Teaching a machine to move atoms


Contact Dr Adam Sweetman to discuss this project further informally.

Project description

It is now routine in world leading laboratories to perform experiments where single atoms can be placed with atomic precision. These experiments are performed using scanning probe microscopes, and allow us to study the electrical and chemical properties of matter with sub-molecular, and even “sub-atomic” precision.

However, these experiments rely on highly trained expert researchers operating machines by hand in an extremely time-consuming process. There is now significant interest in other fields towards developing machine learning algorithms, and autonomous systems, to allow machines to understand complex problems – for example facial recognition and self-driving vehicles.

In this project the candidate will build on recent developments to develop automation and machine learning algorithms for integration with cutting edge scanning probe microscopes investigating intermolecular and interatomic interactions, essentially teaching a machine to “see” and move single atoms and molecules. This will be accomplished by direct interfacing with the Ultra-high resolution scanning probe microscopes currently housed in the MNP group at the University of Leeds.

The successful candidate for this project should have a keen interest both in experimental physics and in programming (pre-existing experience of Python and/or LabVIEW would be particularly useful) alongside a desire to work as part of a team of dedicated researchers in a challenging experimental environment.

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with or expecting a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1) in Physics, Chemistry or a related subject, and/or a Master's degree in a relevant subject.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

Additional staff contact

Dr Kevin Critchley

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university's website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the PhD you wish to be considered for is the 'Teaching a machine to move atoms’ as well as Dr Adam Sweetman as your proposed supervisor.

We welcome scholarship applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office, e: maps.pgr.admissions@leeds.ac.uk