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Research Studentship in XFEL Imaging of Extreme Conditions

Research Studentship in XFEL Imaging of Extreme Conditions

Project: High-Resolution Imaging of Matter in Extreme Conditions

4-year DPhil studentship 

Supervisors: Prof Daniel Eakins, Dr Matthew Oliver 

The advent and maturation of free electron lasers (FELs) in recent years, providing short, highly intense, and coherent X-ray pulses, have enabled new probing paradigms resulting in the highest spatial and density resolutions to date. X-ray imaging in particular has become a valuable tool to study extreme matter states such as those created through shock compression and inertial confinement fusion, and has the potential to provide a step change in our understanding and modelling of ultrafast, non-equilibrium processes.

The aim of this project is to conduct ground-breaking research using a new high-resolution imaging platform developed for use at FELs. The platform has already been used to observe the picosecond dynamics of isochorically-heated interfaces, but there is great opportunity to apply the technique to make high-resolution density measurements in other extreme conditions scenarios (incipient plasticity, instabilities, turbulent flows). As well as helping plan and run experiments at the UK’s Central Laser Facility and international FEL facilities (e.g. LCLS, European XFEL), the researcher will help advance the imaging technique further through exploiting phase/diffraction techniques. The researcher will also be able to improve methods for interpreting the imaging data from the FEL. Current analysis methods are highly manual which precludes consideration of results on-the-fly. An aspect of this project will therefore be to explore ways to automate these routines to better match the pace of these high-repetition rate experiments.

This project offers the opportunity to undertake exciting research at the interfaces shock and high-energy density physics, instrument engineering, and data science/computing.


This studentship is fully funded at the Home level (fees plus stipend) by the UK XFEL Hub and Department of Engineering Science.

Award Value

Course fees are covered at the level set for UK students (c. £8620 p.a.). The stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) is c. £17,668 p.a. for the first year, and at least this amount for a further three years. 

Candidate Requirements

Prospective candidates will be judged according to how well they meet the following criteria:

A first class honours degree in Physics, Engineering, or Materials Science
Excellent English written and spoken communication skills

The following skills are also highly desirable:

Ability to program in Matlab, Python, or similar
Strong laboratory-based skills

Application Procedure

Informal enquiries are encouraged and should be addressed to Prof Daniel Eakins (

Candidates must submit a graduate application form and are expected to meet the graduate admissions criteria.  Details are available on the course page of the University website.

Please quote 23ENGMM_DE2 in all correspondence and in your graduate application.

Application deadline:  noon 9 December 2023

Start date: October 2023