Computational modeling of dynamics due to gradients in living cells, drying paints and other out-of-equilibrium liquids

Molecules in liquids move in response to gradients (for example from cold to hot), this project is to model this motion, and to understand how it affects living cells and drying paints.

Start date

1 October 2020


Three years

Application deadline

Funding source

The University of Surrey

Funding information

The funding fully covers academic fees for UK/EU students, with a stipend of £15,285 per annum.

(UKRI standard stipend)


The Soft Matter research group of the Department of Physics of the University of Surrey has a PhD studentship for an October 2020 start. The studentship is for computational studies of the motion of colloidal particles, and molecules in gradients. For example, there are large concentration gradients in ATP - the molecular fuel that powers most of the processes inside our cells - in all our cells. Since the Nobel-prize winning work of Onsager last century, we know that these gradients will move particles and molecules around.

The studentship will be to study these movements by developing simple models, under the supervision of Dr Richard Sear. The Soft Matter group has experimental groups that study motions due to gradients, mostly in evaporating systems. Dr Izabela Jurewicz and Prof Joe Keddie both study evaporating liquid films, for tissue engineering and for coatings/paints applications, respectively. Prof Peter McDonald and Dr David Faux look at drying in complex porous media, such as drying wood. We also work with both biologists and vets at Surrey. The project is flexible but will be in collaboration with at least one of these groups, and aim to understand both the microscopic details of the dynamics, and how these affect the final structure, such as a scaffold for tissue engineering.

The Soft Matter group is a friendly bunch of over 20 PhD students, research fellows, technicians and academics, doing both experiment and modelling, pure and applied work, in soft matter systems from wood to paints. We have an international reputation for research, earlier work in the area of the project was published in Physical Review Letters, perhaps the most prestigious journal in physics.

The studentship is part of the Department of Physics’ contribution to SEPnet, the South East Physics network. SEPnet includes GRADnet, the largest Physics postgraduate research school in England. GRADnet brings together PhD students from nine physics departments in the south east of England, and offers courses, placements with employers, and many other opportunities, which are all available to the student.

Related links

Soft Matter group Dr Richard Sear (Supervisor)

Eligibility criteria

Only UK/EU students are eligible. Applicants should have a degree in physics, engineering, chemistry, or a related subject, and programming experience with a language such as Python, C or Fortran. The degree should be 2:1 or above, or equivalent.

English language requirements: IELTS overall score of 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.

How to apply

Applications should be made online via the Physics PhD.

Informal enquires are welcome and should be made to Dr Richard Sear.

Contact details

Richard Sear
10 BB 03
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686793

Studentships at Surrey

We have a wide range of studentship opportunities available.