Postgraduate opportunities

The postgraduate admissions tutor in the Manchester nuclear-physics group is Dr Kieran Flanagan, who can be contacted by email at

The University of Manchester has a long and well established history in nuclear physics research, starting with the pioneering experiments of Ernest Rutherford in the early years of the 20th Century. It was at Manchester that Rutherford demonstrated the existence of the atomic nucleus using alpha-particle scattering experiments and performed the first demonstration of nuclear transmutation.

The nuclear physics research group at the University of Manchester is one of the largest in the UK. The group consists of six academic staff with a variety of research interests, such as:

  • the study of radioactive isotopes using laser spectroscopy (Professor Jonathan Billowes, Dr Paul Campbell, Dr Kieran Flanagan)
  • spectroscopy of neutron-rich nuclei and the study of transfer reactions (Professor Sean Freeman)
  • spectroscopy and electromagnetic properties of fission fragments (Dr Gavin Smith)
  • properties of nuclear isomers (Dr Dave Cullen) 

Most of our current research is carried out by performing experiments at major international facilities, such as at Argonne National Laboratory (USA), Jyvaskyla (Finland), GANIL (France), GSI (Germany), and ILL reactor at Grenoble.

Funding for UK and European-Union Ph.D. students is available through the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council(STFC). The funding is administered by the School of Physics and Astronomy (so no separate funding application is necessary) and it is allocated competitively. Competitive funding is available for exceptional overseas students, through School and University bursaries. Due to the limited number of bursaries only candidates who pass through GRE tests (both General and Physics) and score on average no less than 70% will be considered. All other applications are expected to be self-funded.

Ph.D. in Experimental Nuclear Physics

Gammasphere at Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago.

Gammasphere at Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago.

This is normally a three-year course. There is an element of coursework in the first 8 months which can range from the full set of lecture courses taken by M.Sc. students to none at all, depending on experience and background. At the same time research on the main thesis project is started and a short report is normally submitted in May.

In the second and third years the student is involved in a regular programme of experiments which may involve three or four trips to overseas laboratories each year. During this time the student also attends the UK Nuclear Physics Summer School, and will be encouraged to present their research results at major conferences.

Candidates are required to hold a first or upper second class Honours degree from a British university. We will only consider international students without funding who pass through GRE tests (both General and Physics) and score on average no less than 70%. Due to the high demand for places within our group, candidates with funding are also encouraged to pass the GRE (both General and Physics). The course can start in September, January, April, or July, but September is strongly recommended for the 3 year PhD course. STFC funding is available for UK and EU students.

How to apply for a Ph.D.

M.Sc. by Research

The aim of our course is to allow the student to understand how characteristics of the nucleus can be deduced from the properties of the radiation they emit. Current theories of the nucleus are also studied.

Students take five lecture courses and produce a dissertation on their project work. The project is an original piece of research, supervised by one of the staff members of the nuclear group.

It is usually a 12-month course, but students may take 24 months, using the first year to bring their standard and knowledge up to the level required at the start of the course (a good background is expected in quantum mechanics, mathematics and core physics, including a foundation course in nuclear physics).

The level is suitable for British students who have completed their first degree. It will also be attractive to students at a similar level from European Countries, who wish to visit the UK for a year as part of their programme of study. For non-European students the course provides an opportunity to study nuclear physics at an advanced level in a European environment.

Course units

Examples of course units which may be selected on the Ph.D. and M.Sc. programmes are listed below.

  • PHYS60341 Electromagmetic Decay and Hyperfine Interactions in Nuclei
  • PHYS40421/PHYS64421 Nuclear Structure and Exotic Nuclei
  • PHYS40322/PHYS63322 Nuclear Physics
  • PHYS40422/PHYS63422 Applied Nuclear Physics
  • PHYS40202/PHYS64202 Advanced Quantum Mechanics 2

Taught M.Sc. in Nuclear Technology

NTEC logo

NTEC offers part-time and full-time postgraduate courses in Nuclear Science & Technology.  An extremely wide range of topics is available, from Reactor Physics to Nuclear Waste Disposal.  This breadth of study is made possible by drawing upon the research and teaching expertise of the consortium partners who together represent more than 90% of the nuclear Postgraduate Teaching expertise that resides in the UK’s universities and research institutes.

How to apply

For further information, or a copy of our postgraduate prospectus, please contact:

Karen Ross
Postgraduate Administrator
School of Physics and Astronomy,
G51 Schuster Laboratory
The University of Manchester,
Manchester M13 9PL,
United Kingdom

Tel: (+44) (0) 161 306 9220

Further information

More information about postgraduate applications and courses is available on the School of Physics and Astronomy postgraduate web pages.

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