An optical floating-zone furnace
Optical floating-zone furnace in the University's Clarendon Laboratory
(Image Credit: Department of Physics)

DPhil in Condensed Matter Physics

About the course

Research projects available for the DPhil in Condensed Matter Physics include topics in biological physics, quantum materials and semiconductor materials, devices and nanostructures. Research in the department ranges from fundamental physics questions to interdisciplinary research and technological applications.

The DPhil in Condensed Matter Physics (CMP) is a research-based three- to four-year course. You will be supervised throughout the entire duration of the programme and join the research group of your supervisor. There will usually be opportunity to attend conferences or conduct experiments, both in the extensive research facilities of the Clarendon Laboratory and at other institutions inside or outside the UK. The course is hosted by the Condensed Matter Physics sub-department, one of six sub-departments of the Department of Physics, with most facilities and offices located in the Clarendon laboratory. 

You will be assigned to a research group: work on your original research project will start immediately and continue for the duration of your DPhil. 

During the first year, you will be required to attend lectures and courses to increase your basic and specialist physics knowledge and in preparation for the research you will carry out.  This taught element is tailor-made for the individual student, and will be agreed between you and your supervisor, with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.

In the following years, you will concentrate on your research work, though PhD students are strongly encouraged to take part in further courses, including a rich palette of transferable skills courses offered by the University, and attend seminars and colloquia in the Department of Physics and elsewhere. Some research themes organise workshops and away days, specifically designed to give DPhil students the opportunity to present their research to a broader audience. Poster and oral presentations are also part of the ongoing student assessment (see below).

In exceptional cases, applicants may apply for a MSc by Research degree (MSc by Research in Condensed Matter Physics), which requires a shorter registration period. Please contact the department for further information and advice about admission to this course.

Further information about this course can be found on the course page on the department website.

Research and Projects

You will be assigned a specific research project, which can evolve during the course of your DPhil. A list of research projects on offer in the three research themes of the Condensed Matter Physics sub-department (Quantum Materials, Biological Physics and Semiconductor Materials, Nanostructures and Devices) can be found on the course pages on the department website. Please note that not all projects may be available at the time of your application.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department of Physics and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Physics.

Many DPhil students are co-supervised by a University member of staff, usually from Physics or another Department within the University. Some schemes, such as the Joint Max Planck Training Programme in Quantum Materials or the Large-Scale facility studentships (eg the Diamond Doctoral Studentship Programme) require a co-supervisor from outside the University (see course page on the department website for details). In all these cases, your main University supervisor will at all times be responsible for your progress and for ensuring that the project is of suitable content and level to satisfy the normal expectations of a DPhil at the University.

The frequency of student-supervisor meetings varies depending on the nature of the project; students should expect to interact with supervisors regularly, eg weekly or, in some cases, monthly. Most supervisors run an extended research group, including several DPhil students and post-docs, who interact very frequently (usually on a daily basis). New students will also be welcome in the wider Oxford Physics community, currently hosting over 350 DPhil students, with multiple opportunities of mutual support and social interactions.

You are strongly encouraged to contact potential supervisors for further information.

Assessment

At the end of the first year you are expected to submit a report on your research and to defend it in an interview with the Graduate Studies Panel and a specialist reader. The panel will determine whether you can transfer status from Probationer Research Student (PRS) to DPhil student.

Towards the end of the second year, you will present a poster in an open session, attended by the Graduate Studies Panel and many members of the Condensed Matter Physics sub-department. Discussion of your research project with panel members and others at the poster session will contribute to the decision whether to confirm your status as DPhil student the following year.  This decision will be usually taken at the beginning of the third year, following an interview with the Graduate Studies Panel, focussing on your current results and your thesis plans.

At the end of the third year, you are expected to give a talk, attended the Graduate Studies Panel and many members of the Condensed Matter Physics sub-department, and to answer questions following your presentation.  

You will be expected to submit a substantial original thesis after three or, at most, four years from the date of admission. To be successfully awarded a DPhil you will need to defend your thesis orally (viva voce) in front of two appointed examiners (one internal and one external).  Most students would have published one or more original research paper by the time they are awarded a DPhil.

Graduate destinations

Candidates for a DPhil in Condensed Matter Physics will have demonstrated a strong grounding on the relevant physics foundations, combined with experimental and analytical skills (eg the ability of design their own experiments to test hypotheses), strong motivation and resilience and the ability to manage their workload independently, often under time pressure – all qualities that are much sought after by potential employers.  Therefore, a DPhil in Condensed Matter Physics serves as a broad high-level qualification, providing a springboard for a variety of careers in research and beyond. Past students have found careers in academic and industrial research organisations, the financial sector, information technology, consultancy, media etc. Some go on to further training in, for example, medicine and law.

Changes to this course and your supervision

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

Other courses suggested by the department

Materials DPhil
Engineering DPhil

Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in physics or another relevant science. The equivalent of a UK four-year integrated MPhys or MSci degree is typically required. Bachelor's degrees with a minimum four years' standard duration may satisfy the entry requirements.

Entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent. In exceptional cases, the requirement for a first-class or strong upper-second class undergraduate degree with honours can be alternatively demonstrated by a graduate master’s degree or substantial directly-related professional or research experience.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the typical minimum GPA sought is 3.3 out of 4.0. However, selection of candidates also depends on other factors in your application and most successful applicants have achieved higher GPA scores. 

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

It is helpful to include details of any of the following applicable attributes, which may strengthen your application:

  • Details of any publications. Many candidates with no peer-reviewed publications receive offers each year.
  • Research or professional experience in areas aligned with the proposed supervisors' research interests.
  • Depending on the project, evidence of training in scientific computer programming or related numerical techniques.
  • Previous experience in a scientific or technical research environment.

English language proficiency

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's standard level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's standard level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's standard level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.06.5

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

100Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*185176
C2 Proficiency185176

*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.

Declaring extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.

References

You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process and following a pre-selection based on the application.  

If you are a UK or EU candidate, you will be invited to attend a personal interview in Oxford, though acceptance is not mandatory. If you are a candidate from outside the EU or if you prefer the virtual format, the interview will be conducted via video conference. Information about the planned interview dates can be found on the Condensed Matter Physics webpages for prospective students. 

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.

An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed

Shortlisting and selection

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

  • socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
  • country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
  • protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.

Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

Other factors governing whether places can be offered

The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
  • the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
  • minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.

Offer conditions for successful applications

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions

In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Some postgraduate research students in science, engineering and technology subjects will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate prior to applying for a Student visa (under the Student Route). For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.

Resources

Academic resources

The Clarendon Laboratory has extensive experimental facilities for research in Condensed Matter Physics, and most DPhil will have the opportunity to access the appropriate facilities for research in their field. These include:

  • The nanofabrication facility
  • The crystal growth laboratory
  • The Centre for Applied Superconductivity laboratory
  • The magnetic characterisation suite
  • The MBE facility for epitaxial thin films and multilayers
  • The X-ray diffraction laboratory
  • The Nicholas Kurti High Magnetic Field Laboratory
  • The Atomic Force Microscopy Laboratory
  • The facilities for protein expression, cell culture and biophysical measurements
  • The Radcliffe Science Library.

More details and a full description of these facilities can be found on the Condensed Matter Physics webpages for prospective students and the facilities webpages on the departmental web site.

DPhil students have access to the Radcliffe Science Library, which also provides extensive on-line services, including access to most relevant journals in the field of Condensed Matter Physics.

Non-Academic Resources

There is a range of welfare and academic support available in the Department. Your supervisor, the Director of Graduate Studies, and Graduate Administrator are all available to offer support. There are also several support networks in Physics, all of which are available to our graduate students.

  • Oxford Physics Gender Equity Network (OPGEN), which is run by a committee drawn from across the students, academics and staff in the Department of Physics and organises events and campaigns to promote gender equity in the department.
  • The Graduate Liaison Committee (GLC). The GLC’s purpose is to discuss issues that may concern graduate students in the department such as the quality of graduate courses, availability of skills training, accessibility to library and IT services, and general student welfare.
  • The Graduate Peer Support Network, which is a subgroup of the informal mentoring network Physics Thrive.
  • Mental health first aiders are an initial point of contact for students experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress. They are members of staff of our department, and have completed a two-day mental health first-aid training course, accredited by Mental Health England. They are trained to recognise the symptoms of mental ill health, provide initial help and guide a person towards appropriate professional help. Mental Health First Aiders are not trained to be therapists, but they are taught how to respond in a crisis.

In addition to the resources available within the Department, there is additional support available via the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU) and your college.

OUSU’s Student Advice Service also provides a confidential and impartial listening and advice service, and the University has a professionally staffed confidential Student Counselling Service for assistance with personal, emotional, social and academic problems.

There is an extensive framework of support for graduates within each college. Your college will allocate to you a College Advisor from among its Senior Members, usually in a cognate subject, who will arrange to see you from time to time and whom you may contact for additional advice and support on academic and other matters. In college you may also approach the Tutor for Graduates and/or the Senior Tutor for advice. The Tutor for Graduates is a fellow of the college with particular responsibility for the interests and welfare of graduate students. In some colleges, the Senior Tutor will also have the role of Tutor for Graduates. Each college will also have other named individuals who can offer individual advice.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. 

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.

Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:

Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the department's website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2023-24

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£8,960
Overseas£29,700

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

Information about course fees

Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

Continuation charges

Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

Where can I find further information about fees?

The Fees and Funding section of this website provides further information about course fees, including information about fee status and eligibility and your length of fee liability.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.

College preference

All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs). 

For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges. 

The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Condensed Matter Physics:

Before you apply

Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. We recommend that you submit your application well in advance - two or three weeks earlier. 

Application fee waivers

An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:

  • applicants from low-income countries;
  • refugees and displaced persons; 
  • UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and 
  • applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.

You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.

Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students

If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission.

Applying to more than one physics DPhil course

You can indicate whether your application should be considered for other physics DPhil courses by following the instructions for stating the ‘Proposed field and title of research project'. If you decide to do this, you will only need to submit a single application and pay the application fee once. 

Application fee waivers for eligible associated courses

If you apply to this course and up to two eligible associated courses from our predefined list during the same cycle, you can request an application fee waiver so that you only need to pay one application fee.

Contacting the department

Before you apply, you should identify an academic member of staff who is willing to supervise you and has the resources to support your proposed research project. You should do this by contacting them directly. Details of academic staff, including their research interests and contact details, can be found on the department's website.

General enquiries should be made to the department's graduate studies administrator.

Research areas may overlap across the different physics DPhil courses. If you are in any doubt about which course(s) to apply to, you are advised to read each of the physics course pages carefully before starting an application. If you have any course-related questions, please refer to the 'Further information and enquiries' section on each page for the relevant contact details.

Completing your application

You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.

Proposed field and title of research project

You should use this field of the application form to indicate whether you would like your application to be considered for other physics DPhil courses. To do this, insert the relevant acronym from the list below for each additional course that you would like your application to be considered for:

Your application will be considered for each additional course that you indicate - you should not apply for these courses separately or pay an additional application fee. Please ensure that your research proposal (which you will be asked to upload in a later section of the application form) meets the assessment criteria described on each relevant course page.

If would like your application to be considered for only this course, you do not need to enter an acronym from the list above.

Proposed supervisor

Under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic (s) who you would like to supervise your research. 

Referees:
Three overall, all of which must be academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, ability to work in a group. All references should be academic.

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Research project proposal:
A minimum of 300 words, up to a maximum of 1,500 words

The research proposal should outline your reasons for wishing to study for a DPhil in Condensed Matter Physics and the type of research project that you wish to undertake. It is not necessary to be very specific about your choice of project, but if you do have a clear preference for a particular research area or supervisor please indicate and explain this.

The proposal should be written in English and the word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

This will be assessed for evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study; the ability to present a reasoned case in English; and commitment to the subject.

Start or continue your application

You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application Guide Apply

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