For more than 100 years, the Bristol School of Physics has made major research contributions, including the discovery of the pi meson (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1950) and fundamental advances in quantum mechanics.

The School of Physics has a world-class reputation for cohort-based research training and has over the past ten years received UK national funding for Centres of Doctoral Training in Functional Nanomaterials, Condensed Matter Physics, Quantum Engineering, Particle Physics, Artificial Intelligence Machine Learning, and Advanced Computing.

Our Physics Graduate School community comprises more than 200 students from a diverse global background, and with a very good gender balance. We have strong interactions with industry, and are well connected to the unique Bristol start-up and SME community, including joint training activities.

As a research student you will be a member of the Physics Graduate School, which organises social and scientific events to support you, coordinates skills training in Physics, organises induction, builds a community, and helps you navigate through the University procedures.

Our research degree programmes are offered across six diverse research themes. For informal discussions before making an application, prospective students are encouraged to contact either the academic lead in the research theme of interest for guidance, or the potential supervisor for project discussions.

Once you have settled on a research area and/or supervisor, you will need a CV, a personal statement introducing yourself and outlining your motivation for research, and details of your qualifications.

Research Area:

At the top of your personal statement, state the research area that overlaps with your research interests (you can choose up to two research areas).

Choose from the research themes of the School of Physics:

  • Astrophysics
  • Materials and Devices
  • Particle Physics
  • Quantum and Soft Matter
  • Quantum Engineering Technologies
  • Theoretical Physics

If you have already contacted a potential supervisor or are replying to a studentship advert, please indicate the potential supervisors name in the 'Research Proposal' section of the application.

Entry requirements

A first degree in physics or a related subject, normally at a level equivalent to at least UK upper second-class honours, or a relevant postgraduate master's qualification.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Go to admissions statement

If English is not your first language, you will need to reach the requirements outlined in our profile level F.

Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Fees and funding

UK: full-time
£4,665 per year
UK: part-time (two years)
£2,332 per year
Overseas: full-time
£25,300 per year

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to an 8% increase in fees each year.

More about tuition fees, living costs and financial support.

Bench fees

For postgraduate research students who are not funded by UK Research Councils or (specific) UK charities, it is usual to charge a bench fee. A bench fee covers the costs of laboratory consumables, specialist equipment and other relevant costs (such as training) for the duration of the programme. The bench fee charged can vary considerably depending on the nature of the programme being undertaken. Details of specific bench fee charges can be provided on request and will be made clear in the offer letter sent to applicants.

Alumni discount

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a 25% reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni discount.

Funding for 2023/24

In each academic year, the School of Physics has a number of scholarships for PhD degrees, which are awarded competitively to candidates with the highest research potential. The type of scholarship varies according to the research theme of the PhD opportunity. Applicants are encouraged to contact the postgraduate opportunities rep in their research theme of interest for more information.

We warmly welcome applications from candidates who are applying for funding in their home country, for example; your own Government scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships, charities.

If you are unsure about which research theme your interests align with, please contact the admissions team.

Further information on funding for prospective UK and international postgraduate students.

Career prospects

Graduates with research degrees are valued by employers and universities across the world. If you are considering a research career, a PhD in Physics is an essential qualification.

For other professional occupations the skills you will have gained through your research degree will be invaluable, whether in industry, academia or elsewhere.

The ability to analyse problems, the capability to plan a project, the expertise of communicating complex ideas - all of these and more are highly valued by employers looking for leadership, initiative, numeracy and an ability to plan and execute strategically.

Our research graduates work in a variety of fields, from finance to high-technology start-ups to academia.

Meet our supervisors

The following list shows potential supervisors for this programme. Visit their profiles for details of their research and expertise.


Research groups

The School of Physics is housed in the H. H. Wills Physics Laboratory that has recently undergone a major investment programme designed to create a new state-of-the-art research environment for both students and staff. 

The School of Physics has an immensely strong international reputation in a wide range of research fields. The research themes are as follows:


Academic contact for enquiries: Dr Zoe Leinhardt zoe.leinhardt@bristol.ac.uk

Researchers within the Astrophysics theme study a range of important phenomena in the Universe, including extrasolar planets, black holes and their related relativistic phenomena, galaxies and clusters of galaxies, and cosmology. Observations are made with the world's best ground- and space-based telescopes across the electromagnetic spectrum. Theoretical work is closely tied to the interpretation of observational results, with numerical and computational studies making use of the University of Bristol's powerful supercomputing facilities. Students present their work to the wider scientific community at high-profile conferences and may be involved in one of the major international projects in which the group participates. The group provides a friendly and dynamic research environment. Graduate-level courses and training in observations, data reduction, and numerical techniques are offered.

Materials and Devices

Academic contact for enquiries: Dr Dong Liu dong.liu@bristol.ac.uk

The Materials and Devices theme covers topics that are driven by innovation and technology – the application of Physics to solve real-world problems. It exploits advances in engineered materials and devices that are crucial to the continued vitality of countless industries, and our postgraduates bridge the gap between science and engineering, becoming expert not only in their area of research but in material and device innovation in general. Key areas of research include semiconductor materials and devices, nuclear and aerospace materials, surface Physics and nanomaterials.

Specifically, the Centre for Device Thermography and Reliability (CDTR) is a world-leading group focuses on improving the thermal management, electrical performance and reliability of novel devices, circuits and packaging. The CDTR develops and applies new techniques for temperature, thermal conductivity, electrical conductivity and traps analysis, especially for microwave and power electronic semiconductor devices, made of wide bandgap materials, such as GaN, SiC and diamond. The Interface Analysis Centre (IAC) is involved in research on materials and material surfaces, including strong activities in nanoscience and nuclear materials. The Advanced Mechanics of Advanced Materials (EMAM) group uses cutting-edge unique techniques to investigate the deformation and fracture of a large range of nuclear and aerospace materials ranging from nuclear graphite and ceramic-matrix composites to ultra-high temperature nuclear fuel particles and accident tolerant fuels collaborating with UK and international key players in the field. The Nanophotonics and Biophysics area focuses on the development, application and exploitation of novel imaging and characterisation techniques for biology and medicine. A particular strength is in Scanning Probe Microscopy and biophotonics, measuring sub-femtonewton optical forces at the nanoscale at high speeds. The surface physics aspect of the work involves catalysis and electro-deposited ultrathin films.

Quantum and Soft Matter

Academic contact for enquiries: Professor Walther Schwarzacher w.schwarzacher@bristol.ac.uk

Our aim is to find and understand new and exciting phenomena of quantum and classical matter. We are world-renowned for our research on high-temperature superconductors, solid-liquid interfaces, glasses, and proteins. Postgraduate students in our group conduct cutting-edge research and have made discoveries like the strange metal phase in cuprate superconductors published in the prestigious journal Nature in 2021. Our students use a wide range of experimental techniques including low temperature, high pressure (< 20 mK and up to 2 megabar), acoustic levitation, and state-of-the art optical techniques to probe phase transitions.

Quantum Engineering Technologies

Academic contact for enquiries: Dr Jorge Barreto g.barreto@bristol.ac.uk

Quantum technologies can perform certain tasks beyond the capabilities of classical systems, such as factoring large numbers or simulating the behaviour of quantum systems. The theme explores fundamental aspects of quantum physics, as well as work towards future photonic quantum technologies, by generating, manipulating and detecting single photons and probing the quantum systems that harness these photons. Students who join the research group typically work in one of three key areas of research:

  • Quantum computing and quantum simulations
  • Quantum communications
  • Quantum sensing and metrology.

Students can explore a range of theory and experimental topics to devise and demonstrate new devices and protocols for quantum information processing, including quantum simulations, quantum computing and quantum key distribution.

Particle Physics

Academic contact for enquiries: Dr Konstantinos Petridis konstantinos.petridis@bristol.ac.uk

The Particle Physics theme is at the forefront of the data analysis and upgrade of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) and Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) experiments at the CERN LHC. Within CMS, the focus is on the search for Supersymmetry and Dark Matter (DM), as well as studying properties of the top quark. Within LHCb, the focus is on pioneering new methods to measure CP violation, the asymmetry between matter and antimatter, and studying rare decays of beauty hadrons in order to discover new particles and forces. The theme is also involved in future neutrino experiments such as DUNE, and direct DM detection experiments such as LZ. Furthermore, the theme is involved in developing novel detector technologies and systems, including applications outside particle physics, such as homeland security and medical imaging. Bristol PhD students will usually join one of the experiments and undertake physics analysis as their main activity, and will also be involved in some aspect of the detector operation. Students can also work on new particle detector techniques using CVD diamond, novel integrated detectors, or other future experiments that the theme is actively involved in.

Theoretical Physics

Academic contact for enquiries: Dr Stephen Clark stephen.clark@bristol.ac.uk

Theory is an essential complement to experimental physics, guiding and interpreting real-world results. Bristol has a very distinguished heritage in theoretical physics, including the discovery of the Aharonov-Bohm effect in 1959 and the geometric or Berry phase in 1983. In soft condensed matter we apply methods from algebraic and geometric topology to study solitons, topological defects and other structures in liquid crystals. Furthermore, we are interested in novel computational techniques applied to topological phase transitions and machine-learning methods applied to problems in statistical physics. Our condensed matter research focuses on unconventional and novel phases in the spin, charge, and superconducting order of complex materials. In particular, we predict experimental observables, such as electronic, thermodynamic and transport properties induced by symmetry-breaking transitions, as well as the behaviour of many-body systems driven far from equilibrium. Our quantum information research focuses on fundamental problems, such as paradoxes and nonlocality, ultimately to understand why quantum mechanics has the counterintuitive properties it does. We are also interested in the foundations of statistical mechanics and thermodynamics applied to small quantum systems.

Contact us

Dr Terry McMaster, Director of the Graduate School
+44 (0) 117 33 17946
Ms Eszter Szatmari, Senior Postgraduate Student Administrator
+44 (0) 117 33 17946