Particle Physics Experiment Group

Deadline for Applications: 30th January 2016.

Shortlisted UK-based students will be invited to Edinburgh for interview in February 2016.

This is a unique time to study particle physics. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland produced its first physics collision in 2009 after 15 years of design and construction, and took excellent quality data during 2011 and 2012. On 4th of July 2012 the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at the LHC announced the discovery of a new particle with a mass of ~125 GeV compatible with the long-searched-for Higgs boson! University of Edinburgh researchers collaborate on two experiments at the LHC: ATLAS and LHCb.

We are looking for prospective PhD students to collaborate on these two projects. We also have projects on detector development (for the LHC and beyond), on LHC data storage and distributed computing, and for exceptional students to work in collaboration with our theoretical colleagues on understanding LHC physics.

We offer fully-funded STFC studentships (for UK nationals and UK-based students only), SUPA studentships and University of Edinburgh Principal's Career Development PhD Scholarships (for any nationality). We welcome applicants who already hold a scholarship, and also to students who wish to apply for a PhD place in conjunction with a scholarship application. Most projects include the opportunity for a fully-funded long-term attachment to CERN for up to 18 months.

More details about our PhD projects and funding opportunities are given below.

PhD Projects

High energy frontier physics at ATLAS

Supervisors: P. Clark, V. Martin, C. Leonidopoulos

The Atlas experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN will provide a very rich experimental physics programme, which may change fundamentally our understanding of Particle Physics: it will elucidate the electroweak symmetry breaking mechanism that provides mass generation in the Standard Model. It may also lead to the discovery of new particles and candidates for the missing dark matter in the Universe. Students will contribute to the maintenance and monitoring of the detector, software and/or trigger system and study data taken by ATLAS.

The group made direct contributions to the recent discovery of the Higgs boson, and has been working on the measurement of its properties (mass, interaction strength, width) in the "golden" four-lepton channel, as well as in searches for the signature of the Higgs decaying into bottom quarks. The group plans a comprehensive programme of searches for new particles not predicted by the Standard Model in Run-2, including additional copies of the Higgs boson. These will focus on new particles decaying to pairs of W, Z, or H bosons and build on our existing expertise in the H → ZZ and H → WW channels.

The ATLAS detector is sophisticated and complex and produces enormous of data. We also welcome applications from students who wish to work with state of the art systems such as the High Level Trigger, simulation, distributed computer software (e.g. the GRID) or improving the performance of analysis software, for example by using GPUs (Graphics Processing Units).

Flavour physics at LHCb

Supervisors: F. Muheim, S. Playfer, P. Clarke and M. Needham

The LHCb experiment at the LHC is designed to perform tests of the flavour sector of Standard Model with unprecedented precision. These measurements constrain fundamental parameters of the CKM matrix of the Standard Model and are sensitive to the virtual effects of new physics through loop-induced contributions. During the first LHC run the experiment has already collected the largest samples of bottom and charm quarks ever collected. This sample, together with a state of the art detector, provides a wide range of opportunities for physics studies.

The main focus of the group is the precision determination of the Bs mixing parameters, in particular the Bs mixing phase φs using the decays Bs → J/ψ φ and Bs → φ φ. The group is also involved in a range of studies of both charmless b-decays and b-decays to final states containing charmonia. These exploit the large collected dataset to make precision determination of B hadron parameters such as lifetimes and masses and to study exotic charmonia states such as the X(3872).

The group is responsible for monitoring and maintaining the performance of the photodetectors of the RICH system and also has an interest in the application of GPUs for trigger and offline applications. Students have the opportunity to play a major role in measurements in these areas, several of which have the potential to reveal physics beyond the Standard Model.

Direct Detection of Dark Matter

Supervisor: A. Murphy

Astronomical evidence strongly suggests that the baryonic matter (the neutrons, protons, electrons etc. of everyday material) contribute only about 5% of the mass of the Universe. The rest is composed of dark energy and dark matter. Direct detection of dark matter would allow this view to be confirmed, and provide a route to new fundamental particle physics. The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) project, based at the Homestake Mine in South Dakota, is the world's leading project in this highly exciting area, while its successor, LUX-ZEPLIN is one of the most ambitious. The group has responsibility for several aspects of each project, mainly with focus on simulation, data analysis and low background physics.

Research and design of future particle physics detectors

Supervisors: F. Muheim, P. Clark M. Needham and S. Eisenhardt

Particle physics uses many novel techniques in its detectors. Almost all new detectors push the forefront of technology in one way or the other. Either through a new technology, or using an existing technology for something for which it wasn't originally designed. The scale, efficiency, sensitivity and radiation hardness of the detectors pose many challenges and some of which result in spin off technology for medicine and industry.The group is taking part in the development of the Forward Pixel Detectors for the upgrade of the ATLAS Inner Tracker, which uses leading-edge silicon pixel detectors. The group is also responsible for the characterisation and quality assurance of the photon detectors for the upgrade of the LHCb Ring Imaging Cherenkov detectors, which employ the two latest developments in the multi-anode photomultiplier technology.

We have positions to design, simulate and build these new detectors for as well as for further developments for the Hyper-Kamiokande water Cherenkov detector and for the future linear collider.

Physics at the LHC: Experiment and Theory

Supervisors: P. Clark, V. Martin, C. Leonidopoulos (PPE); R. D. Ball, L. Del Debbio, E. Gardi, D. O'Connell, J. Smilie (PPT)

A full understanding of the physics at the LHC energy scales may only be achieved by studying both the underlying theory, and its phenomenology, and by examining the experimental data. To facilitate this, we are looking for students who wish to work across the traditional boundary between particle physics theory and experiment. Students will be co-supervised by a theorist and an experimentalist. Students will work on LHC phenomenology, work on the ATLAS experiment (or LHCb experiment) and study LHC data in order to test and refine their theoretical work. Students could choose to work in QCD studies - which is the first step to understanding LHC data, in Higgs physics - studying either the signal or background processes, on flavour physics or in physics beyond the Standard Model. Students applying for this area should demonstrate an aptitude for theoretical physics and will be required to be interviewed by both the experimental and theoretical groups.


  • Postgraduate students attend a comprehensive set of graduate level courses within our SUPA graduate school. See here for the timetable of the current courses
  • Students can also take a wide variety of courses from the undergraduate programme to supplement their knowledge.
  • International summer schools and physics workshops.
  • Data analysis training using advanced statistical techniques,
  • State of the art particle detector design and development of new technology.
  • Opportunities to present your results at international conferences.
  • Additional training at CERN with a variety of short trips & long trips (typically 12-18 months).



  • Candidates should hold, or expect to gain, a 2:1 honours degree in physics or related subject (or international equivalent).
  • It is essential to have a keen interest in physics data analysis & computing and/or detector technologies.


We offer a number three main funding options dependent upon your country of residence and nationality:

  • For UK citizens and UK resident applicants: STFC studentships. Candidates should meet a 3 year UK residency requirement. For more information please see the STFC eligibility criteria.
    • All tuition fees paid,
    • Tax free stipend of £13,726 per annum,
    • Expenses covered for all trips.
    • Apply for these using the application procedure below. If you eligible for STFC funding we will automatically consider you for it.
  • For excellent applicants of any nationality (top 10% of undergraduate class): SUPA Prize Studentships.
    • These are fully funded: tuition fees plus a stipend of £13,726 per annum.
    • There is a separate application for these. Please contact Christos Leonidopoulos before applying to discuss details before applying.
  • For applicants of any nationality, with excellent English (minimum IELTS 7.0): University of Edinburgh's Principal's Career Development PhD Scholarships, which provides the UK/EU-level of tuition fees and stipend of £14,000 per annum in return for a contribution to the University's teaching or outreach. Applications for 2014 entry will open soon.
  • Non-EU students: should applying to the Career Development Scholarships should also apply for an Edinburgh Global Research Scholarships (EGRS) to ensure that the full cost of their fees will be met.
  • All applicants should also investigate alternative funding. You may find this search tool useful.
We aim to fund all PhD students' stipend for three and a half years, irrespective of their funding source.

Self-funded applicants (of any nationality) are welcome, provided they are able to show evidence of sufficient funding There is some other useful information here on cost of living and funding information.

English Language Requirements

International students must have evidence of English language competency. Please see the College of Science and Engineering website for more information.

To apply

Please complete the online application form by selecting the appropriate start date (e.g. September 2016) and then clicking on "Apply" at postgraduate entry page. Please note the application is for 3 year PhD, even though your PhD course is usually funded for 3.5 years.

  • The form application form is used throughout the University and asks for more information that we actually need! Please read these helpful application notes.
    • Email addresses for referees are requested later in the process - please ignore 'upload references'.
    • For your research topic feel free to use the one of the above titles, this is not binding and can be changed later.
    • For relevant knowledge please mention any project work and any programming or hardware experience.
    • Deadline for the first round of applications is 31st January 2016 (applications reached after the deadline will continue to be considered until all postions are filled).
  • UK applicants completing the application form will be automatically considered for STFC funding.
  • Applicants (both UK and overseas) wishing to apply for the other studentships should complete both an application form and also apply separately for:
    • SUPA Prize Studentship and/or
    • Principal's Career Development PhD Scholarships (and, if you are not an EU citizen) an Edinburgh Global Research Scholarship on this form.
  • Overseas applicants who wish to apply only to the SUPA scheme do not need to fill out a University of Edinburgh application form.

In case of any questions, please contact Mrs. Liz Paterson Tel: 44 (0)131 651 7837

The particles of the Standard Model

The particles of the Standard Model

proton collision

Proton collision


LHC tunnel


Simulated hadronic Higgs decay


Peter Higgs (Edinburgh) at CERN


LHCb detector


Aerial view of CERN




Edinburgh Castle