Postgraduate research opportunities

Rayleigh optical activity: a new spectroscopic technique for chiral samples

Rayleigh optical activity was predicted some fifty years ago but has remained largely overlooked, in spite of its exciting potential applications. The student will develop Rayleigh optical activity as a new spectroscopic technique for chiral samples.

Number of places





4 July 2019


15 September 2019



Ideally, we would like a student with a First-Class UK Honours degree or equivalent in Physics or perhaps Chemistry.



Scholarships (fees and stipend) available on a competitive basis for UK/EU students, please contact supervisor for details.

Project Details

We are looking for a talented and motivated UK or EU student to undertake an ambitious, fully funded, four-year program of full-time PhD research in the Department of Physics at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. The Department was ranked number one in the UK for physics research by Times Higher Education, based on the REF 2014 GPA scores. The PhD will start on the 1st of October 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter and will consist of 50% theory and 50% experiment.

Rayleigh scattering is the elastic collision of a photon with an atom or molecule; a well-known phenomenon, largely responsible for the blue colour and polarisation of light from the sky. It was predicted some fifty years ago that chiral molecules should respond differently to left- and right-handed circular polarisations of light in this context; a phenomenon now referred to as Rayleigh optical activity. Surprisingly, the experimental observation of Rayleigh optical has not yet been reported for small chiral molecules, in spite of potential applications ranging from the robust assignment of absolute configurations to the rapid monitoring of chiral crystal growth in the next generation of pharmaceutical manufacturing techniques.

The aim of the PhD is to develop Rayleigh optical activity as a new spectroscopic technique for chiral samples, by completing the following objectives: (i) extend the existing theory of Rayleigh optical activity; (ii) help design and build a dedicated Rayleigh optical activity spectrometer in the laboratory; (iii) report, for the first time, experimental observations of Rayleigh optical activity for small chiral molecules and (iv) explore potential applications of Rayleigh optical activity. This is in interdisciplinary project that touches not only upon physics but also upon chemistry and even biology. The student will receive expert training and guidance from their supervisors and as part of the SUPA Graduate School. The wealth of skills acquired by the student during the PhD will see them well placed for employment in either academia or industry.

Funding Details

The PhD will be funded jointly by the Royal Society and EPSRC. The student will enjoy a tax-free stipend of £14,777 per year for four years, with tuition fees paid for. In addition, significant funds will be provided to cover consumables, travel and experimental equipment.

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