22 Feb 2011






Unfortunately, we are unable to take any students at present.

In previous years, there have opportunities for graduates to study for a research degree (PhD/D.Phil) in particle physics at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL). Financial support is normally through an STFC Postgraduate Studentship award, available to UK residents and EU nationals or Nationals of EEA member states. The general terms and conditions for STFC Postgraduate Studentships apply. Students will be based in the Particle Physics Department (PPD) at RAL, supervised by PPD staff and registered for a full-time PhD/D.Phil degree at the collaborating University. During the first year they will be required to attend appropriate lectures at RAL and at the collaborating University.


For entry October 2011 we had 4 joint studentship available as follows:

Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) facilities and expertise support the work of more than 10,000 scientists and engineers from around the world, both in universities and in industry.

The RAL lies about 15 miles south of Oxford, at Chilton in Oxfordshire. The Laboratory was founded in 1957 and has since become one of Europe's largest multidisciplinary research laboratories. The research programme includes astronomy, biology, chemistry, computing, work on new energy sources, engineering, environmental research, materials science, particle physics, astro-physics, radio communications and space science. Facilities include ISIS, the world's most powerful pulsed spallation neutron source, world-leading high power lasers, high performance computing and a micro-technology centre. Rutherford Research Services is the commercial arm of the Laboratory. It makes the Laboratory's facilities available to customers on a repayment basis and also enables technology transfer.

Particle Physics Department at RAL

The Particle Physics Department (PPD) is one of the largest such departments in the UK and has an active research program. Physicists and support staff from RAL, together with collaborators from university groups, work on a variety of experiments abroad and in the UK. It is also responsible for co-ordinating the UK experimental programme and for providing support to groups at UK universities. The department has excellent computing and library facilities. It also arranges frequent lectures and seminars in particle physics which all staff and students are encouraged to attend.

At present the department has approximately 60 staff (40 holding PhDs) including research physicists, physicist programmers, technical and computing support staff as well as administrators and secretaries. Several of the research physicists hold joint appointments at UK universities. See the PPD Home Page for further details about the department.

Projects and activities within the department

Much of our current understanding of elementary particle physics is embodied in the so-called 'Standard Model', which describes the phenomena of particle physics in terms of `matter' and `force' particles. The matter particles are the quarks and leptons which come in three 'generations' with very different masses. The force particles include the 'gauge bosons' which mediate the three forces that determine elementary particle interactions; 'gluons' for the strong force, the 'W and Z bosons' for the weak force and 'photons' for the electromagnetic force.

Whilst this standard model describes much of particle physics, it is far from complete relying on a relatively large number of input parameters. It also raises a great number of questions. Why are there just three generations of quarks and leptons? What is the mechanism by which mass is generated and is it connected with the hitherto undetected particle - the 'Higgs Boson'. Our experiments now show that neutrinos have masses - so how are neutrino masses related to the quark and lepton masses?

The aim of the experiments carried out in the particle physics department, in collaboration with colleagues from UK universities, is to answer some of these and related questions. The experiments are located at different research institutes around the world:

  • CERN European Laboratory for Particle Physics (located in Geneva, Switzerland)
  • Fermilab Fermi National Accelerator laboratory (located near Chicago)
  • SLAC Stanford National Accelerator Laboratory (located near San Francisco, California)
  • ILL Institut Laue Langevin (located in Grenoble, France)

In addition experiments are carried out underground at the SOUDAN mine in Minnesota, USA and at the Boulby mine in Yorkshire, UK. Some further information about the facilities and the individual experiments is given below, together with references to relevant papers and web addresses. Research students will work in one of these groups, under the supervision of a senior research physicist. The project will be chosen in discussion with the student and the supervisors. More detailed information is given later in the section "Details of Studentships".


The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will be the next accelerator to be built at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. It will be the world's largest scientific instrument. It will collide protons head-on on protons, each proton in each bunch in each of the two colliding beams having an energy of 7000 GeV, an order of magnitude increase with respect to presently available energies. At such energies it is expected that information on the Higgs boson, which is thought to be the mechanism which gives rise to the masses of the elementary particles, will be found. Also it is probable in this unexplored energy regime that other new phenomena, such as supersymmetry, might be discovered. Construction of the LHC began at the end of 1996 and operation began November 2009. RAL is involved with the two general purpose detectors (ATLAS and CMS) as well as with LHCb.


The PEP-II facility provides collisions between 9 GeV electrons and 3.1 GeV positrons, specifically for the BaBar experiment to study the violation of the CP symmetry in the decay of B mesons.

Future linear collider

There is a Linear Collider Physics Group studying the physics potential and technical/detector challenges relating to a possible future very high energy linear e+e- colder . Neutrino Factory for future precision neutrino oscillation experiments.

Underground and non-accelerator experiments

The MINOS experiment is performing a precision study of neutrino oscillations using a new, intense beam of neutrinos generated at Fermilab (near Chicago) and projected through the earth to a 5.4kton detector in the Soudan mine, Minnesota. The Dark Matter experiments are conducted deep underground in the Boulby mine, UK to reduce backgrounds due to cosmic rays. The Neutron EDM experiment is making high sensitivity measurements on neutrons from the reactor at ILL, Grenoble, France. All these experiments are looking for physics outside the standard model.

Details of studentships

RAL students in Particle Physics are registered as full time postgraduate students at the collaborating University. They are based in the Particle Physics Department at RAL but may also be required to visit other UK and/or overseas laboratories, e.g. CERN, Geneva; DESY, Hamburg etc. Applicants will normally be expected to have a UK first degree in physics or other appropriate subject, with first or upper second class honours, or to have an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard from a university or educational institution of university rank, or to have a recognised Master's degree. In most cases students will be required to register initially for an MPhil/MSc degree, with the expectation of transfer to the PhD/D.Phil programme after the successful completion of one year and with the approval of the Physics Department at the collaborating University and the Particle Physics Department at RAL.

A candidate whose qualifications, although otherwise acceptable, are inadequate in a particular field may be required to pass specified qualifying examinations in that field during the period of their MPhil/MSc registration and before presenting themselves for the degree. If qualifying requirements are specified for PhD/D.Phil registration, they must normally be satisfied before the period of registration can begin.

All students whose first language is not English must be able to provide recent evidence that their spoken and written command of the English language is adequate. This requirement is specified in order to ensure that the academic progress of students is not hindered by language difficulties and that students are able to benefit from their time at RAL. The required evidence may take the form of a minimum of 18 months' education or work experience conducted in English and undertaken no more than three years prior to the proposed date of enrolment. Alternatively, applicants must provide a recently obtained acceptable English language qualification or test result. The qualification or test result must have been awarded no more than three years prior to the proposed date of enrolment. A variety of qualifications are accepted. Applicants should send this evidence, or arrange for it to be sent, at the same time as their formal application is made. RAL reserves the right to require any student to withdraw from the degree programme if, in the opinion of the supervisor, the student's proficiency in English is inadequate.

Financial support is available for UK residents, EU nationals or Nationals of EEA member states subject to the general terms and conditions which apply to STFC Standard Research Studentships as given in the booklet "postgraduate studentships rules and regulation". Fees for the three year period are paid directly to the collaborating University. In addition a maintenance allowance is paid over three years at the "outside London" rate.

Students not covered by the above may still be accepted to study for a PhD/D.Phil, under appropriate circumstances, provided they meet all the relevant entry criteria. All students will be entitled to the normal rights, privileges and use of facilities at the collaborating University, particularly those of the graduate school, and will be subject to the same responsibilities, rules and regulations as other registered graduate students. Whilst not an "employee" of STFC, when working at RAL, students will be required to comply with a number of policies/procedures including those relating to health and safety, no-smoking, code of conduct for staff etc as well as conforming with normal staff requirements for medical and security clearance. They will have the same access to Welfare, Occupational Health and Nursery facilities as STFC employees.

The primary supervisor for RAL students will be a RAL Research Physicist (or appropriate RAL staff scientist). There will normally be a second supervisor from among the appropriate staff at the collaborating University. RAL students will normally be expected to see their University supervisors at least once per term. RAL students will be required to attend formal lecture courses as specified by RAL and the collaborating University.

Previous years

For entry October 2010 we filled 4 joint studentships as follows: ATLAS b-physics (with Lancaster U.), CMS Long-lived particles (with Imperial College, London), and T2K measurement of theta23 (with Oxford U.), LHCb (with Oxford U.) .

In 2009 we had 3 STFC-funded RAL studentships, one on ATLAS in collaboration with Oxford University, one on CMS with Bristol University, and one on LHCb with one of Warwick University. We also had a share in 2 SEPNet-funded theory/experiment studentships, one on Dark Matter search in ATLAS (project 2) in collaboration with Royal Holloway (RHUL), and one on EW Symmetry Breaking in CMS with Southampton University.


  • Questions concerning the RAL studentships should be addressed to Monika Wielers, tel: +44 1235 445966.

  • Further information about the Particle Physics Department and its experimental programme can be obtained from the Director, Particle Physics, Prof David Wark, tel: +44 (0)1235 445094.

A list of PhD places in Particle Physics in the UK may be found on the Oxford University website.


Related Content