PhD in Physics


Program Description

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)
  • Atomistic Simulation (PhD/MPhil)
  • Nanostructured Media (PhD/MPhil)
  • Plasma Physics (PhD/MPhil)
  • Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (PhD/MPhil)

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

Research information

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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 the English language for visa purposes.

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.
Last updated May 2019

About the School

The Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences spans disciplines that impact lives today and will shape our future. Our international mix of staff and students make up a vibrant community that is ho ... Read More

The Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences spans disciplines that impact lives today and will shape our future. Our international mix of staff and students make up a vibrant community that is home to some of the most innovative and globally significant research and teaching. It works where industry and research meet, providing the platform to spin out research into commercial opportunities and engage with industry on cutting-edge research with real-world projects such as the work with Wrightbus to produce the cleanest hybrid bus technology that powers the London Routemaster, or the pioneering work in The Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology, securing our digital future through their Centre for Secure Information Technologies. Read less