Postgraduate research opportunities Unravelling the Mysteries of Nematic Solution Landscapes


Key facts

  • Opens: Thursday 20 January 2022
  • Deadline: Friday 30 September 2022
  • Number of places: 1
  • Duration: 42 months
  • Funding: Home fee, Equipment costs, Travel costs, Stipend


Nematic liquid crystals are exciting materials that are intermediate between solid and liquid phases of matter. Nematics have widespread applications in science and technology, notably the thriving liquid crystal display industry. This project focuses on the mathematical modelling and analysis of nematics in prototype systems in an interdisciplinary framework, for potential advances in materials technologies.
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A bachelor’s degree (upper second-class honours or higher) in Mathematics. Applicants should have some experience with partial differential equations, advanced calculus, mechanics and ideally some knowledge of basic coding in any programming language e.g. MATLAB.

THE Awards 2019: UK University of the Year Winner
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Project Details

Nematic liquid crystals are perhaps one of the most classical and widely-used examples of soft matter, materials that combine directionality with fluidity and have special material directions, referred to as "nematic directors". Consequently, nematics have a direction-dependent response to external light, temperature, mechanical stress, electric fields etc., resulting in directional physical, optical and mechanical properties. In fact, nematics are the working material of choice for the multibillion-dollar liquid crystal display industry. Contemporary research in nematics has shifted from conventional displays to altogether new areas such as sensors, actuators, photonics and generally information-rich technologies. Scientifically, these advanced applications require a well-defined framework connecting fundamental physics to programmable materials science in fields such as biology and nanoscience and finally to commercial applications. Mathematics is the crucial link between physics and applications, which has been underexploited to date.

In this project, we will study two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) nematic systems in terms of their complex solution landscapes, an umbrella term used to describe the plethora of admissible NLC configurations in different settings. We will model the experimentally observable nematic configurations, how to switch between different configurations, and crucially how to use geometrical properties to control and steer processes of importance. We will work with experimentalists to use the theory for the design and optimisation of 2D and 3D nematic systems and test their potential for different applications. This is an exciting project at the interface of mathematical modelling, analysis, and scientific computation in a broad interdisciplinary setting.

Further information

The student will join the Majumdar research group. This group has one postdoctoral researcher (Dr Han, Newton Fellow), who will be involved with the project, and three graduate students. Find out more about visiting the website, Majumdar research group  and Professor Apala Majumdar's staff page.

The project involves potential collaboration with the two overseas project partners and researchers at the University of Oxford and Peking University.

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Funding details

Funded by a Leverhulme Research Project Grant. This Leverhulme-funded studentship covers home fees and stipend. All candidates are eligible, but international candidates would need to pay the fees difference between Home and Overseas rates; this needs to be discussed further with the Apala Majumdar. There are also funds to visit the two overseas project partners, Dr Canevari (Verona) and Professor Lagerwall (Luxembourg).

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Professor Apala Majumdar

Mathematics and Statistics

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Number of places: 1

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Mathematics and Statistics - Mathematics

Programme: Mathematics and Statistics - Mathematics

Start date: Oct 2022 - Sep 2023