Postgraduate research opportunities

Photonic Technologies for Ultrafast Neuromorphic Information Processing

This PhD project will develop neuromorphic (brain-like) photonic systems built from semiconductor lasers and other advanced optical components, capable of performing complex data processing tasks at ultrafast speeds, for use in Artificial Intelligence functionalities (e.g. image processing, pattern recognition).

Number of places



Home fee, Stipend


30 November 2020


31 May 2021


42 months


To enter our PhD programme applicants require an upper-second or first class BSc Honours degree, or a Masters qualification of equal or higher standard, in Physics, Engineering or a related discipline. 

UKRI Studentship Eligibility

The eligibility criteria for UKRI funding has changed for studentships commencing in the 2021/22 academic year. Now, all home and international students are eligible to apply for UKRI funding which will cover the full stipend and tuition fees at the home rate (not the international rate). Under the new criteria, UKRI have stipulated a maximum percentage of international students that can be recruited each year against individual training grants. This will be managed at the institutional level for all EPSRC DTP and ICASE grants. For EPSRC CDT grants, this will be managed by the individual CDT administrative/management team. For ESRC and AHRC studentships the final funding decision will be made by the respective grant holder.


To be classed as a home student, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK national (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have settled status, or
  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter.


The residency requirements are based on the Education (Fees and Awards) (England) Regulations 2007 and subsequent amendments. Normally to be eligible for a full award a student must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship (with some further constraint regarding residence for education).

If a student does not meet the criteria above, they will be classed as an international student. The international portion of the tuition fee cannot be funded by the UKRI grant and must be covered from other sources. International students are permitted to self-fund the difference between the home and international fee rates.

Project Details

The human brain is exceptional at performing fast and efficiently, highly complex tasks such as recognising patterns or faces. Hence, neuromorphic (brain-like) computing approaches are the subject of increasing research interest for use in Artificial Intelligence (AI) platforms. Whilst neuromorphic computing systems are supported to date by traditional digital electronic technologies, photonic technologies for brain emulation have also started to receive attention due to their unique and superior properties. These include very high speeds, low energy requirements, reduced sensitivity to interference and high parallelism, among others.

Remarkably, widespread photonic devices such as semiconductor lasers (SLs), the very same devices used to transmit internet data traffic over fibre-optic networks, can exhibit responses analogous to those of neurons but up to 1 billion times faster. SLs are also compact and allow practical routes for integration in chip modules with very low footprints making them ideal for the development of neuromorphic photonic systems using ultrafast light signals instead of electric currents to operate. This PhD project will therefore focus on this key challenge to develop novel neuromorphic photonic systems with SLs as building blocks capable of performing complex computational tasks at ultrafast speeds, using data rates below 1 billionth of a second to operate.

The objectives of this PhD project will include the development of novel neuromorphic photonic systems emulating the operation of the human brain using SLs (and other advanced optical components) as building blocks. This PhD project will also deliver photonic neuronal networks/circuits with brain-inspired connectivity capable of performing complex data processing tasks at ultrafast speeds (using GHz-rate signals to operate) and low energy requirements. Finally, the PhD project will also focus on developing novel light-enabled neuromorphic systems for key functionalities in AI (e.g. image/audio processing systems, pattern recognition). In summary, by bringing together the fields of neuromorphic computing and photonics, this PhD project describes pioneering research in neuromorphic photonics for future ultrafast AI systems.

Institute of Photonics:

The Institute of Photonics (IoP), part of the Department of Physics, is a centre of excellence in applications-oriented research at the University of Strathclyde - The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 Scottish University of the Year, The Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education 2019, The Times Higher Education UK University of the Year 2019/20 (and 2012/13), The Times Higher Education Widening Participation Initiative of the Year 2019 and UK Entrepreneurial University of the Year 2013/14. The Institute’s key objective is to bridge the gap between academic research and industrial applications and development in the area of photonics. The IoP is located in the £100M Technology and Innovation Centre on Strathclyde’s Glasgow city centre campus, at the heart of Glasgow’s Innovation District, where it is co-located with the UK’s first Fraunhofer Research Centre. Researchers at the IoP are active in a broad range of photonics fields under the areas of Photonic Devices, Advanced Lasers and Neurophotonics, please see: