PhD and MSc opportunities

PhD studentDepending on resources, we aim every year to have new PhD and MSc projects with several UK universities addressing plasma physics, materials science and fusion engineering associated with tokamaks, providing a range of exciting research opportunities.

The projects range from the theoretical, through computational modelling, to experimental studies. Most students are based at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, while some are based at their university. All have both a Culham and a university supervisor.

Typically starting each October, we run a broad range of PhD and MSc projects with about eight different university departments. Please check this page for updates on opportunities.

PhD, Plasma physics of fusion-born ions, University of Warwick

Project starts in October 2017

Exploitation of fusion power from magnetically confined plasmas, notably JET and in future ITER, requires control of the highly energetic alpha-particles that are born in fusion reactions between deuterium and tritium ions. Progress requires understanding of the interactions between these alpha-particles, the deuterium-tritium plasma, and the self-consistent electric and magnetic fields. With this objective, the project focuses on modelling and interpreting the electromagnetic signals observed from energetic particle populations in contemporary large plasma experiments.

The project addresses ion cyclotron emission (ICE). ICE from fusion-born alpha-particles was observed in JET (Culham) and TFTR (Princeton) from the only deuterium-tritium tokamak plasma experiments to date. Recent advances in HPC at Warwick have led to a successful CFSA-Culham partnership, simulating ICE from first principles. ICE is under consideration as a future method for measuring energetic ion behaviour in the Next Step fusion plasma experiment, ITER. There are two urgent needs on which the PhD student will focus:

(1) Exploring the capabilities of ICE modelling against fresh experimental data from the Large Helical Device in Japan, and the KSTAR tokamak in Korea, with whom we have active collaborations that have led to joint papers at the main international fusion plasma conferences in 2016.

(2) To increase the number of spatial dimensions included in the CFSA hybrid code (kinetic ions, fluid electrons) so as to realistically capture energetic ion effects in substantial chunks of plasma.

The PhD student will be part of the CFSA-Culham team, and will spend periods of time working at Culham and at other internationally leading centres. He or she will develop skills in fundamental plasma physics, and in the development and exploitation of HPC codes in relation to experimental data.

Please see the University of Warwick website for further information.

PhD, Simulations of transport effects in laser-driven pellets for fusion energy, University of Warwick

Project starts in October 2017

Experiments in the US and EU are currently trying assess the feasibility of firing lasers directly at the deuterium-tritium fuel pellet to drive implosion and ultimately initiate fusion. This is all with a long-term goal of developing a laser driven fusion power source. One possible route forward is so called shock ignition. Here the laser power is kept low while the pellet is being compressed, to avoid deleterious plasma instabilities, and then the power is ramped up at the end to drive a final igniting shock. Crucial to understanding and designing experiments for shock ignition is a well-tested suite of computational codes.

This project will begin by testing various algorithms for treating plasma thermal conduction in the regime relevant for shock ignition. Once the best scheme is identified and implemented the code will be used to model shock ignition experiments. The code (Odin) is being developed in the UK as part of a national collaboration so you would be joining a team of about 10 developers. It is hoped that the simulations from the final code will be used to help design and diagnose experiments on the Omega laser facility in New York. This project is also sponsored by industry and offers the opportunity to work with industrial collaborators.

You should be interested in computer programming and of course have an interest in fusion research. The PhD will train you for work in many industries and research facilities where HPC skills are critical in addition to opening the possibility of joining international teams working towards IFE. This is an especially exciting time for IFE with major facilities in the US, France and Japan just beginning to make significant progress towards ignition.

Please see the University of Warwick website for further information.

PhD, Uncertainty Quantification in Fusion Power Plant Design, University of Liverpool

Projects start in October 2017; application deadline: 31 January 2017

Culham Centre for Fusion Energy is one of Europe's leading nuclear research centres, closely collaborating with universities and industry to develop a European demonstration fusion power plant (DEMO), for construction in the 2030s. Central to the engineering and physics design of a new fusion device is an integrated operating point which respects the limitations placed on performance by all relevant plant systems and their interactions with one another. Such an operating point can be identified and optimised using a systems code. However, the nature of fusion research and the design of new conceptual facilities is that extrapolation beyond current experimental databases (for the physics basis) and development of new technology must be assumed. The nominal operating point is therefore subject to considerable uncertainty. Current methods of developing and testing fusion plant operating points at CCFE are very far from optimised and there is not a good process for evaluation of the scenarios we produce, and although in-house tools exist to generate performance uncertainties there is limited analysis.

The Institute for Risk and Uncertainty at the University of Liverpool develops and maintains the general purpose software for uncertainty quantification COSSAN-X and OpenCossan (see They have a long standing experience in quantifying, mitigating and managing risks and uncertainty in many fields.

This PhD project will combine the experience concerning power plant design based at CCFE with the knowledge about uncertainty quantification from Liverpool. The aim is to develop workflows to assess the uncertainty related to DEMO operating point and use the tools and workflows to develop robust nominal and back-up operating scenarios to increase confidence in the successful creation of such devices. In addition, the student will develop novel and efficient simulation and parallelisation strategies to reduce the computational cost of the stochastic analysis. The student will therefore be able to contribute significantly to the success of the DEMO project by ensuring the consistency and realism of the assumptions underpinning the design.

More information and application details:

DPhil opportunities in plasma physics at the University of Oxford

Projects start in October 2017; application deadline: 20 January 2017

The Plasma Theory Group at the Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics, University of Oxford, offers a number of opportunities for DPhil research in fusion plasma. All projects (some of which have a strong experimental component) are jointly supervised by Oxford faculty members and CCFE researchers. For project descriptions and how to apply, see

The University of Oxford also offers a programme of graduate-level courses in plasma theory within its Master Course in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics (these courses are available to all DPhil students, but there is also a stand-alone one-year MSc degree) and within the Oxford-Warwick-Imperial Centre for Postgraduate Training in Plasma Physics and High Energy Density Science.

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in the Science and Technology of Fusion Energy

Projects for 2017

The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in the Science and Technology of Fusion Energy, or Fusion CDT for short, will train at least 77 PhD students in disciplines related to fusion energy over five intakes (2014-2018).

Students have access to a range of fusion energy facilities across the UK, including the Central Laser Facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, the MAST and JET tokamaks at Culham in Oxfordshire, advanced materials research facilities, the Orion laser and high performance computing facilities. International links provide access to many other fusion devices around the world.

The combination of world-leading experts and world-class facilities creates an outstanding training environment for the next generation of fusion scientists – the generation who will exploit ITER, NIF and other international experiments to make fusion energy a reality.

A range of projects are now available starting in 2017; please see the Fusion CDT website for the topics and further information.