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Postgraduate research project

Coherent femtosecond soft X-ray microscopy

Competition funded View fees and funding
Type of degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Entry requirements
2:1 honours degree
View full entry requirements
Faculty graduate school
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Closing date

About the project

We are looking for a student to join an exciting new project in the field of bio-imaging. The project, recently awarded funding of ~£5M, aims to use laser-generated soft X-ray radiation for coherent imaging of nanoscale biological structures. The X-ray generation process, known as high-harmonic generation, is based on nonlinear optics using extremely high-intensity femtosecond laser pulses, the topic of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics. The imaging process uses computational algorithms to transform the scattered X-ray patterns into detailed images with resolution of 10nm or less, comparable with electron microscopes but with the huge advantages of X-rays in looking within biological structures like cells or neurons.

The capability to generate coherent soft X-rays in a lab is limited to a few research groups worldwide. This PhD project will look at optimising X-ray generation for use in microscopy and will develop coherent imaging in the soft X-ray regime.

The student will be part of a multidisciplinary team constructing a new laser laboratory at the Rutherford Appleton Labs (RAL), home of the most powerful femtosecond lasers in the UK, and of the Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI), the UK’s premier research institute in biological imaging. The lab will exploit a new generation of fibre-laser femtosecond sources producing high-energy pulses in the infrared at average powers 100 times higher than typical femtosecond lasers.

The candidate will join a welcoming community at Southampton, the RFI, and the Central Laser Facility of RAL, a team including physicists, chemists, computer scientists, and biologists developing imaging techniques within a supportive and diverse environment. The ideal candidate will have a background in physics, have studied nonlinear optics and/or lasers, and have an interest in computational techniques both for lab operation and data analysis. Collaboration across disciplines, from algorithm development to biology, will be essential and will provide the student with a broad background in some of the most exciting areas of photonics, and strong support for career development.

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