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PhDs in Science and Engineering

Dual-award between The University of Manchester and the University of Tokyo

The University of Manchester and the University of Tokyo have partnered to offer a dual-award PhD programme on projects across the Faculty of Science and Engineering, with applicants spending four years across Manchester and Tokyo.

Lab assistant using microscope

Broaden your horizons, take advantage of the incredible opportunity to conduct your research in two countries and benefit from world-class academic supervision of two leading institutions.

Why undertake a dual-award?

  • Embrace the challenge of living abroad in a brand new country.
  • Form part of a talented cohort seeking to address challenges across science and engineering, and choose from a range of projects.
  • Develop a global perspective and international fluency to benefit your future development, opening the door to exciting new job opportunities.
  • Boost your intercultural skills and become part of a talented pool of prospective employees for UK academia and industry.

About the programme

The dual award PhD programme - launched in May 2023 - complements the wider agreement on academic cooperation between our two institutions.

Postgraduate researchers will be jointly selected and spend time in Manchester and Tokyo, benefiting from the expertise, facilities and infrastructure of two globally renowned institutions.

Students will be awarded a degree from both institutions, based on a single research experience managed cooperatively by both institutions.

Busy road crossing in the centre of Tokyo at night


This dual-award will provide up to three fully funded scholarships for candidates commencing the four-year programme in April 2025.

The scholarship will include all basic level tuition fees, standard living allowances for all four years of programme, two years of allowances at UKRI equivalent stipends, a travel budget of £2,000 and RTSG budget of £3,000 while at The University of Manchester. The University of Tokyo will cover the amount equivalent to stipends which is offered by The University of Manchester during their stay at the University of Tokyo.


  1. Candidates may only apply for projects approved by the Joint Programme Board.
  2. Fulfil both institutions entry requirements:
    • a. The University of Manchester:

      • Hold (or expect to achieve) a First Class or 2:1 UK honours degree (or international equivalent to be checked with UoM admission team).
      • Ideally hold a master’s-level qualification at merit or distinction (or international equivalent to be checked with UoM admission team).
      • Demonstrable excellent communication skills, including in English language, a proficiency in which should be demonstrably indicated by meeting our English language requirements and in particular, securing an IELTS score of 6.5 overall with a minimum of 6 in writing and listening, and 5.5 in all other sub-tests. OR securing a TOEFL iBT score of 90 with no less than 20 in each component equivalent OR equivalent. Project supervisor teams may recommend a candidate who has excellent English language skills but otherwise has not formal certification of such. Please note that a timely demonstrable minimum English language level is a requirement of the UK home office for the issue of student visas to the UK. For some projects an ATAS certificate may also be required by them.
    • b. The University of Tokyo:

  3. Demonstrate willingness to travel to two partner institutions to complete the programme.
  4. Demonstrate to reflect the Faculty of Science and Engineering Postgraduate Researcher person specification:
    • Educational background matches research project.
    • Potential to form effective working relationships with a diverse range of people, including working inclusively and as part of a team.
    • Potential to take the initiative, lead on projects, and be proactive in prioritising a dynamic, agile and diverse workload.
    • Potential to develop understanding of complex problems, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a given scenario, and apply in-depth knowledge to address them.
    • Potential to develop expertise in new areas of the subject.
    • Evidence of an understanding of the proposed area of research, including knowledge of current challenges and opportunities.
    • An interest in continuous personal and professional development.
    • Potential to communicate ideas and conclusions, verbally and in writing, clearly and effectively to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
    • Preliminary knowledge of research techniques/track record of engaging with research.
    • Commitment to principles of Equality, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in teaching, research, or experience.

Available projects:

Advanced Particle Tracking and Real-Tme Analysis for Discoveries at the ATLAS Detector at CERN

Project Description

The matter that we know of constitutes only 15% of our universe - the remaining 85% is an enigmatic form of matter known as dark matter. The focus of this PhD project is to produce and detect this elusive dark matter through collisions of ordinary matter at CERN's Large Hadron Collider, employing novel techniques including AI and quantum algorithms for the computationally intensive task of particle tracking. The student in this project will become a member of ATLAS collaboration at CERN, one of the largest experimental endeavours in history. They will be guided by experts from the Universities of Tokyo and Manchester in data taking, data analysis, and AI/quantum computing. This project coincides with a pivotal period for ATLAS, spanning two years of data collection and two years of preparation for the upcoming accelerator upgrade.

This project has two main goals: searching for dark matter particles in the current dataset while developing algorithms to handle the increased inputs resulting from the accelerator upgrades. The project addresses a critical challenge in detecting subtle dark matter signals in real-time efficiently. New algorithms, integrating as much information as possible from the detector and utilising Machine Learning (ML) methods, will be developed, including forward-looking quantum algorithms. The initial phase concentrates on upgrading the real-time data-taking system, known as the trigger, by implementing a technique called Advanced and Global Particle Flow (GPF) and employing outlier detection techniques to optimise computational costs for particle tracking. This ensures that we don’t discard dark matter signals with unusual detector signatures.

Simultaneously, the student will analyse LHC data for signs of disappearing particle tracks that are the signature of heavy particles decaying into dark matter candidates. Innovative machine learning approaches will be employed to distinguish signals from the vast background noise. Active contribution to a machine-learning-based disappearing track trigger will enhance the student’s skills in particle tracking, physics analysis, and machine learning.

After a year at the University of Tokyo, the student will move to the CERN laboratory in Geneva for a Long Term Attachment. Collaborating with local experts and remotely with their supervisory committee, the student will continue to refine the trigger system, integrating disappearing track triggers into the GPF algorithm and bringing the disappearing track analysis to publication.

In the third year at Manchester, the student will continue working on outlier detection to expand GPF triggers to encompass diverse particle tracks from alternative dark matter scenarios. This effort culminates in the development of a comprehensive GPF trigger system, ready for the upgraded LHC accelerator and ATLAS experiment. Pushing beyond the state-of-the-art, the student will design non-standard tracking algorithms for quantum computers in collaboration with experts from the University of Manchester's Theory group. Quantum improvements to particle tracking position the field for the opportunities presented by quantum computing, and will become part of strategic efforts due to its applicability to other fields. The overall work on fast and efficient ML algorithms for real-time analysis aligns with ongoing efforts toward Net Zero and Global Sustainability Goals in both countries.

Supervisory team email addresses

To apply for a PhD in Physics (2024 entry), see an overview of the PHD Physics programme.

Light- and Pressure-Controllable Magnets

Project Description

This project tackles the complex interplay between light, pressure and magnetism, which lies at the heart of modern materials science, through the exploration of light- and pressure-responsive molecular magnets. In the first year, the research team at UTokyo will orient the Ph.D. student to the research environment and the student will conduct an extensive literature review in order to select optimal starting materials. This will set the stage for the preparation and in-depth characterization of new materials, the former of which will include employing advanced spectroscopic techniques and conducting magnetic studies under light irradiation and pressure. 

The groundwork laid in the first year will allow the focus to be narrowed to developing promising research directions in the second year, during which the main research goals will be the identification of materials with superior properties and the collection and preparation of data for theoretical calculations at UoM to facilitate seamless integration of experiments and modelling.

In the third year of their Ph.D. the student will move to UoM to perform theoretical modelling of the metastable states in photomagnetic systems and molecular magnets under high pressure. The literature review and outcomes from the experiments in UTokyo will guide the selection of the most appropriate methods to obtain further insight into the experimental results.

In their final year, the student will focus on finalizing their data analysis and submitting research papers, and on writing up their thesis. The student will continue to be supported with feedback from colleagues and advisors, which will include preparation for the Ph.D. thesis defence. The student will also be supported to explore and apply for post-Ph.D. employment, including potential post-doctoral opportunities or industrial employment, depending on their interest.

Supervisory team email addresses

To apply for a PhD in Chemistry (2024 entry), see an overview of the PHD Chemistry programme.

Diversifying Antitumor Drugs through the Integration of Synthetic Biology and Chemo-enzymatic Approaches

Project Description

Ecteinascidin 743 (ET-743, Trabectedin) is a marine-derived natural organic compound approved for the treatment of soft tissue sarcomas. A chemically modified synthetic derivative, lurbinectedin, was also approved in 2020 for the treatment of metastatic small cell lung cancer. Consequently, this family of natural products is anticipated to have further applications as pharmaceutical lead compounds. Although ET-743 is biosynthesized from amino acids in microorganisms, only trace amounts can be extracted from biological samples. Hence, chemical synthesis is essential for supply; however, due to structural complexity, these compounds require over twenty steps of chemical transformations and purification. Therefore, establishing a more straightforward and environmentally friendly synthetic approach to expedite the production of the scarce natural products could facilitate the development of such underutilized molecular resource, enabling a better understanding of their pharmacological effects and advancing drug discovery.

This project aims to establish a rapid and customizable process for chemo-enzymatic synthesis and production of ET-743 and its analogues by actively integrating synthetic biology, in vitro enzymatic transformation, and chemical synthesis. At The University of Manchester, a highly automated manufacturing method for microbial metabolic pathways, the Design–Build–Test–Learn pipeline, will be applied to establish a new in vivo production system for amino acid derivatives, biosynthetic intermediates of ET-743, building on the experience collected in the EU-funded H2020 ShikiFactory100 project. This highly automated methodology realizes rapid introduction of genes encoding enzymes catalysing desired reactions, while optimizing native microbial metabolic pathways of microorganisms (e.g. E. coli and Streptomyces) to produce high-value compounds solely through microbial cultivation.

After constructing the in vivo production system for the desired biosynthetic intermediates, enzymes that construct the molecular skeleton of ET-743 will be applied to the production system, accomplishing the one-step construction of the complex core skeleton of ET-743 at UT. Since these enzymes require two substrates (an amino acid derivative and a peptidyl aldehyde), the peptidyl aldehyde will be supplied through chemical synthesis. The project will establish a novel synthetic platform that enables rapid and flexible construction of intricate skeletons from chemically synthesized simple starting materials in a single reaction vessel, integrating the supply of amino acids from engineered microbes and the enzymatic assembly of densely functionalized multicyclic alkaloidal scaffolds. This system will also be adapted to apply enzymes that construct different antitumor complex scaffolds from simple and similar starting materials, aiming to build a library of natural product-like bioactive novel chemical entities.

Through the integration of accumulated knowledge of both research groups at UoM and UT, and the use of advanced experimental equipment, the project will enable students to acquire interdisciplinary knowledge and technologies that enable the synthesis of valuable molecules. This project will contribute to the cultivation of students who possess solid skills capable of excelling globally and broadly in modern society, where the development of greener methods for substance production is urgently needed. 

Supervisory team email addresses

To apply for a PhD in Chemistry (2024 entry), see an overview of the PHD Chemistry programme.

Computational Evolutionary Biomechanics of Bipedal/Quadrupedal Locomotion in Early Hominids

Project Description

The transition to habitual upright walking is one of the defining features of the human (as opposed to the chimpanzee) lineage and understanding its evolution is therefore of extreme interest to palaeoanthropologists. The aim of the project is to produce a computer simulation of bipedal/quadrupedal locomotion in human ancestors who just began to walk bipedally based on a neuro-musculoskeletal model and reinforcement learning, with the aim of understanding the driving force behind the evolutionary transition from quadrupedal to bipedal locomotion in early hominids. The project combines both experimental studies of non-human primate locomotion in African great apes and cercopithecoid monkeys, and computational simulation studies of bipedal/quadrupedal locomotion using anatomically based neuro-musculoskeletal models of early hominids. An ideal candidate will have a biology/anthropology background with an interest in experimental techniques and good numerical skills and training will be provided in all the necessary techniques.

Supervisory team email addresses

To apply for a PhD in Earth Science (2024 entry), see an overview of the PHD/MPhil Earth Science programme.

How to apply

There are up to three fully funded studentships available for suitable candidates to start this four-year programme in April 2025.
Candidates will need to meet all of the minimum entry requirements.

Applications will open for candidates to apply for approved projects at The University of Manchester during the week commencing 26 February 2024 and will close on 29 April 2024.

Iconic building at the University of Tokyo

Contact info

If you have any queries about the programme, the application process or your eligibility, please don't hesitate to get in touch: