29 Sep 2020



Want to do a PhD in Experimental Particle Physics at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory? This web page tells you what you need to know




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The Particle Physics Department (PPD) at the STFC Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory (RAL) recruits 5-11 graduates every year to study for a research degree (PhD/D.Phil) in experimental particle physics. As RAL doesn't award degrees, each student is also registered for a PhD/D.Phil degree at a partner university.

We offer students of any nationality financial support via a UKRI-STFC Postgraduate Studentship award​ (or in some cases via another, similar award), which covers the university's "home" fees, and provides a stipend to cover the student's living expenses and other expenses. 

Guidance on whether the university will charge students "home" fees or the more expensive "overseas" fees (which are not covered by the studentship award) is given on the UKCISA page, with detailed criteria ​in the Who Pays Home Fees in England page that it links to. (N.B. Since Brexit, EU students are usually charged "overseas" fees). Where "overseas​" fees apply, the university can sometimes be persuaded to waive these or find an additional grant; otherwise, the student would need to pay the extra cost themselves.

All students work primarily in PPD at RAL but are typically offered the opportunity to spend an extended period near their detector (e.g. at CERN, Geneva). In addition, students spend several months of their 1st year at the partner university to attend lectures there. They subsequently attend additional lectures at RAL. Each PhD has a duration of 3.5 years. Students are co-supervised both by a PPD and a university staff member.


The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) is situated 25km south of Oxford. It is one of Europe's largest multidisciplinary scientific research laboratories, with a research programme that includes astronomy, biology, chemistry, computing, new energy sources, engineering, environmental research, materials science, particle physics, astrophysics, radio communications and space science. Its facilities include ISIS (the world's most powerful pulsed spallation neutron source), the Diamond Light Source (the national synchrotron radiation facility), world-leading high-power lasers, high-performance computing, mechanical & electrical engineering, and a micro-technology centre. It supports the work of more than 10,000 scientists and engineers from around the world, both from universities and industry.​


The Particle Physics Department (PPD)​ is one of the largest such departments in the UK, with about 60 staff & 25 students. It participates in many of the most exciting particle physics experiments (e.g. Higgs & SUSY searches at the CERN LHC (ATLAS, CMS, LHCb),  neutrino studies with DUNE, Super/Hyper-Kamiokande, dark matter searches with LUX-Zeplin, atomic interferometry AION for gravitational waves ...). Our research work, in collaboration with scientists from around the world, includes both developments of the detectors and their associated electronics, and the physics exploitation of the completed detectors. PPD is also responsible for coordinating the UK experimental programme and for supporting groups at UK universities. 

A more detailed description of PPD and the particle physics projects & activities that it is involved in can be found on our PPD HOME PAGE. Additional information can be found on our PPD SUMMARY PAGE.


Update: As of 30th May 2023, only 2 of the 11 PhD projects listed below are still recruiting. These are Projects 6 & 8. Please apply if you're interested in either of these projects. You can ignore the original application deadline. Recruitment will continue until we have secured a good candidate for each project.

Working in a national laboratory will allow students to get a broad overview of the field and be involved in both the physics and hardware activities as well as provide exposure to other areas of science undertaken at RAL. Students will be registered at a partner University for their PhD and will be co-supervised by RAL and University academics. Frequent travel to the experimental sites will be expected. ​

We are offering 11 PhD studentships starting in 2023 (usually in October), which cover the following projects:


Applicants must:

  • Hold an undergraduate degree in physics. -- A UK 4-year integrated MPhys or MSci degree, or its international equivalent, is typically required. Bachelor's degrees with a minimum of four years' standard duration are also acceptable. A 1st or upper-2nd class pass is needed.
  • Be able to work independently and in a structured manner, and demonstrate good collaborative skills
  • Be proficient in both written and oral English
  • Be eligible for "home fee" status (see above). If you are liable for "overseas" fees, then you can still apply, but you should either have access to your own funding to cover the difference between overseas and home fees or will need to find an additional grant to cover this difference unless the university can be persuaded to wave the overseas fees.
Your application to RAL/PPD must include:

  • A brief account of your research interests & motivation for applying for the position. 
    • This should also indicate which is your favourite and which is your 2nd favourite of the 11​ PhD projects advertised here. (This is for a preliminary assignment of students to projects. It will be possible to change your mind later, and your choice will not affect your application's chances of success.)
    • This should also state your nationality & country of residence, and if you qualify for "home" university fees (see above). If you are liable for "overseas" fees, it should state if you have funds to pay the cost difference yourself, or if we would need to find a solution for you.
    • Please also indicate where you heard about PPD PhD positions.
  • Your CV 
  • Copies of your academic transcript (detailed exam marks), if available.
  • A list of any works of a scientific nature published by yourself
  • The names and contact information of the two referees that you ​have asked to send us a reference letter. One of these should be your academic tutor or final-year project advisor
Applicants should Email their application, with the information requested above, to, with the Email title "PhD application". In addition, they should arrange for two reference letters to be sent to the same address with the Email title "PhD reference letter"​ (to arrive before the PPD Open Day). ​The application deadline is 2nd February, but late applications will be considered until all positions are filled. 

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to a PPD Open Day & Interviews, held at RAL on 23rd February 2023. The assignment of students to projects is finalized shortly after this.

Students will need to submit an application to the partner university too, specifying in it that they're interested in a RAL/PPD PhD studentship. This application is largely a formality, once the student has been accepted by RAL/PPD. The university's normal application deadlines do not apply to our studentships. The student's application to the university can be submitted after the PPD Open Day, once they have been accepted by RAL/PPD and know which project they will work on. However, it can speed things up, if they submit their university application for their two PPD PhD favourite projects earlier, immediately after RAL/PPD indicates that they have been short-listed (mid-Feb.). 


More detailed information about the practicalities and requirements of RAL/PPD studentships can be found in PhD_practicalities.


General information about RAL/PPD PhD studentships can be obtained from Dr. Ian Tomalin & Dr. Monika Wielers.

The director of RAL/PPD is Prof. Dave Newbold. ​

Poster Advert:PhDAdvert.pdfPhDAdvert.pptx