PhD Positions in Mathematical Physics

  • Heriot-Watt U.
  • Brief statement of research interests (please identify potential supervisor(s) from the list below)
  • Academic transcripts for undergraduate and MSc, if the latter applies
  • Contact information for 1-3 lecturers or senior researchers willing to write letters of recommendation
  • Panagiota-Maria Adamopoulou - I am interested in continuous and discrete integrable systems and more precisely, in integrable nonlinear PDEs, their soliton-type solutions, Darboux-dressing methods, as well as connections with their discrete analogues and with solutions to the set-theoretical Yang-Baxter equation (and their generalisations to non-commutative settings).
  • Murad Alim - I work on quantum geometry, an area where mathematical structures are developed which are adapted to problems of quantization of physical systems and their dualities using methods from complex algebraic geometry, representation theory and number theory. I am particularly interested in studying the interplay of perturbative and non-perturbative structures using resurgence techniques in the context of topological string theory, mirror symmetry and BPS structures of supersymmetric theories.
  • Richard Davison - I am interested in the dynamics of strongly interacting quantum field theories, such as understanding how they thermalize and what collective behaviour emerges after this has occurred. My research uses tools like effective field theory and holography to answer these questions.
  • Anastasia Doikou - My research focuses on quantum & classical integrable models. Specifically, I am interested in integrable quantum spin chains and the Bethe ansatz formulation, quantum algebras, quasi-triangular Hopf algebras, braid groups, Hecke and Temperley-Lieb algebras, solutions of the Yang-Baxter and reflection equations, and their set-theoretic versions. I am also interested in classical discrete integrable systems & integrable field theories, in particular the Hamiltonian formulation, dressing methods, solitons and integrable PDEs & ODEs.
  • Anatoly Konechny - I am interested in patterns of renormalisation group flows and the phase structure of perturbed conformal field theories. I mostly work in the context of two-dimensional quantum field theories using the techniques of conformal field theory.
  • Richard Szabo - My current research interests focus on understanding mathematical underpinnings of higher form symmetries in quantum field theory (using 2-groups and 2-bundles), Poisson-Lie T-duality and other dualities such as U-duality (using generalized and exceptional generalized geometry), Donaldson-Thomas theory on Calabi-Yau 4-folds (using the geometry of instanton moduli spaces of supersymmetric gauge theories), various facets of noncommutative gauge theories and gravity including double copy relations (using homotopy algebras), among other topics.
  • Matthew Walters - My research focuses on various aspects of quantum field theory and quantum gravity, often from the perspective of the conformal bootstrap and holography. Lately I have been working on a new nonperturbative framework for studying general strongly-coupled systems, in order to study phenomena such as thermalization, scattering, phase transitions, and confinement.
  • Robert Weston - My work involves the study of quantum integrable systems. In particular, I am interested in formulating and solving these systems in terms their underlying symmetry algebras. My work thus lies at the intersection of quantum physics and representation theory. Physical applications are in both high energy and condensed matter physics.
  • Daniel Coutand ( [email protected] )
  • Publications

We are the q uantum t heory t eam led by Prof Erik Gauger at Heriot-Watt University.

To learn more please scroll down or use the site menu.

find out more

About our research

We study harnessing quantum mechanical properties of nanostructures and light. We are motivated by wishing to better understand the physical world, as well as enabling novel types of technologies:

Unlocking the ultimate limits of energy efficiency requires a physical understanding at level of single quanta of energy.


Information processing in the quantum world offers fascinating non-classical advantages.

Quantum systems are fragile, and this can exploited for probing the environment.

Interactions with single quantum systems represents an exciting frontier and new access to visualing samples.

Group members

Prof erik m gauger.

Group leader, Professor of Theoretical Physics in the Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciendes at Heriot-Watt, and Member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Young Academy of Scotland.

Google Scholar

Dr Moritz Cygorek

Moritz is a senior Research Associate working on efficient and exact simulations of nanoscale quantum devices, as part of a joint project with collaborators at St Andrews.

Dr Nicholas Werren

Nick's main home is now the Quantum Photonics Labs but he also remains an active associate member of qtt, continuing his work on biological and bio-inspired quantum light-harvesting.

Dr Dominic Branford

is interested in quantum-enhanced (optical) sensing, imaging and metrology.

Hannah Scott

explores protocols for quantum metrology, studying both optical setups and spin sensors.

works on designing and engineeing photonic samples. He is jointly supervised with Luca Sapienza and Rob Benett from Glasgow and his main home is the Integrated Quantum Photonics Group

Zia Muhammad

currently works on dispersive, waveguide-assisted read out of double quantum dots. He is jointly supervised with Brendon Lovett and based at St Andrews.

Jindrich "Henry" Hajek

Henry's main interest is the learning of non-Markovian open systems dynamics from experimental data.

Priyankar Banerjee

researches experimentally measurable signatures of (collective) quantum effects in biological and bio-inspired nano-emitters.

David Craig

explores approaches for understanding, controlling, and optimising solid-state quantum devices using machine learning. He is primarily based in Oxford in the Natalia Ares Group .

Lily Anderson

investigates quantum effects in the light matter interaction of strongly coupled systems with applicaitons for light-harvesting.

Julian Wiercinski

is working on understanding the properties of strongly coupled indistinguishable quantum emitters and absorbers.

Stewart Wallace

uses Bayesian inference for Lindbladian learning from measured data. He is jointly supervised with Cristian Bonato from the Quantum Photonics Lab .

Collaborative network

  • Dr Jakub Sowa, Univeristy of Texas
  • Prof Nir Keren, Prof Yossi Paltiel, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Prof Daniele Faccio FRSE, Dr Niclas Westerberg, Glasgow University
  • Dr Giuseppe Luca Celardo, LENS, Florence
  • Dr Luca Sapienza, Glasgow University
  • Prof Brendon Lovett, Dr Jonathan Keeling, University of St Andrews
  • Prof Simon Benjamin, Prof Andrew Briggs, Prof Harry Andersson FRS, University of Oxford
  • Prof Tom Stace, University of Queensland
  • Dr Ivan Kassal, University of Sydney
  • Dr Jan Mol, Queen Mary London
  • Dr Edward Laird, Lancaster
  • Dr Rafael Gomez-Bombarelli, Massachusett's Institute of Technology
  • Dr Ahsan Nazir, Photon Sciences Institute, Manchester
  • Prof Florian Mintert, Imperial College London
  • Dr Felix Pollock, formerly Monash University Melbourne
  • Dr Neill Lambert, RIKEN Japan

Group alumni

  • Dr Dominic Branford - now back with us
  • Dr Niclas Westerberg - now Postdoctoral Research Fellow (1851) at Glasgow University, UK
  • Ms Nicole Farrier - now at BAE Systems, UK
  • Dr Alexandre Coates - now an analyst for the Civil Service of the UK
  • Dr Scott Davidson - now Senior Tech Lead at StackHPC, UK
  • Dr Berke Ricketti - now Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Lethbridge, Canada
  • Dr Dominic Rouse - now EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellow at the University of Glasgow, UK
  • Dr William Brown - now working on Commodity Corporate Exotics and Solutions at BNP Paribas, UK
  • Dr Jakub Sowa - now Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Texas, US
  • Dr Eleanor Dale Scerri - now Junior Technical Artist at Ubisoft Blue Byte, Germany
  • Dr Amir Fruchtman - now Senior Algorithm Engineer at SAIPS, Israel
  • Dr Kieran Higgins - now Big Data Software Engineer, US
  • Dr George Knee - now Software Engineer at Magmo, UK / US
  • Dr Marcus Schaffry - now Business Solutions and Support Engineer, European Patent Office, Germany
  • Mr Jindrich Hajek (MPhys)
  • Ms Laura Rintoul (MPhys)
  • Mr Martin Damynov (MPhys)
  • Ms Jemma Callaghan (MPhys)
  • Ms Romane Moulin (MPhys)
  • Mr Jamie Nash (MPhys)
  • Ms Alicia Fallows (BSc Hons)
  • Mr Robert Hay (MPhys)
  • Mr Robert Chirnside (BSc Hons)
  • Dr Filip Auksztol (MMat)
  • ACE: open systems
  • Quantum batteries
  • Bunching for imaging
  • Scavenging heat
  • Single e- hopping
  • Guide-sliding
  • Molecular devices
  • Bunch to boost
  • Quantum photocells
  • Playing science: Orbs
  • Superabsorption
  • Diamond sensors
  • Gainless amplification

Quantum birds

Automated Compression of Environment(s) : We have developed a powerful general purpose tool for the numerically exact simulation of open quantum systems, including in the presence of multiple and non-Gaussian environments.

Demonstrating superabsorption of large numbers of organic molecules represents an important step toward developing a prototype of a Dicke quantum batttery.

With collaborators from Delft and Oxford, we have provided the first simultaneously recorded full mapping of the thermoelectric properties of a single molecule.

We contributed to the study Understanding resonant charge transport through weakly coupled single-molecule junctions in Nature Communications, which tests our recent work Beyond Marcus theory and the Landauer-Büttiker approach in molecular junctions: A unified framework .

Our work on Light-harvesting with guide-slide superabsorbing condensed-matter nanostructures was selected for a Supplemental Cover in the The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters. Our study shows that superabsorbing light-harvesting should indeed be achievable, even with antennae consisting of noisy condensed matter nanostructures.

Our paper in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters shows how quantum interference in spiro-conjugated molecules could lead to attractive components for functional molecular circuits. Earlier work on single molecule junctions in Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics translates the celebrated mechanism of Environment-Assisted Quantum Transport (ENAQT) from energy to charge transfer processes.

In our publication Attosecond-Resolution Hong-Ou-Mandel Interferometry we demonstrate that a Fisher-information informed protocol improves experimental HOM sensitivity by factor ∼100 and makes it comparable to classical phase-sensitive interferometry.

Quantum-enhanced light-harvesting

Our paper Photocell Optimization Using Dark State Protection , concerned with beating the famous Shockley-Queisser limit for light harvesting by exploiting collective quantum mechanical effects, has been selected as an Editor's Suggestion by Physical Review Letters and has been covered by ArsTechnica .

Play to Promote: Orbs

Orbs Game flyer

Superabsorption of light via quantum engineering

In a recent publication in Nature Communcations we show that the signature quantum effect of superradiance can be inverted, promising better photon detectors and improved light harvesting. Our paper has been highlighted by Nature Photonics and Physics World .

Single nuclear spin detection

A few years ago we proposed enhancing NV - -centre-based magnetic field sensors with an amplifier spin to achieve single nuclear spin magnetic moment sensitivity. This idea has now been realised by the Lukin group at Harvard.

No gain from weak-value amplification?

The debate we have triggered on the utility of postselected weak measurements for designing better quantum sensors continues.

Still no gain from weak-value amplification

Performing measurements which only reveal little information can sometimes be useful in the quantum world, as this does not collapse the wavefunction. Over the last few years, it has been suggested that such measurements combined with judicial postselection may even unlock superior metrological performance. However, analysing this question for magnetic sensors a couple of years ago we found no advantage. Our publication has since triggered a lively debate, inspiring a host of follow up work from all over the world.

We have also been digging deeper with an article in Phys. Rev. X which deals with imperfections at the detection stage. However, once more we find that amplification obtained by weak measurements generally does not improve metrological performance.

Together with Chris Ferrie and Josh Combes, we have now posted a survey about the state of play and remaining open questions in weak-value amplification.

Intriguingly, there is now increasing evidence that the compass sense of birds involves a quantum mechanical process, which may enable birds to literally 'see' the magnetic field.

Can birds see the magnetic field?

How precisely do birds navigate over long distances without getting lost? In a Biophysical Journal article , we suggest that certain migratory birds might literally ‘see’ Earth’s magnetic field superimposed on their normal vision, reminiscent of a fighter pilot’s heads up display.

Our proposal builds on the established Radical Pair model of the avian compass, replacing the hypothetical chemical signal transduction stage, for which no evidence exists, with a physical mechanism, by which an electrical dipole field directly influence the visual process in the bird’s eye.

Apart from simplifying the story, our model provides an explanation as to why the evolution of an extraordinarily long compass coherence time would have been favoured by natural selection. This provides at least a partial answer to this puzzling questions which we raised with a previous Physical Review Letter on the same topic.

We are always looking for enthusiastic and talented people to join our group!

PhD Studentships

Opportunities for fully funded PhD studentships for UK and international applicants regularly exist. Places are filled on a competitive, rolling basis. Please get in touch if interested.

We are open to discussing a broad range of project topics related to our research interests (see recent publications for an overview).

Postdoc Openings

We will be adversiting an opportunity to work on the project "Exploring bio-inspired collective light-matter interactions in the solid-state" supported by the Leverhulme Trust soon. Get in touch or check back soon if interested.

Fellowship Applications

We are happy to support applications and host recipients of personal research fellowships (e.g. URF, Marie Curie, 1851, Newton International etc).

Selected publications

  • Eliminating radiative losses in long-range exciton transport Physical Review X Quantum 3 , 020354 (2022)
  • Quantum microscopy based on Hong-Ou-Mandel interference Nature Photonics 16 , 384 (2022)
  • Coherence in Cooperative Photon Emission from Indistinguishable Quantum Emitters Science Advances 8 , eabm8171 (2022)
  • Large-scale FRET simulations reveal the control parameters of phycobilisome light-harvesting complexes Journal of the Royal Society Interface 19 , 20220580 (2022)
  • Simulation of open quantum systems by automated compression of arbitrary environments Nature Physics 18 , 662 (2022)
  • Superabsorption in an organic microcavity: towards a quantum battery Science Advances 8 , abk3160 (2022)
  • Complete mapping of the thermoelectric properties of a single molecule Nature Nanotechnology 16 ,426 (2021)
  • Understanding resonant charge transport through weakly coupled single-molecule junctions Nature Communications 10 4628 (2019)
  • Light Harvesting with Guide-Slide Superabsorbing Condensed-Matter Nanostructures The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters 10 , 4323 (2019)
  • Attosecond-resolution Hong-Ou-Mandel interferometry Science Advances 4 , eaap9416 (2018)
  • Projected gradient descent algorithms for quantum state tomography npj Quantum Information 3 , 44 (2017)
  • Photocell Optimization Using Dark State Protection Physical Review Letters 117 , 203603 (2016)
  • Superabsorption of light via quantum engineering Nature Communications 5 4705 (2014)
  • When amplification with weak values fails to suppress technical noise Physical Review X 4 , 011032 (2014)
  • Violation of a Leggett-Garg inequality with ideal non-invasive measurements Nature Communications 3 :606 (doi: 10.1038/ncomms1614) (2012)
  • Proposed spin amplification for magnetic sensors employing crystal defects Physical Review Letters 107 , 207210 (2011)
  • Sustained quantum coherence and entanglement in the avian compass Physical Review Letters 106 , 040503 (2011)
  • Damping of Exciton Rabi Rotations by Acoustic Phonons in Optically Excited InGaAs/GaAs Quantum Dots Physical Review Letters 104 , 017402 (2010)

Prof Erik M Gauger Room DB 1.10 Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences School of Engineering and Physical Sciences Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh EH14 4AS, United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)131 451 3345 [email protected]

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Graduate School

Over 140 academics and excellent facilities provide a superb environment for phd study in all areas of the mathematical sciences, a rich environment and lively seminar programme.

Our graduate school includes an EPSRC-funded Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT), and  covers all areas of mathematics, operational research and statistics. There are numerous meetings, workshops and conferences held through the year, both at the two universities and, often jointly, at the Edinburgh-based International Centre for Mathematical Sciences .

What's On Offer

Our different types of phd programme:, analysis and probability.

Our theme conducts a wide variety of research in modern analysis and probability.  Areas that are well represented at the theme include harmonic analysis, analysis and numerics for stochastic differential equations, dispersive, elliptic, and parabolic partial differential equations (PDEs), geometric measure theory, stochastic PDEs, general relatively, machine learning, limit theorems for stochastic processes, random graphs and processes on them, stochastic networks, interacting-particle system, calculus of variations and spectral theory.

DATA AND Decisions

The Data and Decisions research theme undertakes research at the forefront of modern mathematical, statistical and computational problems related to core elements of Data Science: optimization, operational research, statistics & uncertainty quantification, as well as their applications in imaging, environmental and medical statistics, epidemiology, actuarial science and financial mathematics.


You will join a team of researchers investigating the teaching and learning of Mathematics in Higher Education.  The team has expertise in the use of technology for teaching and assessing mathematics and developing strategies for lecturers’ development. We welcome proposals on the transition from school to university mathematics and on the teaching, learning and  assessment of Mathematics at the university level, preferably through the use of  technology 

GlaMS is a joint PhD training centre between the University of Glasgow, the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University. Offering innovative training within a broadly interpreted remit of algebraic structures which includes geometry and mathematical physics. 

Applied and computational mathematics

Our theme works on core research topics in modern applied and computational mathematics.  We offer PhD training in the broad area of applied and computational mathematics including mathematical and computational modelling, numerical analysis, mathematical biology, fluid dynamics, machine learning, industrial mathematics, applied stochastic analysis etc. Our PhD projects are generally offered through the MAC-MIGS 2024 PhD Collaborative Training Centre.

Mac-Migs 2024 Programme

The Mathematical Modelling, Analysis and Computation ( MAC-MIGS ) PhD programme is a collaborative training programme, focused on the formulation, analysis and implementation of state-of-the-art mathematical and computational models.  

Maxwell Institute Training Programme

Our core training programme, offered to all PhD students in any of the research themes of  the Maxwell Institute Graduate School, covering topics  such as  Analysis & Probability, Optimisation, Operational Research, Statistics & Actuarial Mathematics, Structure & Symmetry and more. 

Our application procedure

We actively promote equality, diversity and inclusion and welcome applications from all qualified applicants.

Check you meet the programme entry requirements. 

  • If you are applying for a University of Edinburgh programme, please check this website .
  • If you are applying for a Heriot-Watt University programme, please check this website . Applications are reviewed continuously until June 15th, but early applications (preferably before the end of March) have the best chance of success. 
  • If you are applying to the MAC-MIGS CDT, please check this website . 
  • If you are applying to GlaMS, please check this website .

Research Interests – this section is not for MAC-MIGS applicants

Identify your research interest and determine in which theme you wish to carry out your work. 

You should contact staff members prior to making an application in order to identify possible projects and supervisors. This is especially the case for international applicants who may not have the opportunity to attend an interview. However, it isn’t essential for you to have secured a supervisor before making your application. 

You can use the search function in the “Possible PhD Supervisors” section below or the search function in the People section to identify possible supervisors and research areas/ topics. When using the search function to identify potential supervisors, please filter by status and select “staff”.

English Language

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

Language requirements vary between programmes so check the relevant website.

Required Documents

  • All degree certificates and transcripts – if you do not yet have a transcript, please subit an interim transcript. If you do not yet have a degree certificate, please request a letter from your University stating you have satisfactorily completed your studies or are expected to.
  • 2 Academic references  to be provided directly by your referees.
  • English Language Certificate  (where applicable).

Where you are asked for a research proposal, you may ignore that request as mathematics does not require one. 

Submit your application 

You should submit your application via the relevant application portal-

  • University of Edinburgh   – please note if you wish to apply to the University of Edinburgh, you must select the appropriate PhD programme (i.e. Algebra, Statistics, etc) when submitting your online application by 22nd January 2024.
  • Heriot-Watt University – please note if you wish to apply to Heriot-Watt University, you must follow the steps to create an account before you can submit your application.
  • MAC-MIGS CDT programme  

Possible PhD supervisors

This part is NOT FOR MAC-MIGS applicants.  Please use the search function below to identify potential supervisors based on your current research interests.  If you do not have fully-formed views on these, you can use the search function to identify possibilities. We would encourage you to contact supervisors directly so that you can get an idea of the types of project that may be on offer. When seeking to identify potential supervisors, you should select “Filter by status” and choose “Staff”. 

Moreover, each research theme , includes various research groups.  A list of research groups can be found below. Some of research groups have additional information about supervisors and projects on dedicated webpages.

Research groups at the University of Edinburgh

  • Applied and Computational Mathematics
  • Edinburgh Mathematical Physics Group
  • Hodge Institute
  • Optimization and Operational Research

Research groups at Heriot-Watt University

  • Actuarial & Financial Mathematics
  • Algebra, Geometry & Topology
  • Analysis and PDEs
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Mathematical Biology & Ecology
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Probability & Statistics

A description of the PhD projects offered by the HW research groups can be found here . 

If you are applying for the MAC-MIGS CDT Programme we expect you to keep an open mind about research topics and supervisors. Matching between students and supervisors will usually be done in the middle of the first year – see the MAC-MIGS CDT  web site  for more details.

What we offer:

Admission to the Maxwell Institute Graduate School often includes a scholarship covering fees and living expenses, but we also consider self-funded applicants. The funding period for PhD projects varies between 36 and 48 months, depending on the previous experience of the candidate. The MAC-MIGS doctoral training scholarships are all for 48 months.

The Bayes Centre

The Bayes Centre in the Edinburgh city centre offers a modern space where all MIGS 1st year PhD students will be located.

physics phd heriot watt

A complete range of high quality training is on offer to all of our students to take advantage of - both academic and beyond.

physics phd heriot watt

More than 150 fellow PhD students between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh.

physics phd heriot watt

A vibrant research environment including many seminar series and further activities

For a PhD in Analysis and Probability, Data and Decisions, TEMSE

Please use the search function to find academics working in the area of research that interests you. You should then contact them via email to discuss possible research topics. 

You are encouraged to apply by 22nd January 2023 for full consideration. Later applications will be considered until all positions are filled. If you are shortlisted for a PhD programme, you will be invited for interview. These will be held online.

MAC-MIGS CDT and Applied and Computational Mathematics

Please go to the MAC-MIGS programme website for further information about the application process. 

GlaMS Programme PhDs​

Please see the GlaMS  website for further detail and information about the application procedure.


These two CDTs are no longer hiring. For information about the activities of the MAC-MIGS CDT  see here .

The MAC-MIGS CDT has been replaced by its follow-up programme, the  MAC-MIGS 2024 PhD Programme . the latter is both active and hiring!

To learn more about our MIGSAA programme you can view related information at the archive site .

how to apply

For further information about how to apply to the Maxwell Institute Graduate School, visit our PhD Admissions page. 

Any further questions?

To learn more about our PhD studies or view key contact information on our programmes, visit our FAQs page.

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Physics BSc (Hons) Heriot-Watt University

Heriot-Watt University

Course options


Bachelor of Science (with Honours) - BSc (Hons)

Edinburgh Campus


Course summary

Heriot-Watt University ranked 1st in the UK for physics in the National Student Survey 2020 (Overall Student Satisfaction) and 5th in the UK in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021. BSc Physics is accredited by the Institute of Physics.

The study of physics is the investigation into understanding the world and the universe around us. It allows us to accurately measure the things around we are surrounded by, develop models to explain what is going on, and then use those models to predict what is otherwise unknown.

Physicists come from all backgrounds and have a range of strengths and interests, but the common thread between all of them is their passion for understanding and their constant wondering of “why?” and more importantly “how?”.

The flexibility and versatility of the skillset you develop while studying physics is widely desired. From studying particles so small their existence can only be inferred, to researching the largest and most massive black holes we have found in the universe, this subject trains you to rapidly adapt and use your skills to tackle the next emerging challenge, whatever that may be.

Programme structure

The Physics degree at Heriot-Watt University covers subjects including dynamics, electromagnetic fields and optics. These areas lead onto the quantum world of subatomic particles, the unique nature of laser light, and the philosophically challenging ideas of quantum physics and astrophysics. Mathematics also plays an important part to help us understand physical concepts in more depth. In later years, dedicated courses for Biophysics, Nanophotonics, Fibre-Optic Communications and Quantum Mechanics allow students to delve deep into current research areas and discuss their questions with leading experts.

Application deadline

Modules (Year 1)

Modules (year 2), modules (year 3), modules (year 4), tuition fees.

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£ 24,048 per year

Tuition fees shown are for indicative purposes and may vary. Please check with the institution for most up to date details.

Entry requirements

Choose a qualification.


  • Scottish Higher
  • Scottish Advanced Higher
  • GCSE/National 4/National 5
  • International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme
  • Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma (first teaching from September 2016)
  • Scottish HNC
  • Scottish HND

A level : BCC - BBB

including Physics and Maths, with one at B for entry to Year 1.For entry to Year 2: ABB including Physics and Maths with one at A.

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Supported by

Peter Higgs, Nobelist Who Predicted the ‘God Particle,’ Dies at 94

The Higgs boson was named for him. It was a key element of the Standard Model, which encapsulated all human knowledge so far about elementary particles.

Dr. Higgs was photographed standing in front of an image, projected on a wall, of a particle accelerator. He was balding, with gray hair, and wore eyeglasses and a dark jacket over a blue shirt and necktie.

By Dennis Overbye

Peter Higgs, who predicted the existence of a new particle that came to be named after him (as well as God) and sparked a half-century, worldwide, billion-dollar search for it culminating in champagne in 2012 and a Nobel Prize a year later, died on Monday at home in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was 94.

The cause was a blood disorder, said Alan Walker, his close friend and fellow physicist at the University of Edinburgh, where Dr. Higgs was an emeritus professor.

Dr. Higgs was a 35-year-old assistant professor at the university in 1964 when he suggested the existence of a new particle that would explain how other particles acquire mass. The Higgs boson, also known as “the God particle,” would become the keystone of a suite of theories known as the Standard Model, which encapsulated all human knowledge so far about elementary particles and the forces by which they shaped nature and the universe.

Dr. Higgs was a modest man who eschewed the trappings of fame and preferred the outdoors. He didn’t own a television or use email or a cellphone. For years he relied on Dr. Walker to act as his “digital seeing-eye dog,” in the words of a former student.

A half-century later, on July 4, 2012, he received a standing ovation as he walked into a lecture hall at the European Organization for Nuclear Research , or CERN, in Geneva and heard that his particle had finally been found. On a webcast from the laboratory, the whole world watched him pull out a handkerchief and wipe away a tear.

“It’s really an incredible thing that it’s happened in my lifetime,” he said on the webcast.

Declining to stick around for the after-parties, Dr. Higgs flew right back home, celebrating on the plane with a can of London Pride beer. CERN, which has shelves of empty Champagne bottles commemorating great moments lining its control room, asked if it could have the can, but Dr. Higgs had already thrown it away.

Peter Ware Higgs was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, in May 29, 1929, the son of a BBC sound engineer, Thomas Ware Higgs, and Gertrude Maude (Coghill) Higgs, who managed the household. He grew up in Bristol.

His interest in physics was tweaked when he was attending the same school, Cotham Grammar School, as had Paul Dirac , the great British theorist who was one of the fathers (there were no mothers) of quantum mechanics. That theory, which describes the forces of nature as a game of catch between force-carrying bits of energy called bosons, would be the same field in which Dr. Higgs would rise to fame.

At the age of 17, Peter moved to City of London School , where he studied mathematics. A year later, he entered King’s College London, graduating in 1947 with a bachelor’s degree in physics. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in 1954 for research on molecules and heat.

After temporary research posts at the University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London and University College London, he took a permanent job as a lecturer at Edinburgh in 1960. Dr. Higgs had come to love the city during his college days when he used to escape on hitchhiking trips to the Scottish Highlands.

During those years he also became active politically in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Greenpeace. But he dropped out of both when they grew too radical for his taste.

It was in the disarmament movement that he met and fell in love with a fellow activist, Jody Williamson. They married in 1963. She died in 2008. Dr. Higgs is survived by their two sons, Christopher, a computer scientist, and Jonathan, a musician, and two grandchildren.

At Edinburgh, Dr. Higgs redirected his research from chemistry and molecules to his first love, elementary particles.

Edinburgh was the birthplace of James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), who had accomplished the first great unification of physics, showing that electricity and magnetism were different manifestations of the same force, electromagnetism, which constitutes light. It would be Dr. Higgs’s fate to push physics to the next step, toward a theory that could be written on a T-shirt, by helping to show that Maxwell’s electromagnetism and the so-called weak force that governs radioactivity are different faces of the same thing.

As is often the case in the zigzag progress of science, however, that was not what Dr. Higgs thought he was doing.

“At the time,” he recalled in an interview in Edinburgh in 2014, “the thought was to solve the strong force.”

The strong force holds atomic nuclei together. According to theory, the particles that carry that force — bosons — should be massless, like the photon that transmits light. But while light crosses the universe, the strong force barely reaches across an atomic nucleus, which, by quantum rules, meant that the particle carrying it should be almost as massive as a whole proton.

So how did the carriers of the strong force become so massive?

Adapting an idea that Philip W. Anderson of Princeton had used to help explain superconductivity, Dr. Higgs suggested that space was filled with an invisible field of energy, a cosmic molasses. The field would act on some particles trying to move through it like an entourage attaching itself to a celebrity trying to make it to the bar, imbuing them with what we perceive as mass. Call it spooky action everywhere.

In some situations, he noted, a bit of this field could flake off and appear as a new particle.

His first paper on the subject was rejected, however, so he rewrote it, “spicing it up,” as he put it, with a new paragraph at the end emphasizing the prediction of the new particle, which would come to be called the Higgs boson.

It turned out that François Englert and Robert Brout , of the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, had beaten him into print by seven weeks with a similar idea. Shortly thereafter three more physicists — Tom Kibble , of Imperial College London; Carl Hagen, of the University of Rochester; and Gerald Guralnik , of Brown University — chimed in.

“They were first, but I didn’t know until Nambu told me,” Dr. Higgs said in an interview, referring to Yoichiro Nambu , a University of Chicago physicist and also a Nobel laureate, who edited the journal. There was no internet then, he said, his voice trailing off, implying that if he had seen their paper he would probably never have written his own.

“At the beginning I wasn’t sure it would be important,” Dr. Higgs went on. Neither did anybody else.

In fact, theories of the strong force, which Dr. Higgs had set out to study, subsequently went another way. But his paper and his particle would be decisive for the so-called weak force.

Unknown to Dr. Higgs, the American physicist Sheldon Glashow had proposed a theory in 1961 that unified the weak force and electromagnetic forces, but it had the same problem of how to explain why the carriers of the weak part of the “electroweak force” weren’t massless.

Dr. Higgs’s magic field would have been just the ticket, but he and Dr. Glashow didn’t know each other’s work, although they had just missed each other.

One of Dr. Higgs’s duties as a beginning professor at Edinburgh in 1960 was to supply daily refreshments for a Scottish summer conference held there. Dr. Glashow, who was attending, and his friends would stash wine bottles provided by Dr. Higgs in a grandfather clock and then come back and stay up all night draining them and talking about the electroweak unification.

Dr. Higgs, meanwhile, was in bed. “I didn’t know they were stealing my wine,” he said in the interview.

The boson became a big deal in 1967 when Steven Weinberg , of the University of Texas in Austin, made it the linchpin in unifying the weak and electromagnetic forces. It became an even bigger deal in 1971, when the Dutch theorist Gerardus ’t Hooft proved that the whole scheme made mathematical sense.

Dr. Higgs said Benjamin Lee , a Fermilab physicist who later died in a car crash , christened it the Higgs boson during a conference in about 1972, perhaps because Dr. Higgs’s paper was cited first in Dr. Weinberg’s paper.

The name stuck, not just to the particle, but to the molasses field that produced it and the mechanism by which that field gave mass to other particles — somewhat to the embarrassment of Dr. Higgs and the annoyance of the other theorists.

“For a while,” Dr. Higgs recalled, laughing, “I was calling it the “A.B.E.G.H.H.K.H mechanism,” reeling off the names of all the theorists who had contributed to the theory (Anderson, Brout, Englert, Guralnik, Hagen, Higgs, Kibble and ’t Hooft).

Interest in the boson came and went in waves. Dr. Higgs’s first round of interviews came in 1988, when CERN started up a new accelerator named LEP, for Large Electron Positron collider. One of its main goals was to find the Higgs boson. There was another round when LEP was closing down in 2000 despite claims by some scientists that they had seen traces of the Higgs boson.

Dr. Higgs was skeptical. “They were pushing the machine beyond its limit,” he recalled.

By then he had given up doing research, concluding that high-energy particle physics had simply moved beyond him.

He was trying to work on a fashionable new theory called supersymmetry, which would further advance the unification of forces, but “I kept making silly mistakes,” he said. Indeed, he told the BBC later that his lack of productivity would probably have gotten him fired long ago were it not known that he had been nominated for a Nobel Prize.

In recent years, Dr. Higgs lived in a fifth-floor apartment in the historic New Town neighborhood of central Edinburgh, around the corner from the birthplace of Maxwell, the great Scottish theorist, who grew up in the neighborhood.

Even before the Nobel sealed his place in history, he had become one of the tourist attractions of the city, a sort of walking monument to science, recipient of the 2011 Edinburgh Award for his “outstanding contribution to the city.”

Dr. Higgs continued to teach until he retired in 1996, but his lack of research kept him out of the fray and the fury that has resulted from the discovery of his boson. In 1999, he turned down an offer of knighthood, but in 2012 he was named a Companion of Honor by Queen Elizabeth II.

The next year he joined his idols Dirac and Maxwell in immortality by way of the Nobel Prize in Physics , which he shared with Professor Englert. But being in the fray was never his thing. On the day the physics prize was supposed to be announced , he decided that it would be a good time to leave town.

Unfortunately, his car wasn’t working. Stuck in town, he decided to go to lunch. But on the way a neighbor intercepted him and told him he had won the prize.

“What prize?” he joked.

Alex Traub contributed reporting.

An earlier version of this obituary misstated the nationality of the physicist Gerardus ’t Hooft. He is Dutch, not Belgian. It also misspelled the given name of a Nobel laureate in physics at the University of Chicago. He is Yoichiro Nambu, not Nachiro.

How we handle corrections

Dennis Overbye is the cosmic affairs correspondent for The Times, covering physics and astronomy. More about Dennis Overbye

University of Houston and Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University Forge Strategic Energy Alliance

By Rashda Khan — 713-743-7587

  • Science, Energy and Innovation

The University of Houston (UH) and Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University (HWU) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) today, marking the beginning of their partnership to foster global collaboration in education, research and innovation in the energy sector and beyond.

University of Houston President Renu Khator, in a yellow suit with red rose, and Heriot-Watt University's Principal Richard Williams, with glasses in a grey suit, signing agreement.

The MOU being signed by Principal, Vice-Chancellor and Professor of HWU Richard A. Williams and UH President Renu Khator.

At the heart of the MOU lies a commitment to advance research that helps society deliver a just energy transition, with a particular emphasis on hydrogen – a critical element in the transition to sustainable energy solutions.

UH, a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university, boasts several energy-focused research centers. Located in Houston, home to more than 4,500 energy companies and a pivotal international oil and gas hub, UH is uniquely positioned to build on the area’s existing expertise and demonstrate solutions at scale.

Founded in 1821, HWU is a research-led university with active programs in clean energy and next generation energy technologies. It is a global university with campuses in Scotland, the UAE and Malaysia.

By leveraging each other's strengths and resources, UH and HWU aim to create transformative opportunities for students, faculty researchers and industry partners on both sides of the Atlantic.

"I am thrilled to witness the official celebration of our shared commitment to advancing transformative energy solutions,” said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president for energy and innovation at UH. “Through this partnership, we aim to harness our collective expertise to address pressing energy challenges and drive sustainable innovation on a global scale." 

Professor Gillian Murray, deputy principal of business and enterprise at HWU, highlighted the significance of the partnership and its potential to propel scientific understanding.

“This agreement represents a pivotal milestone in the international development of our global research institutes, forging a new partnership to address the most pressing societal challenges that lie ahead,” Murray said.


The MOU was signed by UH President Renu Khator and Principal, Vice-Chancellor and Professor of HWU Richard A. Williams.

The signing was followed by a two-day technology workshop with sessions conducted by faculty members from both institutions exploring key areas of collaboration and future projects, including making, transporting and storing hydrogen and molecular modeling. The event also included tours of various UH research labs.

With a shared vision of addressing global challenges and driving innovation, UH and HWU are poised to collaborate on various initiatives spanning interdisciplinary research, student exchange programs, joint degree offerings and industry partnerships. By joining together, the universities seek to amplify their impact and make meaningful contributions for the greater good.

Both institutions are home to a diverse student body, reflecting their commitment to fostering inclusive learning environments that nurture talent from all backgrounds and prepare them to be the leaders of the future. Through this partnership, they aim to further enhance their international reach and provide students with greater opportunities for cross-cultural exchange and experiential learning.

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Groundbreaking alliance to combat climate change

Published: 12 Apr 2024

MOU with Houston Uni

A landmark agreement between Heriot-Watt and the University of Houston aims to become a global force in combatting climate change.

Representatives from each university met in the US this week to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), underscoring a commitment to work together on cutting-edge research as well as provide opportunities for students and staff to participate in international exchange programmes. With a focus on clean energy, the joint agreement aims to address pressing societal challenges with the climate emergency at the forefront.

At the heart of the MoU lies a commitment to advance research that helps society deliver a just energy transition, with a particular emphasis on hydrogen – a critical element in the transition to sustainable energy solutions.

This agreement represents a pivotal milestone in the international development of our Global Research Institutes, forging a new partnership to address the most pressing societal challenges that lie ahead. Professor Gillian Murray, Deputy Principal of Business and Enterprise at Heriot-Watt University

With Heriot-Watt’s expertise in green hydrogen now coupled with Houston’s strong capability in developing solutions, the MoU lays the foundations to accelerate hydrogen technology.

Professor Gillian Murray , Deputy Principal of Business and Enterprise at Heriot-Watt University, travelled to Houston for the signing where she highlighted the significance of the partnership, emphasising its potential to propel scientific understanding.

She said: “This agreement represents a pivotal milestone in the international development of our Global Research Institutes, forging a new partnership to address the most pressing societal challenges that lie ahead.

“It also opens exciting opportunities not only in scientific endeavour but also for our students to engage in international learning experiences, broaden their perspectives and develop valuable skills for their future careers.

“Through partnership research projects and potential exchange projects, we look forward to nurturing the next generation of leaders who will drive positive change in our interconnected world.”

The MoU signing was marked with a two-day technology workshop involving research academics from both universities.

Ramanan Krishnamoorti, Vice-President for energy and innovation at the University of Houston said: “I am thrilled to witness the official celebration of our shared commitment to advancing transformative energy solutions.

“Through this partnership, we aim to harness our collective expertise to address pressing energy challenges and drive sustainable innovation on a global scale."

Heriot-Watt's global research institute, iNetz+ , is dedicated to addressing the climate crisis and is instrumental in driving the University’s contributions towards global net-zero targets.


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