EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Topological Design

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy


Topology is a particular study of the spatial structure of objects, based on counting discrete properties, such as the number of holes and bridges in a sponge. Whichever way the sponge is stretched or squeezed, these numbers stay the same. In fact, the elastic properties of the sponge depend on this structure. It turns out that topological properties like this play a role in the physical properties of certain materials, such as the way they conduct electricity or how light propagates through them. This has led to an explosion of research and development into new kinds of materials with unprecedented properties, designed using fundamental physical and mathematical principles which can be fabricated and, in the future, manufactured on a large scale.

We will train the first cohort of doctoral topological scientists, who will have a broad expertise in topological science and design, focused towards the development of new topological materials that address the needs of industry. Drawn from mathematically-informed backgrounds including physics, engineering and materials science, they will develop a broad technical appreciation of topological design within all of these disciplines, and gain research experience in mini-projects in theoretical and experimental groups. Their main PhD research project can be with supervisors drawn from all academic Schools in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Birmingham, in partnership with our wide range of partners from industry. This technical education will be entwined with a programme of transferable skills developing the critical skills of innovation, entrepreneurship and responsible innovation.

The academic leadership of this CDT has co-created the training programme in collaboration with a range of industrial partners who will contribute to the directions of the research projects, provide internships and help the students and academic supervisors focus on the needs of end users in their research. These partners will not only be drawn from relevant industries, such as communications, manufacturing and defence sectors, but more widely from knowledge industries including software developers and commercialisation lawyers.

The resulting CDT will be a beacon for cross-disciplinary research across the physical sciences and spearheading academic-industrial partnership over the coming decades as topological design becomes a crucial principle for the development of future technologies, underpinning the future prosperity of the UK.

Planned Impact

1. Our primary impact will be by supplying the UK knowledge economy with skilled multidisciplinary researchers, equipped with the technical and transferable skills to establish the UK as pre-eminent in topology-based future technologies. The training they receive will make them proficient in the demands of the translation of academic science (with a broad background in condensed matter physics, materials science and applied electromagnetics) to industry, with direct experience from internship and industry engagement days. With their exposure to both theoretical research (including modelling and big data-driven problems) and experimental practice, our graduates will be ideally equipped to tackle research challenges of the future and communicate to a broad audience, ready to lead teams made up of diverse specialised components. The potential impact of our researchers will be enhanced by a broad programme of transferable skills, focusing on innovation, entrepreneurship and responsible research. Beneficiaries here will include the students themselves as they embark on future careers intertwining academic research and industry, as well as the other sectors listed below.

2. The research undertaken by students in the CDT will have impact on the future direction of topological science. Related disciplines, including physics, materials science, mathematics, and information technology will benefit from the cross-disciplinary fertilisation it will enable. The CDT will not only provide an interface between research in physical sciences and engineering, but also provide a route for academia to interact effectively with industry. This will help organise researchers from different disciplines to collaborate around the needs of future technology to design materials based on topological properties.

3. Our research will enable industries to set the direction of topological research around the needs of commercial research and development, leading to wealth generation for the UK, and to influence the mindset of the next generation of future technologists. Specifically, topological design has the promise to revolutionise devices and materials relevant to communications, microwave and terahertz technologies, optical information processing, manufacturing, and cybersecurity. Through partnership with organisations from the wider knowledge sector, we will deepen the relationship between academic research and disciplines including IP law and scientific software development.

4. Our CDT will also have impact on the wider academic community. New specialist courses and training in transferable skills will be developed utilising cutting-edge multimedia technologies. Our international research collaborators, including prominent global laboratories, will benefit from placements and research visits of the CDT students. Our interdisciplinary research, combining the needs of academia and industry will be an exemplar of the effectiveness of the CDT model on an international stage.

5. The wider community will benefit from our organised public engagement activities. These will include direct interaction activities, such as demonstrating at the Birmingham Thinktank Science Centre, the Royal Society Summer Exhibition, local schools and community centres.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S02297X/1 01/07/2019 31/12/2027
2256391 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/09/2019 31/08/2023 Orneste Buitkute
2256234 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Emily Nevinson
2256650 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2019 31/10/2019 Martin Hawes
2256386 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Barnaby Hawthorn
2237173 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2019 30/10/2020 Alexander Krolak
2256345 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Jay Morris
2256590 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Sebastian Gilbert
2449766 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 28/09/2020 14/01/2025 Amy Tansell
2449876 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 David Odetade
2449022 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Joseph Baker
2450858 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Niall Rodgers
2449848 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Angus Crookes
2450776 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Adam Seedat
2450687 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Luca Panconi
2450603 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 David Reid
2450768 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Jack Sykes
2646180 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/02/2021 31/01/2025 Francesco Careri
2594354 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 20/09/2021 19/09/2025 Hannah Yorwerth
2594393 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 20/09/2021 19/09/2025 Edward Penny
2594556 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 20/09/2021 19/09/2025 Ellis Williams
2592320 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2021 30/09/2025 Adam Walker
2602446 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2021 30/09/2025 Kiran Nutter
2594436 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2021 30/09/2025 Emelia Hayward
2594415 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2021 30/09/2025 Kerr Maxwell
2602201 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2021 30/09/2025 Mario Ongkiko
2594568 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2021 30/09/2025 Dina Fouad
2592241 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2021 30/09/2025 Amie Troath
2897991 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2022 30/09/2026 Guy Harrop
2744419 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2022 30/09/2026 Don Pubudu Jayakody
2745851 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2022 30/09/2026 Bryan Chan
2743765 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2022 30/09/2026 Joshua Barrass
2746280 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2022 30/09/2026 John Cooper
2746274 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2022 30/09/2026 Kate Hadley
2746263 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2022 30/09/2026 Kathryn Langley
2745758 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2022 01/10/2026 Jatinder Singh
2744408 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2022 30/09/2026 Thomas Lawson
2743975 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2022 30/09/2026 William Turner
2744064 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2022 30/09/2026 Luke Hands
2747873 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2022 25/12/2026 Elizabeth Iles
2897962 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 09/01/2023 31/12/2026 Phoebe Cutts
2815384 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 06/03/2023 05/03/2027 Adarsh Bura
2882191 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2023 30/09/2027 Jacob Bracegirdle-Morais
2882195 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2023 30/09/2027 Elizabeth Evans
2884004 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2023 30/09/2027 Maria Ines Faria Mendes
2882249 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2023 30/09/2027 Tahlia Palmer
2882735 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2023 30/09/2027 Kylie Savoye
2881829 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2023 30/09/2027 Euan Pattinson
2882199 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2023 30/09/2027 Sean Mitchell
2882106 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2023 30/09/2027 Anju Sajan
2884058 Studentship EP/S02297X/1 01/10/2023 30/09/2027 Catherine Burne