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Physics and Chemistry of Solids

Experimental study of dynamic behaviour at short timescales

Working with industry

The majority of our work is industrially funded, and the group's ethos is to undertake rersearch which is both of direct practical application and wider academic interest. In the long term it is necessary for the research to either lead to a PhD or publishable scientific output - with exceptions in certain circumstances (such as short consultancy projects or in support of certain sensitive government-funded projects).

There are a variety of ways in which we can work with industrial partners, and while the major part of the group's activities involves relatively long projects, at both PhD and Postdoctoral level, scope exists for some smaller scale consultancy type projects to be taken on by group members.


These projects would typically last up to a month. They tend to have a slightly broader definition of research than is the case for the longer projects, and are often used as an entry point for new collaborations: Feasibility studies, literature reviews and short sets of experiments constitute the majority of this type of work.

PhD studentships

These typically run for a period of 3-4 years and involve someone who has completed a relevant degree undertaking an extended period of research. From a collaboration point of view it should be noted that PhD students are still learning the relevant research skills and therefore cannot be expected to provide instant solutions. We are however keen to ensure that progress goals are met and that interim reporting of progress keeps sponsors informed. The most successful industry-funded PhD projects tend to arise from situations where the problem - let alone the solution - is not particularly well defined, as a PhD offers significantly more scope to explore an area of research in greater depth and breadth than is typically possible in an industrial setting. Various funding options exist for PhDs, both directly and in collaboration with the research councils.

Postdoctoral research projects

Projects at the postdoctoral level are able to be much more varied in their length and can range from a couple of months upwards. While the cost of employing a postdoctoral researcher is higher than having a PhD student for the equivalent time, this can be balanced out against the increased flexibility and experience that can be brought to bear. Projects can take two forms, either employing one of our current members of staff (subject to availability) or, if the project is sufficiently large, we ware able to take on new staff members to undertake the research.

Major partnerships

A number of our sponsors have wider ranging agreements with the group involving greater numbers of people and longer timescales. One sponsor has been funding both senior researchers and PhD students for over 30 years. While these larger collaborations have grown out of smaller projects, it is an avenue for collaboration that is possible within the framework of the group.

For more information and to discuss funding options, please contact Dr David Williamson


Working with academia

There are a number of ways in which academics can collaborate with the group on research projects, and we are always happy to develop new relationships with people at other institutions.

Visiting researchers

It is possible to come and visit Cambridge for a period of time to work in the laboratories here. This is generally something that would require funding to be provided (assuming that it wasn't already covered in a project budget) to cover accommodation/salary costs and use of equipment (though this and any departmental visitors fees are relatively small). A number of our collaborators also visit on a regular basis and can acquire official visitor status or in some cases honorary membership of one of the colleges.

Similarly, it is also possible for members of our group to visit other institutions in order to lecture, provide experimental assistance, training or similar. Details of such arrangements would have to be worked out on a case by case basis and would be dependent on staff availability.

Collaborative projects

We are always open to the possibility of collaborative research projects. This might simply take the form of greater knowledge exchange in areas of mutual interest but can extend to larger joint funded projects. We have been involved in a number of similar projects in the past and have experience of working as part of collaborative research teams, both with academia and industry and within the UK and internationally. If collaborative grant applications are of interest, then please do not hesitate to contact us.

We have a number of long term and strong academic links with other institutions, some of which are detailed below:

Prof. Marc Meyers and Prof. Vitali Nesterenko at UCSD (USA)

Prof. Naresh Thadhani at Georgia Tech (USA)

Prof. Tim Weihs at Johns Hopkins (USA)

Prof. John Borg at Marquette University (USA)

Prof. Colin Pulham at the University of Edinburgh (UK)

Dr. Jiri Pachman at the Institute for Energetic Materials at the University of Pardubice (Czech Republic)

Former group members Dr. Bill Proud and Dr. Dave Chapman at the Institute of Shock Physics at Imperial College. 

Prof. Paul Dastoor at the University of Newcastle (Australia)

Prof. Mikael Sjödahl and others at the Luleå University of Technology in Sweden (who have just opened the John Field Laboratory).

Phillipe Herve at LEME


Outreach & media engagement

From time to time we are asked to contribute to various forms of popular media, a few examples of which are linked to below. We're always happy to discuss potential outreach and media engagement events; please do get in touch!

We've appeared on the "Naked Scientists" a few times, most recently with James' discussion about bulletproof glass; some years ago David was asked how fat you'd need to be to stop a bullet.

The 'space penetrator', for which we provided small-scale proof-of-principle testing and supported full-scale trials in Wales, caught the interest of BBC news

We also get involved in various outreach activities - from lectures, seminars and supervisions given by our research staff and PhD students, to the annual "Physics @ Work" flagship outreach event at the Cavendish



There are a number of ways in which visits to the group can be arranged for both current and prospective industrial partners and academic collaborators.

Firstly we welcome short visits from any interested parties and are happy to conduct tours of the group facilities and hold small informal meetings with group members with relevant scientific experiences and interests.

At a more formal level we can organise longer meeting days to discuss either the progress of existing projects or to look for further (or new) opportunities for collaboration.

Parking can usually be arranged at the department and advice can be given on public transport, hotel accommodation and the wider attractions to be found in the Cambridge area.

The group also welcomes more extended visits from industrial partners should collaborative working on a particular project be desirable. In this instance it may be possible to arrange accommodation in one of the colleges and desk space/internet connections and so on can be made available.

If you are interested in arranging a visit please contact one of the members of staff.