Postdoctoral Research Associate in Quantum Light and Matter

Durham University

Postdoctoral Research Associate in Quantum Light and Matter (
Job Number:
Department of Physics
Grade 7:  £36,333 to £38,474 per annum
Fixed Term  Full Time
Contract Duration: 15 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Working Arrangements: This role is full time but we will consider requests for flexible working arrangements including potential job shares
Closing Date
: 05-Apr-2023, 6:59:00 PM
Disclosure and Barring Service Requirement: Not Applicable. 

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 top UK Physics departments with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research and employability of our students. Ranked in the top 10 in REF2022 in terms of power, 96% of Durham Physics research was considered either to be of “internationally excellent quality” or “world leading”.

The Department of Physics is committed to building and maintaining a diverse and inclusive environment. It is pledged to the Athena SWAN charter, where we hold a silver award, and has the status of IoP Juno Champion. We embrace equality and particularly welcome applications from women, black and minority ethnic candidates, and members of other groups that are under-represented in physics. Durham University provides a range of benefits including pension, flexible and/or part time working hours, shared parental leave policy and childcare provision.

The Role

A Postdoctoral Research Associate position is available to pursue experimental research in the field of atomic and laser physics within the Durham Quantum Light and Matter group. The position is associated with the Zeeman-Sisyphus Deceleration of Molecules grant funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC). The aim of which is to build and optimise a novel decelerator for calcium monofluoride molecules.

The post holder will work closely with Dr. Hannah Williams 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 lead and develop the experiment to meet the project goals. These include: (1) Building and characterising a molecular buffer gas source (2) Simulations of the deceleration method (3) Complete characterisation and optimisation of the decelerator to produce a slow molecular beam.

The post holder is therefore expected to have experience and familiarity with the techniques used in the study of ultracold gases, including experimental expertise in vacuum and laser systems as well as strong data analysis and simulation skills. The post holder is expected to be able to work effectively both independently and as part of a small research team. It is expected that the post holder will enhance the international contacts of the group through the presentation of work at international conferences. The post holder will also be expected to aid in the supervision of graduate students within the group as well as contributing to the undergraduate teaching within the Department.

The Quantum Light and Matter group (QLM) is one of the UK’s leading groups for atomic, molecular and optical physics research. Projects within the QLM investigate experimental and theoretical topics ranging from laser cooling and Bose-Einstein Condensation to nonlinear optics and Rydberg physics. The QLM comprises 10 faculty, 11 post-doctoral researchers and 22 Ph.D. students.


•             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 working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.

•             To engage in citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.

•             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.   

This post is for a fixed term of 15 months.

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 June 2023.

How to Apply  

To progress to the assessment stage, candidates must evidence each of the essential criteria required for the role in the person specification below. It will be at the discretion of the recruiting panel as to whether they will also consider any desirable criteria, but we would urge candidates to provide evidence for all criteria.  

While some criteria will be considered at the shortlisting stage, other criteria may be considered later in the assessment process, such as questions at interview.  

For informal enquiries please contact Hannah Williams ([email protected]).  All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence. 

Submitting your application 

We prefer to receive applications online.  We will update you about your application at various points throughout the selection process, via automated emails from our e-recruitment system. Please check your spam/junk folder periodically to make sure you have not missed any of our updates.

Contact information for technical difficulties when submitting your application 

If you encounter technical difficulties when using the online application form, we prefer you send enquiries by email.  Please send your name along with a brief description of the problem you’re experiencing to [email protected]  

What to Submit 

All applicants are asked to submit: 

  • a CV and cover letter which details your experience, skills, and achievements in meeting (or the potential to meet) the criteria set out below.

The Requirements



  • A good first degree in physics. 
  • A PhD (or be close to submission) in atomic physics or related area.
  • Experience

  • 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.
  • Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career
  • To have worked on AMO experiments.
  • Skills

  • 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.
  • Desirable:


  • 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.
  • Experimental experience of laser optics, including Gaussian beam optics, acousto- and electro-optics, and frequency stabilisation.
  • Experimental experience of working with vacuum chambers.
  • Knowledge of electronics.
  • Knowledge of Python software.
  • Knowledge of molecular structure.
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