Research course

Physics and Astronomy

University of Glasgow · College of Science and Engineering
PhDEngDMSc by researchMPhil

Entry requirements

A 2.1 Honours degree or equivalent.

Months of entry


Course content

Our strong collaborations with UK and international institutions contribute to an excellent environment for top quality research.

  • We lead QuantIC, the UK's four Quantum Technology Hub
  • We host two EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training
  • We are a member of Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA)

Research groups

Astronomy and astrophysics

We cover a wide range of topics, including solar and plasma physics, cosmology and radio astronomy. Much of our research in solar physics concentrates on the theory, diagnostics and observation of solar flares, complementing our work in more general plasma theory and atmospheric plasmas.

Our research in radio astronomy and cosmology ranges from low frequency astronomy in space to probing the distribution of dark matter with galaxy surveys.

Extreme Light

What could you do if you had a camera so fast that is can freeze light in motion? Or a quatum sensing device that can measure the path taken by a single photon with a precision of a single atom? We are developing the techonlogies that will enable new forms of imaging with applications ranging from seeing behind and through walls to quantum microscopy.

Imaging concepts

We conduct research into new imaging techniques at optical and radio-frequency wavelengths and work closely with collaborators in industry, biology and medicine to apply these techniques in real-world applications. Our main research fields are computational imaging, spectral imaging and biomedical imaging, particularly in the retina.

Institute for Gravitational Research

Our work includes a broad spectrum of research in and around the field of gravitational wave astronomy and cosmology. This includes:

  • the analysis and astrophysical interpretation of gravitational wave signals from the ground-based network of interferometric gravitational wave detectors including the LIGO observatories.
  • studies of precision novel interferometric sensing techniques to allow detectors to operate at and beyond the Standard Quantum Limit and the development of systems of ultra -low optical and mechanical loss for the suspensions of mirror test masses.

The group is also involved in the space-based LISA mission.

Materials and condensed matter physics

We study fundamental phenomena and find solutions for critical issues such as energy, healthcare and information technology. Our research is underpinned by our capabilities in advanced characterisation, theoretical modelling, computational simulation, and a long-standing reputation for the development of transmission electron microscopy techniques. The group facilities include: advanced materials preparation and characterisation, ferromagnetic resonance, scanning probe microscopy, and state of the art high resolution electron microscopy.

Nuclear physics

The group undertakes fundamental research into the structure of matter and understanding the processes of Quantum Chromodynamics (the strong nuclear interaction). We study the structure of nucleons (protons and neutrons) and also the spectrum of strongly interacting particles (hadrons). The group is involved at the highest level of international research in hadronic and nuclear physics, and in development of the latest detector technologies and analysis techniques for use in experiments. Our experimental programme is based in the US and Germany.

We also have a programme of applying nuclear physics techniques to applications in radioactive waste disposal, healthcare diagnostics and environmental monitoring.


We are best known for our work on optical angular momentum (where light beams can spin microscopic objects) and our development of optical tweezers (which use laser beams to manipulate the microscopic world). We also study how tiny prisms and lenses can create strange optical transformations and how optical beams interact with cold atoms and gases.

Quantum theory

Our research covers a range of topics in quantum theory, centred mostly on quantum information and quantum optics. We are interested in the foundations of quantum theory and especially he ways in which these appear in light-matter interactions. We work on:

  • quantum-limited measurements
  • the mechanical effects of light
  • the optics of chiral molecules
  • open systems
  • quantum thermodynamics.

We are theoretical physicists but we also enjoy working with experimentalists.

Experimental and theoretical particle physics

As part of several major international collaborations, we perform world-class research into fundamental particles and their interactions.

We are interested in phenomena that can be probed at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN as well as at future facilities. The theorists use the current Standard Model of particle physics, as well as credible extensions of it, to make predictions that can be tested by the experimentalists.

Theoretical work has a focus on the behaviour of the strong force as described by Quantum Chromodynamics, using both perturbation theory and nonperturbative methods of lattice QCD; the physics of the Higgs boson and the top quark, and the phenomenology of exotic new physics beyond the Standard Model.

The experimental group is a key member of both the ATLAS and LHCb experiments as well as leading work on the computing grid used for data analysis and detector developments for future collider and neutrino experiments.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • PhD
    full time
    36-48 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    part time
    72-96 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
  • EngD
    full time
    48-60 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    part time
    96 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
  • MSc by research
    full time
    12-24 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    part time
    24-36 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
  • MPhil
    full time
    24-36 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    part time
    36-48 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Part-time study is only available at EngD level in Optics and Photonics.

Course contact details