Postdoctoral Research Associate in Quantum Light and Matter

Durham, United Kingdom
£33,797 - £35,845 per annum
20 Dec 2021
End of advertisement period
01 Feb 2022
Academic Discipline
Physical Sciences, Physics & Astronomy
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Physics

Grade 7: - £33,797 - £35,845 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 15 month
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 01-Feb-2022, 7:59:00 AM

The Department

The Department of Physics at Durham University is one of the leading UK Physics departments with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research and employability of our students.

The Department is committed to advancing equality and we aim to ensure that our culture is inclusive, and that our systems support flexible and family-friendly working, as recognized by our Juno Champion and Athena SWAN Silver awards. We recognise and value the benefits of diversity throughout our staff and students.

The Role

Applications are invited for two Postdoctoral Research Associate positions 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 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 quantum simulators using ultracold polar molecules.

The successful applicants 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 contribute to one or more of the projects within the QSUM programme. These include (i) the exploration of synthetic dimensions using ultracold RbCs molecules (ii) the development of a new experimental apparatus capable of high-resolution imaging of atoms and molecules in optical lattices (iii) the assembly of individual molecules in optical tweezers and (iv) the creation of CsYb molecules. The successful applicants will be expected to have a broad range of knowledge and skills appropriate to the project goals, specifically including: familiarity with the operation of magneto-optical traps, experience of the production of ultracold gases, practical knowledge of optical trapping techniques, knowledge of high-resolution imaging techniques and experience of the creation of ultracold molecules. The successful applicants will be expected to work effectively both independently and as part of a research team. It is expected that the successful applicants 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.


  • 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.

These posts are fixed term for 15 months in the first instance, potentially extendable to 31 August 2023 and are linked to an EPSRC Programme Grant exploring “Quantum Science with Ultracold Molecules” which will end on 31 August 2023.

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 November 2021.

The Requirements



  • A good first degree in physics.
  • A PhD (or be close to submission) in atomic physics or a closely related subject or a 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 international conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
  • Experience, knowledge and skills in experimental atomic, molecular and optical physics appropriate to the project goals, specifically including: familiarity with the operation of magneto-optical traps, experience of the production of ultracold gases, practical knowledge of optical trapping techniques, knowledge of high-resolution imaging techniques and experience of the creation of ultracold molecules.


  • 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 FPGA devices, development of narrow-linewidth lasers, laser frequency stabilisation and control, image analysis, data acquisition and experimental control using Labview.
  • Experience of high-resolution imaging techniques.
  • Experience of the manipulation of ultracold gases using Feshbach resonances and of magnetoasscoiation of ultracold molecules
  • Demonstrable ability to model experiments using a range of software packages, such as Python, Matlab or Mathematica.


  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research.

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 that explains how you fulfil the essential requirements for the posts detailed 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 as soon as possible following the closing date

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.

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