Postdoctoral Research Associate in Soft Matter Theory

Updated: about 2 months ago
Location: Durham, ENGLAND

Postdoctoral Research Associate in Soft Matter Theory (
Job Number:
Department of Physics
Grade 7: - £35,333 to £37,474 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 24 month
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date
: 06-Feb-2023, 6:59:00 PM
Disclosure and Barring Service Requirement: Not Applicable. 

The Department

The Department of Physics at Durham University is one of the leading UK Physics departments with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research and employability of our students.

Soft matter theory in an important theme within the soft matter and condensed matter physics programmes at Durham. Our current interests include flow of soft materials, non-equilibrium dynamics, dynamics of soft glasses, statistical physics of yielding, shear thickening of dense suspensions, phase behaviour, self-assembly, fluid dynamics, wetting, interfacial phenomena, membrane physics and biomolecular physics.  Durham has made soft matter a key strategic area for growth in recent years: both within Physics, and more widely across the University, with additional appointments in Mathematics, Engineering and in the Chemistry Department's Soft Matter, Surfaces and Interfaces group. Durham's strong commitment to this area of research is also demonstrated through its support for the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter for Formulation and Industrial Innovation,, the Durham Centre for Soft Matter, and the Biophysical Sciences Institute, which act as cross-campus focal points for activity in this area. These also embed strategic links to numerous companies with interests in soft matter. This environment will provide a vibrant backdrop to postdoctoral research on this ERC project.

The Department is committed to advancing equality and we aim to ensure that our culture is inclusive, and that our systems support flexible and family-friendly working, as recognized by our Juno Champion and Athena SWAN Silver awards. We recognise and value the benefits of diversity throughout our staff and students.


The Role

Applications are invited for a postdoctoral research associate in theoretical and computational soft condensed matter and biological physics, to work with Prof. Suzanne Fielding in the Department of Physics at Durham University on a project funded by the ERC Advanced Grant ‘RheoYield’.


The position is to commence in April 2023 or as soon as possible thereafter. It is funded for 2 years in the first instance with the possibility of extending to 3 years in total.


Its overall aims will be to understand the deformation and flow behaviour of so-called yield stress materials, which keep their shape like solids at low loads, yet flow like a liquid at larger loads. One possible focus could be on the dynamical process whereby a material in

an initially solid-like state firsts yields and starts to flow, and in particular on the statistical physics of how initially sparse plastic events in an otherwise elastic background then spatio-temporally cooperate to result in an emergent macroscopic flow.


Besides the immediate applications of the work to soft matter physics, and potentially also to the fracture mechanics of hard materials, yielding also governs geological processes such as landslides, avalanches and lava flows. It also determines the reshaping of active biological tissue under the internal stresses caused by cell division, including during embryo development or tumour growth. Depending on the interests of the candidate, the project could develop a more specific focus on any of these particular areas of research.


The work will draw on concepts of statistical physics, rheology, fluid dynamics, and related fields. Depending on the interests of the applicant, the project could be mainly computational or could combine numerics with analytical work. An interest in collaborating with our experimental soft matter programme would also be welcomed.


Further details about Prof. Fielding's research group can be found at, about the department at, and about the Durham Centre for Soft Matter at


Informal enquiries are welcome and should please be directed to



•             To undertake research related to the soft matter physics, statistical physics and rheology of yield stress materials.

•             To engage with the development and improvement of the theoretical methods.

•             To become familiar with simulation algorithms as needed, assist in the development of new ones, test and document any newly developed code, and make effective use of computational resources.

•             To conduct individual and collaborative research projects under the direction of the Principal Investigator and with other colleagues in the research project, to assist with the research objectives, and identify areas for research.

•             To address any unforeseen scientific and numerical challenges.

•             To plan and manage own research activity, research resources in collaboration with others and contribute to the planning of research projects.

•             To attend and actively participate in regular meetings about the project.

•             To provide regular reports on the progress of the project.

•             To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration.

•             To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the team or other groups of people through presentations and discussions.

•             To prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to audiences which may include: research sponsors, academic and non-academic audiences.

•             To publish high quality outputs, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation at conferences and workshops under the direction of the Principal Investigator.

•             To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and offering creative or innovative solutions.

•             To deliver training in research techniques/approaches to peers, visitors and students as appropriate.

•             To be involved in student supervision, as appropriate, and assist with the assessment of the knowledge of students.

•             To contribute to fostering a collegial working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.

•             To engage in citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.

•             To engage in continuing professional development by participation in the undergraduate or postgraduate teaching programmes or by membership of departmental committees, etc. and by attending relevant training and development courses.   


This post is fixed term for 24 months in the first instance, with a possible extension to 36 months in total.

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by another colleague. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

Successful applicants will ideally be in post by 1st April 2023. 

The Requirements


1.            Qualifications

•             A good first degree in Physics, Mathematics or a related subject.

•             A PhD (or be close to submission) in Physics, Mathematics or a related subject.


2.            Experience


•             Experience in conducting high quality academic research.

•             Excellent background in theoretical soft condensed matter physics, statistical physics or rheology research.

•             Research skills or potential at an international level.

•             Ability to design theoretical models and carry out appropriate calculations to achieve the proposal objectives.

•             Experience in numerical modelling.

•             Ability to participate in research meetings to troubleshoot research problems and discuss the direction of research.


3.            Skills


•             Fluency in a least one scientific computer language (e.g., C, C++), with experience of writing programmes in this language.

•             Excellent written communication skills in English and demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.

•             Excellent oral communication skills in English, with demonstrable ability to present research papers at international conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.

•             Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.

•             Ability to work independently on own initiative and to deadlines.

•             Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.




4.            Experience

•             Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.

•             Experience in computer simulation of fluid dynamical and/or soft condensed matter systems.

•             Specific knowledge of yielding dynamics.

•             Specific knowledge of active soft matter.

•             A track record of presenting research at national and international conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with stage of career.

•             Demonstrable ability to develop research proposals in collaboration with other academics.

•             Experience of overseeing students with respect to the development of their practical/research skills e.g. acting as a demonstrator; supervising student projects/practicals.


5.            Skills

•             Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research.

•             Familiarity with Unix/Linux operating systems, and of writing scripts to post-process data.

•             Ability in data analysis of numerical results.


How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact [Prof. Suzanne Fielding at] All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence. 

We prefer to receive applications online via the Durham University Vacancies Site. As part of the application process, you should provide details of 3 (preferably academic/research) referees and the details of your current line manager so that we may seek an employment reference.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University.

What to Submit

All applicants are asked to submit:

•             A CV and covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out above;

•             [List of Publications]



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