Postdoctoral Research Associate in Quantum Light and Matter

Durham, United Kingdom
£33,797 - £40,322 per annum
20 Jan 2021
End of advertisement period
17 Feb 2021
Academic Discipline
Physical Sciences, Physics & Astronomy
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Physics

Grade 7: - £33,797 - £40,322 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 18 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 17-Feb-2021, 7:59:00 AM 

Durham University

Durham University is one of the world's top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives.

The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

Less than 3 hours north of London, and an hour and a half south of Edinburgh, County Durham is a region steeped in history and natural beauty. The Durham Dales, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are home to breath-taking scenery and attractions. Durham offers an excellent choice of city, suburban and rural residential locations. The University provides a range of benefits including pension and childcare benefits and the University’s Relocation Manager can assist with potential schooling requirements.

Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.

The Department

The Department of Physics at Durham University is one of the very best UK Physics departments with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research and employability of our students. Ranked in the top 10 in REF2014 in terms of grade point average, 96% of Durham Physics research was considered either to be of “internationally excellent quality” or “world leading”.

To create the right platform to advance our research, we have recently invested in physical infrastructure. In 2016, our astronomy groups, the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation, the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy and the Institute for Computational Cosmology, moved into the new Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics, designed by the world-renowned Studio Daniel Libeskind. Laboratories for atomic and condensed matter experiments were refurbished to 21st century standard in 2017/18 and the University has recently invested in centralised machine rooms to host our high performance computers.

The Department is committed to research-led and small group teaching. The Complete University Guide ranks Durham's Physics Department in fourth place nationally based on entry standards, student satisfaction, research and graduate prospects.

The Role

Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Associate in atomic, molecular and optical physics with a particular emphasis on the experimental investigation of two-species quantum degenerate gases and ultracold polar molecules. The research project is part of a five-year Programme Grant lead by Prof. Simon Cornish, awarded by the UK Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) and focused on the development of Quantum Science with Ultracold Molecules (QSUM). The research will build upon our recent success in creating ultracold RbCs molecules in the rovibrational ground state and, in collaboration with leading theorists, will seek to develop a deeper understanding of dipolar interactions and many-body physics in optical lattices. Ultimately, the research contributes to our on-going efforts to realise a quantum simulator using ultracold polar molecules.

The successful applicant will work directly with Prof. Simon Cornish and other members of the research group and will be expected to display the initiative and creativity, together with the appropriate skills and knowledge, required to deliver the research. The successful applicant will be expected to have a broad range of knowledge and skills appropriate to the project goals. This may include, but is not restricted to: familiarity with the operation of magneto-optical traps, experience of the production of ultracold gases, practical knowledge of optical trapping techniques, experience of the creation of ultracold molecules and an understanding of the molecule structure relevant to the experiment. The successful applicant will be expected to work effectively both independently and as part of a research team. It is expected that the successful applicant will enhance the international contacts of the group through the presentation of work at international conferences and will aid in the supervision of graduate students within the group.

Responsibilities :

  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the team or group of people through presentations and discussions that leads to the presentation of research papers in conferences and publications.
  • To prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to audiences which may include: research sponsors, academic and non-academic audiences.
  • To publish high quality outputs, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation at conferences and workshops under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To assist with the development of research objectives and proposals.
  • To conduct individual and collaborative research projects under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To work with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and other colleagues in the research group, as appropriate, to identify areas for research, develop new research methods and extend the research portfolio.
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and offering creative or innovative solutions.
  • To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration.
  • To plan and manage own research activity, research resources in collaboration with others and contribute to the planning of research projects.
  • To deliver training in research techniques/approaches to peers, visitors and students as appropriate.
  • To be involved in student supervision, as appropriate, and assist with the assessment of the knowledge of students.
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline including participation in weekly meetings and seminars.
  • To engage in continuing professional development by participation in the undergraduate or postgraduate teaching programmes or by membership of departmental committees, etc. and by attending relevant training and development courses.   
  • To take a lead role in the data analysis and accurate record keeping of experimental results.

 This post is fixed term for 18 months in the first instance and is linked to an EPSRC Programme Grant exploring “Quantum Science with Ultracold Molecules” which will end on 30 November 2022.

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by another colleague. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post by 1 May 2021.

How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact Prof. Simon Cornish (email s.l.cornish@durham.ac.uk). All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence. 

We prefer to receive applications online via the Durham University Vacancies Site. https://www.dur.ac.uk/jobs/. As part of the application process, you should provide details of 3 (preferably academic/research) referees and the details of your current line manager so that we may seek an employment reference.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University.

What to Submit

All applicants are asked to submit:

  • A CV and covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out above;

Next Steps

The assessment for the post will include a short presentation of your previous research and an interview. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview and assessment on as soon as possible following the closing date.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University. We are committed to equality: if for any reason you have taken a career break or periods of leave that may have impacted on your career path, such as maternity, adoption or parental leave, you may wish to disclose this in your application. The selection committee will recognise that this may have reduced the quantity of your research accordingly.

The Requirements


  • Qualifications
  • A good first degree in physics.
  • A PhD (or be close to submission) in atomic, molecular and optical physics or a closely related subject.


  • Experience in conducting high quality academic research.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at national or international conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
  • Experience, knowledge and skills in atomic, molecular and optical physics appropriate to the project goals. This may include, but is not restricted to: familiarity with the operation of magneto-optical traps, experience of the production of ultracold gases, practical knowledge of optical trapping techniques, experience of the creation of ultracold molecules and an understanding of the molecule structure relevant to the experiment.


  • Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.
  • Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.



  • Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.
  • A track record of presenting research at conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with stage of career.
  • Demonstrable ability to develop research proposals and designs in collaboration with other academics.
  • Experience of overseeing students with respect to the development of their practical/research skills e.g. acting as a demonstrator; supervising student projects/practicals.
  • Experience in techniques relevant to the trapping and manipulation of ultracold atomic gases. Examples include magnetic trapping, basic electronics, development of narrow-linewidth lasers, laser frequency stabilisation and control, internal state control using microwave and rf fields, image analysis, data acquisition and experimental control using Labview.
  • Experience of the manipulation of ultracold gases using Feshbach resonances, magneto association of ultracold molecules and internal state transfer using stimulated Raman adiabatic passage.


  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research. 
  • Demonstrable ability to produce concise and well-written reports for a range of stakeholders using Latex.
  • Experience in programming using the Python or Matlab programming languages.

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.

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