Current PhD vacancies are listed below. See the postgraduate pages for more information on our PhD programmes.

Experimental Modeling of Optimal Search Strategies with Bioinspired Nanorobots at University College London (D/L:30/10/18)

Subject areas: Biophysics, Nanotechnology, Engineering, Experimental Soft Matter Physics

A fully funded PhD studentship is available to work under the supervision of Dr Giorgio Volpe on the experimental development of a model system to study the physics of foraging based on the use of bioinspired nanorobots capable of autonomous movement.

Please visit our group website for more details about our research: https://activematterlab.org

When locating one or multiple targets in space within time constraints, adopting the right search strategy can make the difference between succeeding and failing within the allocated time. At different scales, this applies to nanorobots navigating through living tissue for diagnostics and therapy, to animals foraging in natural landscapes and to (human and robotic) rescuers during search-and-rescue operations in disaster zones. In the absence of environmental cues and with limited cognitive abilities that could drive the motion of the searching agent, random searches represent established search patterns in homogeneous topographies. The scope of this PhD studentship is to experimentally determine what is the best collective search strategy for a swarm of nanorobots in realistic search scenarios, where physical obstacles and barriers are present, under the constraint of minimal or no information exchange. For this study, in particular, bioinspired self-propelling nanorobots will be developed and employed as a versatile and scalable model system for macroscopic swarms.

The successful applicant should have or expect to achieve a Masters-level degree (1st or 2:1 or equivalent for European degrees) in a relevant subject, e.g. Physics, Engineering, Natural Science or Materials Science, and an interest in working at the interface between biophysics, soft matter and photonics. The successful applicant will demonstrate strong interest and self-motivation in the subject, good experimental practice and the ability to think analytically and creatively. Good computer skills as well as presentation and writing skills in English are required. Previous experience in experimental soft matter and programming are desirable.

To apply in first instance, please email a motivation letter, an up-to-date CV and contact details for 2 referees to Dr Giorgio Volpe (g.volpe@ucl.ac.uk) who may also be approached for informal enquires. Ideal starting date: January 2019. The application deadline is 30 November 2018 but the position will be closed as soon as a suitable applicant has been selected.

Please note that due to funding restrictions only UK/EU citizens are eligible for this studentship.

Suitable candidates will be required to complete an electronic application form at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/apply. Any admissions queries should be directed to Dr Jadranka Butorac (j.butorac@ucl.ac.uk).

Systems Chemistry: Non-Equilibrium Synthesis and the Origins of Life (D/L:12/10/18)

Subject areas: Organic Synthesis

Applications are invited from suitably qualified candidates for two three-year PhD Studentships. The Studentships are fully funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and available from November 2018, depending on applicant availability. The successful candidates will be based in the Department of Chemistry at UCL and supervised by Dr Matthew Powner.


These PhD projects will investigate the underlying chemistry of nucleic acid and peptide synthesis and their selective polymerisation. The Powner group has developed world-leading organic chemistry to probe the origins of the core metabolite that underpin biological form and function. Now, through collaboration with leading biophysicists at LMU Munich in Germany, the influence of non-equilibrium conditions on these synthetic methodologies will be investigated. These PhD projects are part of an international experimental work package designed to unravel a key missing element in the search for the Origins of Life on Earth by elucidating a novel mechanistic understanding of prebiotically important physicochemical interactions and novel synthetic methodologies.


This is a very exciting opportunity for students with a strong chemistry background to tackle one of the biggest questions in science. The successful candidates will join a group of highly motivate scientists (5 post-doctoral research associates, 6 PhD and 3 MRes students) working to elucidate the chemistry that underpins the Origins of Life on Earth. The students will directly collaborate with three groups at LMU Munich, Germany.  Dr Powner is an investigator of the Simons Foundation (New York, USA) and broader international collaborative interactions within the on going Simons Foundation Collaboration on the Origins of Life (www.simonsfoundation.org/life-sciences/origins-of-life/simons-collaborat...), as well as with members of a newly established EU Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network, are anticipated.


The minimum requirement is a first class or upper second-class honours degree (MSci, MChem) or equivalent. Applications, including a cover letter and full and up-to-date CV, together with the names, addresses and email addresses of two academic referees should be sent as soon as possible to Dr Powner (matthew.powner@ucl.ac.uk). Informal enquiries may also be made with Dr Powner. Suitable candidates will be required to complete an electronic application form at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/apply. Any admissions queries should be directed to Dr Jadranka Butorac (j.butorac@ucl.ac.uk).The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. GMT on Friday 12th October 2018. Due to studentship regulations, only UK and EU students are eligible to apply for this post.