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PhD Studentship – Supramolecular rare-earth photonics for quantum memories

School of Chemistry

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:  Friday 10 May 2019
Reference:  1122719EB

PhD Supervisor: Sam Thompson     co supervisors: James Gates, Peter Smith

Interviews will be held as applications are received.

PhD Description: We are looking for an enthusiastic and well-organised student to join a vibrant and growing Organic Chemistry research group to work on a collaborative project with the Zepler Institute for Photonics and Nanoelectronics.

The project will explore the design and synthesis of novel supramolecular architectures to host rare-earth ions for applications in Quantum Technology. The key aim is to construct hosts that: (i) position a lanthanide ion in a precisely defined environment; and (ii) are amenable to robust incorporation into an integrated photonic platform.

The studentship is multidisciplinary and will offer the opportunity to work closely with researchers in the Zepler Institute to evaluate the properties of the host:guest complexes and to incorporate them into photonic devices. Simple performance testing will be carried out in the Zepler Institute, while more advanced analysis will be conducted with other members of the UK QT community at Bath, Oxford and Imperial. There is also huge potential for commercialisation of single photon sources – an area in which the project team has extensive experience.


An unmet challenge in Quantum Technology and the construction of the “Quantum Internet” is the realisation of quantum memories. These devices have the potential to store and retrieve the single photons that are crucial for repeaters for long distance secure quantum communications and future quantum computers. 

Currently this area is hampered by an inability to achieve a local atom environment of a quantum system (an electronic transition) which is isolated sufficiently to prevent quantum decoherence, and hence provide long memory life-times, while allowing efficient photonic coupling. 

To enhance the optical interaction the ion needs to be precisely integrated into an optical cavity. Ideally it would be optical fibre coupled, providing a low-loss interface and a simple route for introduction to a cryogenic environment, which is necessary to thermally isolate the system. The fibre coupled nature of the system is essential for a viable commercial device but despite the huge potential a robust solution has yet to be realised. 


Nanophotonic rare-earth quantum memory with optically controlled retrieval:

Science, 357 (2017), pp. 1392-1395

Organo lanthanide metal complexes for electroluminescent materials:

Chem. Rev., 2002, 102, pp. 2357-2368

Research and training environment

The Thompson group is based in the modern synthetic chemistry laboratories in the School of Chemistry on the leafy Southampton Highfield Campus. Experimental chemistry is supported by world-class MS, NMR and X-ray facilities, with expert staff in each area to help design methods and analyze data. In addition to training in practical synthetic methods the student will be supported through regular group meetings and problem sessions. There will also be opportunities for the supervision of junior co-workers, and funds available for the presentation of work at national and international conferences.

Co-supervisors Gates and Smith are based within a five minute walk on the same campus in the Zepler Institute. Further information can be accessed at:

The project is funded for 3.5 years and welcomes applicants from the UK and EU who have or expect to obtain at least an upper second class degree in Chemistry or allied subjects/relevant disciplines. Funding will cover fees and a stipend at current research council rates per annum (201920 rates are £15,009).

Due to funding restrictions this position is only open to UK students and EU students who meet the RCUK eligibility criteria

Applications for a PhD in Chemistry should be submitted online at

Please ensure you select the academic session 2019-20 when making your application in the academic year field and click on the Research radio button.  Enter Chemistry in the search text field 

Please place Sam Thompson in the field for proposed supervisor/project

General enquiries should be made to Sam Thompson at  Any queries on the application process should be made to

Applications will be considered in the order that they are received, and the position will be considered filled when a suitable candidate has been identified

The University of Southampton and the School of Chemistry both hold Athena SWAN Silver Awards, reflecting their commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, and particularly to gender equality.

The closing date for this job opportunity has now passed, and applications are no longer being accepted for this position

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