent energy resolution and extremely low radioactivity levels must be achieved in the liquid scintillator detector. These characteristics allow a number of other physics measurements including measurement of low energy solar neutrinos, anti-neutrinos from nearby nuclear reactors and geo-neutrinos produced by radioactive decays in the Earth's crust and mantle as well as the potential to observe galactic supernovae. PPRC is contributing to many aspects of the experiment including data processing and Monte Carlo Production, calibration systems, backgrounds analysis and providing analysis leadership.
  • The IceCube-Gen2 collaboration is the next generation collaboration to focus on extending low and high energy physics of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, Antarctica. The IceCube detector is a large array of DOMs (digital optical modules, each unit includes one PMT and an electronics and a calibration system), located ~1.5km under the south pole ice, and spans 1km2 to cover 1 giga ton ice as a target material of interactions. The main goal of IceCube is to detect ultra high energy neutrinos. Queen Mary has expertise on neutrino interaction physics, and we contribute to improve the neutrino interaction models, and we also estimate systematic errors related to neutrino interaction uncertainties on the neutrino mass hierarchy measurement. On top of these, using existing data from the IceCube detector, we will try to measure the flux-integrated neutrino cross section.
  • QMUL is part of the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid and PPRC group runs one of the largest so called 'Tier-2' sites, primarily for the analysis of LHC data but increasingly for other experiments and projects including astronomy. There is ongoing development of Cloud Computing, the use of Graphics Processor Units (GPUs), iRODS, and digital preservation for particle physics data.

For more information on PhD research with the PPRC group please follow this link:

Condensed Matter and Materials Physics (CCMMP)

The Centre for Condensed Matter and Materials Physics (CCMMP) carries out experimental and theoretical research in condensed matter. Key themes include organic conductors, structure-property relations, and disordered and nanoscale materals.

The experimental work of the CCMMP involves both laboratory techniques and significant use of international radiation-beam facilities. Laboratory experimental techniques include a range of electrical and optical characterisation techniques - in the areas of picosecond photoconduction and high pressure spectroscopy the group is a world leader - high resolution x-ray diffraction, solid state diffusion and mechanical testing, with facilities for measurements at high-magnetic fields and at low temperatures. The group also uses the techniques of scanning probe microscopy and scanning electron microscopy to create nanostructures for molecular electronics studies. Facilities-based work includes neutron scattering, muon spectroscopy, and techniques exploiting the nature of beams of x-rays generated at synchrotron sources. This work is concerned with studies of local structure, magnetism and atomic-scale dynamics.

The CCMMP has recently established a group using computer simulation methods. The techniques range from accurate quantum mechanical methods through to massive-scale molecular dynamics. Applications are in the area of understanding disordered materials and fluids, molecular crystals, phase transitions, structure-property relations and damage to materials by nuclear radiation. The group has extensive collaboration with industrial, government and academic laboratories in the UK, Europe, North America, China, India and Japan.

Centre for Research in String Theory (CRST)

Research in the Centre for Research in String Theory (CRST) focuses on string theory and its many applications in physics and mathematics.

String theory is currently our best candidate for a theory which unifies gravity with the other fundamental forces (the strong nuclear, the weak nuclear and the electromagnetic forces) - it is a proposed "Theory of Everything". String theory was discovered in the 1960s by nuclear theorists. The birth of string theory as a possible "Theory of Everything" came when it was suggested that string theory was not a theory of hadrons and mesons, but was a fundamental theory, with the massless spin two particle identified as the graviton - the conjectured carrier of the gravitational force.

The "first string revolution" occurred in the early 1980s, when researchers at Queen Mary and Cal Tech discovered superstrings. Soon after, new "heterotic" strings were found, leading to a total of five superstring theories, labelled I, IIA, IIB, HE, HO.

A "second string revolution" occurred around 1995 in work at Queen Mary, Cambridge and Princeton. "Duality" symmetries between different string theories were found, which led to the proposal that the five known theories are different realisations of one underlying fundamental theory, called "M theory", whose low energy limit is eleven-dimensional supergravity. Furthermore, the fundamental objects in string theory and M theory were found to include higher dimensional surfaces called "branes" as well as strings.

A new paradigm of gauge-string duality emerged in the late nineties, where gravity, strings and branes emerge from gauge theory at large N. The twistor string-gauge theory duality found in Princeton in December 2003 and developed further at Queen Mary, has lead to dramatic progress in practical calculations of scattering amplitudes. This is relevant to forthcoming experiments at the LHC at CERN in Geneva as well as giving new insights into the structure of gauge theory.

Other areas of active research in current string theory include the study of time-dependent and cosmologically relevant aspects of brane dynamics, multi-matrix models and Brauer algebras in connection with emergent D-branes from gauge theory, integrability and new geometries in string theory. Queen Mary researchers play leading roles and are involved actively in many of these new areas of research.

Entry requirements

Students accepted for postgraduate study usually have a first, or good upper-second class, honours degree in Mathematics, Physics, Electronic Engineering, Computer Science, or a related discipline from a British university, or the equivalent from an overseas university.

For international students, please refer to the International students section.

Students with upper-second class (or better) BSc honours degrees, or equivalent, are eligible to apply for admission to research degrees.

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