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Particle Physics Department

The Particle Physics Department (PPD) at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) participates in and supports the UK particle physics experimental programme, providing capabilities that complement and go beyond what can be done in the universities. Our work includes:

  • Construction of large detector systems
  • Engineering
  • Computing
  • Data Analysis
  • Accelerator expertise
  • R&D for future initiatives

PPD physicists and technical staff maintain and develop many world-leading experiments within the UK programme of particle physics research, participate in the experimental programme with university groups, contribute to training of research students, and provide support and general infrastructure for university groups.

We run a number of Public Understanding of Science events for schools and the public, including Particle Physics Masterclasses. We also administer the annual RAL Summer School for Experimental High Energy Physics Students. Each year, we take on a handful of Summer Students.


STFC has a Science in Society Schools Liaison Officer covering particle physics, astronomy and other sciences.


Questions concerning the RAL studentships should be addressed to Monika Wielers, tel +44 (0)1235 445 966).

Further information about the Particle Physics Department and its experimental programme can be obtained from the Director, Particle Physics, Professor David Newbold, tel: 01235 446760.


Unfortunately, we are unable to take any postgraduate students at present.

In previous years, there have opportunities for graduates to study for a research degree (PhD/D.Phil) in particle physics at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL). Financial support is normally through an STFC Postgraduate Studentship award, available to UK residents and EU nationals or Nationals of EEA member states.

The general terms and conditions for STFC Postgraduate Studentships apply. Students will be based in the Particle Physics Department (PPD) at RAL, supervised by PPD staff and registered for a full-time PhD/D.Phil degree at the collaborating University. During the first year they will be required to attend appropriate lectures at RAL and at the collaborating University.

RAL students in Particle Physics are registered as full time postgraduate students at the collaborating University. They are based in the Particle Physics Department at RAL but may also be required to visit other UK and/or overseas laboratories, e.g. CERN, Geneva; DESY, Hamburg etc.

Applicants will normally be expected to have a UK first degree in physics or other appropriate subject, with first or upper second class honours, or to have an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard from a university or educational institution of university rank, or to have a recognised Master's degree.

In most cases students will be required to register initially for an MPhil/MSc degree, with the expectation of transfer to the PhD/D.Phil programme after the successful completion of one year and with the approval of the Physics Department at the collaborating University and the Particle Physics Department at RAL.

A candidate whose qualifications, although otherwise acceptable, are inadequate in a particular field may be required to pass specified qualifying examinations in that field during the period of their MPhil/MSc registration and before presenting themselves for the degree. If qualifying requirements are specified for PhD/D.Phil registration, they must normally be satisfied before the period of registration can begin.

All students whose first language is not English must be able to provide recent evidence that their spoken and written command of the English language is adequate. This requirement is specified in order to ensure that the academic progress of students is not hindered by language difficulties and that students are able to benefit from their time at RAL.

The required evidence may take the form of a minimum of 18 months' education or work experience conducted in English and undertaken no more than three years prior to the proposed date of enrolment. Alternatively, applicants must provide a recently obtained acceptable English language qualification or test result. The qualification or test result must have been awarded no more than three years prior to the proposed date of enrolment.

A variety of qualifications are accepted. Applicants should send this evidence, or arrange for it to be sent, at the same time as their formal application is made. RAL reserves the right to require any student to withdraw from the degree programme if, in the opinion of the supervisor, the student's proficiency in English is inadequate.

Financial support is available for UK residents, EU nationals or Nationals of EEA member states subject to the general terms and conditions which apply to STFC Standard Research Studentships as given in the booklet "postgraduate studentships rules and regulation". Fees for the three year period are paid directly to the collaborating University. In addition a maintenance allowance is paid over three years at the "outside London" rate.

Students not covered by the above may still be accepted to study for a PhD/D.Phil, under appropriate circumstances, provided they meet all the relevant entry criteria. All students will be entitled to the normal rights, privileges and use of facilities at the collaborating University, particularly those of the graduate school, and will be subject to the same responsibilities, rules and regulations as other registered graduate students.

Whilst not an "employee" of STFC, when working at RAL, students will be required to comply with a number of policies/procedures including those relating to health and safety, no-smoking, code of conduct for staff etc as well as conforming with normal staff requirements for medical and security clearance. They will have the same access to Welfare, Occupational Health and Nursery facilities as STFC employees.

The primary supervisor for RAL students will be a RAL Research Physicist (or appropriate RAL staff scientist). There will normally be a second supervisor from among the appropriate staff at the collaborating University. RAL students will normally be expected to see their University supervisors at least once per term. RAL students will be required to attend formal lecture courses as specified by RAL and the collaborating University.

Previous years

For entry October 2010 we filled 4 joint studentships as follows: ATLAS b-physics (with Lancaster University), CMS Long-lived particles (with Imperial College, London), and T2K measurement of theta23 (with Oxford University), LHCb (with Oxford University).

In 2009 we had 3 STFC-funded RAL studentships, one on ATLAS in collaboration with Oxford University, one on CMS with Bristol University, and one on LHCb with one of Warwick University. We also had a share in 2 SEPNet-funded theory/experiment studentships, one on Dark Matter search in ATLAS (project 2) in collaboration with Royal Holloway (RHUL), and one on EW Symmetry Breaking in CMS with Southampton University (link opens in a new window).


Outreach activities


The Particle Physics Department, as part of the STFC, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, contributes to the Council's mission through:

  • Studying the fundamental constituents of matter and their interactions by designing, building and executing world-leading experiments, in partnership with the UK particle physics community, at accelerator laboratories and elsewhere; by analysing and interpreting results from these experiments; and by testing current ideas about the structure of matter and searching for new phenomena which will lead to a deeper understanding of theories
  • Performing world-leading research and development in areas closely related to the UK particle physics programme, such as particle accelerators, computing and particle physics detectors in collaboration with the UK particle physics community
  • Ensuring the efficient use through effective management of the resources allocated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council on behalf of the UK particle physics community
  • Supporting the UK particle physics community through close collaboration, and through the provision of facilities and technical expertise within the STFC Rutherford Appleton and Daresbury Laboratories
  • Designing and developing appropriate technologies for particle physics in partnership with industry, being alert to opportunities for their wider application, thus contributing to the UK's economic competitiveness and the quality of life
  • Working with other stakeholders to develop the future UK particle physics programme, and providing vision, leadership and strategic advice
  • Promoting public understanding, education and training in the field of science

The Particle Physics Department fulfils its mission through its research programme in experimental particle physics, and detector and accelerator research and development. This programme is funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council and deliverables and resources are agreed each year.

The PPD programme is project-based and contains a mix of projects ranging from large, complex collaborative construction projects to smaller, single-partner upgrade activities. The UK contribution to these projects is funded and managed through RAL PPD, with the exception of University staff costs.

The programme is peer-reviewed every two years by the STFC Particle Physics Grants Panel, alongside the activities of Particle Physics groups in UK universities; the most recent review was held in June 2006.

The programme has three main strands — completion of projects now in construction, exploitation and evolution of the projects now running, and development of new projects and technologies. The Department is directly involved in around 15 separate projects in several broad groups (ATLAS, CMS, Precision Weak Physics, Collider Physics, Computing and Accelerator Physics).

Project management is an integral part of PPD's departmental management arrangements and complies with the laboratory's corporate policy on project management; risk management is an integral part of the project management framework.

Staff in PPD are expected to maintain and enhance their skills, in order to enable the Department to remain a world-leading particle physics group. In order to carry out this programme, the Department needs to:

  • Maintain its position as a world-leading research group in particle physics and related areas through the excellence of its staff
  • Enable access for the UK particle physics community to the world-leading scientific and technical expertise in developing detectors and accelerators, and operating large-scale facilities, available within the STFC RAL and Daresbury national laboratories
  • Ensure that its capability in information technology and scientific computing is sufficient to support the UK particle physics programme
  • Manage the programme efficiently and effectively, in line with corporate policies and objectives on project and programme management and accountability
  • Ensure that all obligations under STFC local regulations, including health, safety and the environment, are fulfilled

Last updated: 19 September 2019


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