PhD Study Opportunities at NEXUS

NEXUS is one of a handful of the best equipped laboratories in the world for the analysis of materials surfaces, with new state-of-the-art equipment available for use by PhD students. Prospective research topics exist within four main themes:

PhD opportunities

  • Helium Ion Microscopy and Nanoanalysis

We have one of three helium ion microscopes in the UK, with a demonstrated resolution of 0.3nm measured on a graphene edge. We will be seeking to develop the analytical potential of this instrument to provide nanometre scale analysis of materials composition.

  • Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToFSIMS)

We have a number of key instrumental development and data analysis topics suitable for PhD study. Our ToFSIMS instrument is one of only four of its kind worldwide and is supported by mutliple state-of-the-art XPS and SPM instruments. We benefit from close proximity to research groups in medicine, catalysis, heritage materials and electronic devices that provide cutting-edge collaborations with potentially very high impact.

  • X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS)

We have unique instruments for development of XPS techniques, with an international reputation in (for example) Angle Resolved XPS (ARXPS). We have a unique angle-resolved/gas cluster ion instrument that is likely to revolutionise the application of XPS to soft materials. Of our four XPS instruments each has its unique strengths and all are available to NEXUS PhD students.

  • Cluster-ion sputtering

Argon cluster ions have opened-up a completely new era in the analysis of soft materials surfaces (such as polymers, organic semiconductors and biological materials). We have three argon cluster sources on our XPS and ToFSIMS instruments (half of the total number in the UK at the time of writing) and are developing an international reputation in cluster sputtering science.

Though PhD studentship topics can be very exciting, funding PhD studentships can be a challenge, and our internal funding resources are very limited. Enquiries regarding PhD opportunities at NEXUS should be directed to Professor Peter Cumpson.


PhD Case Study - James Hood

JamesJames Hood

I completed my master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Newcastle University in June 2015 and have recently begun my PhD in Nanotechnology.

My current research is a natural follow-on from my master’s project, in which I worked as part of a seven strong team to design an upgrade for a state-of-the-art Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (ToF-SIMS) instrument.

The main aim of my research is to successfully integrate nanoscale analysis and nanoscale focussed-ion milling. This would offer world-leading performance for the instrument. Analysis of this type has a plethora of potential applications from biomedical research in areas such as proteomics and drug discovery, through to environmental analysis such as screening drinking water for unknown contaminants.

At present, my project involves finalising the design and manufacture of key components, alongside the assembly of its ultra-high-vacuum housing prior to testing.

The research project was of particular interest to me because of its position at the intersection between traditional mechanical engineering and cutting edge physics, the opportunity to work with world-leading equipment in an exciting research department only served to enhance its appeal!