University of Cambridge

Job Opportunities


PhD Studentship: Nanospectroscopy of Surfaces

Applications are invited for a 4-year EPSRC Industrial CASE studentship with Unilever plc which will investigate the nanometre scale structure of thin bio-films using advanced vibrational spectroscopy. The project will employ a new ground-breaking nano-IR instrument that combines an Atomic Force Microscope probe with a tunable Infrared Quantum Cascade laser. The aim is to gain novel insights about the surface structure of biomaterials and of model biological membranes at a nanoscale lateral resolution. Additionally, complementary state-of-the-art non-linear Sum Frequency Generation vibrational spectroscopy and microscopy, and Confocal Raman Spectroscopy will be used to examine the films under ambient conditions.

Specifically the project will include investigating monolayer films on solid bio-substrates like hair, and protein and lipid monolayers on water. The nanoscale spectra will provide key information on molecular orientation and conformation at surfaces. This is essential knowledge for understanding practical applications like lubrication, and addressing fundamental problems like the structure and temporal behaviour of lipid layers used to mimic cell membranes. As part of the studentship Unilever will host the student for up to three months at their research and development laboratory, where they will receive training in tribological and other methods that complement the Cambridge experiments.

Applicants should have (or expect to obtain) the equivalent of a UK first class or upper second-class honours degree (and preferably a Masters degree) in chemistry, physics, materials science, or other relevant area. The studentship will provide an enhanced maintenance grant and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate, and is available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements of the Research Councils. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Owing to funding restrictions imposed by the sponsor, non-EU citizens cannot be considered.

Further information about the project can be obtained from Dr Mike Casford (email:, or, if not available, Professor Paul Davies (email:

Applications should include a CV, detailed academic transcripts and the contact details for two academic referees, and should be emailed to Dr Mike Casford (email:

Please quote reference MA13996 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.