Soft matter is at the core of modern technology as well as of the living organisms. Our group explores how self-organising nature of materials, such as liquid crystals and photosensitive films, can be manipulated by light, structured geometries and inorganic nanoparticles. Experimental investigation, as well as new mathematical approaches to their understanding that we pursue, offer some challenging research questions that pave the way to innovative, adaptive optical components and technologies. We also develop new, photonics based tools to characterise soft matter.





 PhD positions available

1. Light-based diagnostic technique for liquid crystals and soft materials

We are looking for a highly motivated doctoral student to join our groups and pursue experimental research and numerical modelling of the optics of liquid crystals.  Candidates should have a strong undergraduate background in physics or material science and mathematics.

The Soft Photonics System group works in the broad area of liquid crystals and organic thin films and has a specific interest in their use for light manipulation, exploring the subtle interaction of light with soft matter. The successful PhD candidate will explore how optical signals, passing through soft matter structures, acquire rich content about the constituent layers. Given the right choice of experimental parameters, and a powerful numerical model, this signal can be deconvolved, to provide their optical, electrical and physical properties. This technique is proving to be an effective tool not just for smart device characterisation, but also in exploring intriguing light–driven effects. We now want to apply it to promising and recently developed materials and structures, for example those incorporating photoactive and photovoltaic layers or complex liquid crystals.  In order to do so, the PhD student will design new experimental and modelling characterisation procedures to understand the underlying physics of light-matter interaction and extract the material properties. This PhD project offers a good balance of fundamental and applied science, uniting the two in order to take forward our groups’ successful research photonics and liquid crystal devices.

Applicants interested in this position are encouraged to contact Prof. Kaczmarek prior to submitting a formal application. Please send a single PDF consisting of a cover letter (with the details of your degree and motivation) and a  CV that includes contact information for your referees, by email to: mfk@soton.ac.uk

Application deadline: the position will be advertised until filled, but you are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. 


2. Hybrid Nano-Electro-Mechanical Systems for Controlling Light and Sensing

Supervisors: Dr Vassili Fedotov and Prof Malgosia Kaczmarek

Nano-electro-mechanical systems (NEMS) are the next generation of Microsystems – integrated miniature devices comprising both mechanical and electrical components. NEMS have the ability to sense, control and actuate on the nanoscale, and generate observable effects on the macroscale. They are anticipated to bridge (at the nanometer scale) several, previously unrelated technological and scientific domains such as, for example, electronics, photonics, metamaterials and plasmonics, medicine, chemistry, metrology and quantum mechanics. Some of the fascinating recent examples of such synergies include NEMS-based mass spectrometers, quantum transducers, and mechanically re-configurable metamaterials & plasmonic chips. Correspondingly, NEMS is beginning to shape into a key technology of the 21st century, with a potential to revolutionize both industrial and consumer products.

 In this PhD project we aim to develop a new, hybrid class of NEMS for applications in smart optical materials (metamaterials) and sensors that will feature reliable, dynamically adaptable behaviour and field-programmable functions. Our approach is based on integrating NEMS with liquid crystals, which will be exploited as a functional component of the resulting hybrids. The project is looking to explore interplay between the optical and elastic properties of liquid crystals coupled to nanoscale mechanical motion and deformations in NEMS. The successful candidate will work in an interdisciplinary environment, in close collaboration with colleagues from soft-matter and microsystems groups. The candidate will have access to the Southampton University’s state-of-the-art cleanroom complex and laboratories, with the opportunity to engage in a broad range of activities from nanofabrication and optical characterization to numerical modelling. The project offers an opportunity for scientific and hands-on training in the techniques relevant both to academia and R&D, providing the student with sufficient expertise to become a driver of the new technology.

Smart optical material system – mechanically reconfigurable gold metamaterial integrated with liquid crystals. 


We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate with a background in physics, an interest in photonic technologies or material science, and a desire to develop advanced skills in nanofabrication, electron and optical microscopy, experimental photonics and computational electromagnetic modelling. Applicants are expected to hold undergraduate degrees equivalent to UK 1st class honours.

To discuss any details of the project informally please contact Dr. Vassili Fedotov (vaf@orc.soton.ac.uk) or Prof. Malgosia Kaczmarek (mfk@soton.ac.uk).



Our APL article: feature paper and on the cover page