The University of Southampton

Integrated Photonic Devices - PhD Projects

The Integrated Photonic Devices Group, led by Professor Senthil Murugan Ganapathy, was established in early 1990 by Professor James Wilkinson to meet the demand for optical device functions of increasing complexity and parallelism. Planar photonic devices are exploited in applications as diverse as telecommunications, tuneable and short-pulse miniature laser light sources, diagnostics in medicine, the environment and food processing, and early-warning sensors for biological agents. We exploit surface science, waveguide engineering, laser physics and microstructure technology to realise robust mass-producible integrated optical circuits, to further the monolithic integration of diverse devices, and to develop novel materials processing for optoelectronic devices. 

All PhD projects:

  • Funding: For UK students, tuition fees and a stipend at the UKRI rate plus £2,000 ORC enhancement tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years (totalling around £21,000 for 2024/25, rising annually). EU and Horizon Europe students are eligible for scholarships. CSC students are eligible for fee waivers. Funding for other international applicants is very limited and highly competitive. Overseas students who have secured or are seeking external funding are welcome to apply.
  • Entry requirements. Applicants should have a first class or a good upper-second class degree (or the equivalent) in physics, engineering or a related discipline.
  • Closing date: Applications are accepted throughout the year. The start date will typically be late September, but other dates are possible.
  • For further information please contact:
  • Apply online here.


PhD Projects:

Towards rapid and early cancer diagnostics at the point of care using machine learning assisted vibrational spectroscopy

Supervisory teamProf. Senthil Murugan Ganapathy 

Cancer continues to be one of the most prevalent diseases worldwide. Cancer is associated with a very high mortality rate (50% survival at 10 years) as most cancers are diagnosed at a late stage. Recent advances have been made in early detection, though the assays employed are still experimental, highly expensive and can suffer from poor sensitivity and specificity. On the other hand, vibrational spectroscopy (Mid-IR and Raman) has shown to be robust in detecting cancer-specific analytes within the blood and other bodily fluids. 

This Ph.D. project focuses on advancing cancer diagnostics through vibrational spectroscopy, specifically targeting novel biomarkers such as circulating tumor DNA (ct-DNA), epigenetic markers, and microRNA (miRNA). Utilizing infrared and Raman spectroscopy, the project aims to unveil unique vibrational profiles associated with these biomolecules in biological samples. Innovative on-chip photonic device platform will be developed to enhance the precision of biomarker detection. Integrating machine learning, the research aims to develop computational models for the identification, classification, and prediction of cancer based on these specific biomarkers. Anticipated outcomes include a robust set of vibrational spectroscopy-based biomarkers detection, offering a significant stride toward personalized cancer diagnostics through non-invasive and real-time assessment of ct-DNA, epigenetic markers, and miRNA expression. This research holds promise for transforming cancer diagnosis with early detection and precise characterisation of cancer subtypes.

Join us in shaping the future of cancer diagnostics and making a real impact in healthcare. Apply now and be part of a team committed to advancing solutions for early cancer detection challenges.


Transforming respiratory care at the bedside using machine learning assisted on-chip vibrational spectroscopy

Supervisor: Prof. Senthil Murugan Ganapathy

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a widespread respiratory condition affecting all ages, causes respiratory failure due to inflamed, fluid-filled lungs hindering gas exchange. COVID-19 highlighted ARDS globally, leading to hospitalizations and deaths. No specific therapy exists, and surfactant loss worsens outcomes, with 30-50% mortality. Oxygen therapy is crucial but excessive administration can damage tissues. Our study proposes on-chip spectroscopy for rapid in-vivo surfactant analysis, aiding precise treatments and prevention across all ages. 

This PhD project is focused on transforming respiratory care at the bedside to develop a user-friendly, palmtop spectrometer that brings rapid bedside biomarker diagnosis within easy reach for clinicians. Building on our success in mid-infrared spectroscopy and machine learning, our team is creating a practical point-of-care device. Utilizing disposable enhanced spectroscopic chips, this project aims to analyse in-vivo surfactant metabolism swiftly. By doing so, clinicians can make informed decisions, stratify patients, and prescribe targeted therapies promptly.

Join us in shaping the future of respiratory diagnostics and making a real impact in healthcare. Apply now and be part of a team committed to advancing solutions for respiratory challenges.


2D Material enhanced ATR and Raman chips for biomedical sensing applications

Supervisor: Prof. Senthil Murugan Ganapathy

There is an urgent need for diagnostic tools capable of swiftly delivering results directly at patients' bedsides and within doctors' practices. The prompt and precise outcomes obtained will enable rapid therapeutic decisions, ultimately leading to lives being saved at a reduced cost. In contrast, current technologies necessitate the transfer of samples to centrally located laboratories that are equipped with sophisticated instruments and staffed by highly skilled personnel. 

Both Mid-IR and Raman molecular fingerprint spectroscopies have been shown to be powerful biodiagnostic tools for specific biomarkers. They have the potential to be deployed at the point of care and bedside for rapid biomarker analysis. Enhancing the sensitivity and improving the detection limit of current Mid-IR and Raman spectroscopic platforms are most important to exploit them for early diagnosis of disease biomarkers in point of care setting. Recently two-dimensional (2D) materials such as graphene and transition metal di-chalcogenides (TMDC) have shown huge potentials for spectroscopic signal enhancement. In this project, we will develop highly sensitive ATR and Raman chips empowered with 2D material layer for super enhanced IR and Raman spectroscopies. We will develop bulk silicon and silicon on insulator (SOI) platforms coated with TMDCs in both ATR and waveguide configurations for enhanced Mid-IR and Raman spectroscopies. The diagnostic potential of these platforms will be evaluated using the detection of cancer and acute respiratory distress syndrome biomarkers in collaboration with The Institute of Cancer Research, London and University Hospital Southampton. 

Join us in shaping the future of biomedical diagnostics and making a real impact in healthcare. Apply now and be part of a team committed to advancing solutions for biomedical diagnostic challenges.


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