Postgraduate research opportunities

Intelligent and directed laser-based spectroscopy

A 48-month full time, fully funded EngD in the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Applied Photonics and supported by Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics (

Number of places



Home fee, Travel costs, Stipend


1 February 2020


28 February 2020


4 years


To be considered for the project, candidates must:

  • Possess, or expect to obtain, a first class or upper second (2:1) Masters degree (MPhys, MEng, or MSc – Merit or above) in a relevant engineering, physics or computer science related subject. Candidates with a BSc or BEng at 1st class classification and with additional research experience will also be considered.
  • Be a UK or eligible EU national and adhere to Research Council (RCUK) eligibility criteria
  • Candidates should broadly-skilled, capable of grasping and merging two, usually independent, fields of science.
  • Strong ability and desire to set-up experimental systems and put theory into practice
  • Strong mathematical and computer programming skills
  • Relevant degree subjects: physics, electronic and electrical engineering, computer science
  • Non-native English speakers must ensure they meet the English language requirements. Please check the CDT website at: for English language requirements and advice.

Eligibility for RCUK studentships

  • Research Council (RC) fees and stipend can only be awarded to UK and EU students and not to EEA or International students.
  • EU students are only eligible for RC stipend if they have been resident in the UK for 3 years, including for study purposes, immediately prior to starting their PhD.
  • If an EU student cannot fulfil this condition then they are eligible for a fees only studentship.
  • International students cannot be funded from RC funds unless they are ‘settled’ in the UK. ‘Settled’ means being ordinarily resident in the UK without any immigration restrictions on the length of stay in the UK. To be ‘settled’ a student must either have the Right to Abode or Indefinite leave to remain in the UK or have the right of permanent residence in the UK under EC law. If the student’s passport describes them as a British citizen they have the Right of Abode.
  • Students with full Refugee status are eligible for fees and stipend.

Project Details

Laser-based spectroscopic techniques – encompassing LIBS, Raman and deep-infrared absorption spectroscopy – offer unprecedented performance for molecular and elemental diagnostics. They are however highly directional – dictated by the spatial properties of the probing laser beam. This is highly beneficial when one is interested in ascertaining the nature of substances with a high degree of spatial resolution – perhaps measuring the composition of single particles contaminating an otherwise clean surface – but identifying and vectoring the beam to such regions of interest is challenging. Such a possibility is becoming ever more practical as the availability of ultra-compact, high-power computer systems increases apace. By combining such directed laser-based spectroscopic techniques with computer-aided vision and beam scanning technology, regions of interest can autonomously be identified and characterised.


An exciting opportunity exists to develop and refine the spectroscopic work of the team at the Fraunhofer centre by combining their laser-based systems with the extensive signal processing expertise of Professor Marshall’s group to generate novel and automated sensing modalities. Through this synergy, the utility and potential of our combined signal processing techniques and laboratory-based sensing systems will be realised. The potency of the resulting technology will then be evaluated in a range of timely and high-value applications such as the scanning and sorting of plastics in recycling, screening and protection in the food and drink industry, medical diagnostics and environmental and contamination monitoring.


This project has a broad technological coverage encompassing two exciting and complementing fields of science – laser physics and spectroscopy, and signal processing and computer-aided vision. In the photonics aspects, the prospective student will be exposed to the laboratory-based experimental laser physics, as well as opto-mechanical, electronic and spectroscopic instrumentation design. In parallel, the same person will be responsible for the development of advanced signal and image processing algorithms (involving for instance fitting the data to the library, spectral and spatial features extraction, object detection and identification based on the gathered information). As such this represents an ideal challenge for the broadly-skilled student but also can be tailored to meet the strengths/aspirations of particular candidates.

Funding Details

The EngD is funded by the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Applied Photonics and Franhofer. EngD students will receive at least £20,777 per annum and have fees paid for the duration of the 4-year programme.


EngD students will also receive additional funding of up to £4,000 to attend conferences. Travel to CDT skills courses will also be paid.


The primary supervisor will be Professor Stephen Marshall, a professor in the Centre for Signal & Image Processing within the Institute for Sensors, Signals and Communications. The secondary supervisor will be Dr Paul Murray, Senior Lecturer, in the Centre for Signal & Image Processing.

How to apply

Candidates interested in applying should first email Professor Marshall (, or tel: +44 (0)141 548 2199 for an informal discussion.


Formal applications are submitted via the Heriot-Watt website


Under level of study, please select ‘Postgraduate Research’, then choose ‘Applied Photonics, EngD’ as your programme selection.


Please submit the following supporting documents. We cannot progress applications until they are complete.  A complete application should include the following: 

  • An up-to-date CV
  • Previous degree certificates and transcripts (if your transcript is in a language other than English, please submit an English version. you can obtain these from your university)
  • Two academic references – The CDT Applied Photonics programme requires two academic references and it is your responsibility to ensure that both are received by the CDT. These can be emailed directly to .  It is also possible for you to request and upload one academic reference via the online recruitment system.   References should be on headed paper please. Employer references are also accepted from applicants applying from a relevant industry background.
  • English language evidence (if applicable). Please check the CDT website at:  for English language requirements and advice.
  • Under the field ‘Research project information’ please list your projects of interest and your order of preference. Please note you are not required to submit a project proposal when applying to our CDT.


Following review of the application submissions, selected candidates will be invited for a stage 1 academic interview and if successful a stage 2 industry interview. Application submission deadline is 28 February 2020. The project will start on 1 September 2020.