ITN PhD Position: Domain wall dynamics and neuronic ‘crackling noise’

Updated: 3 months ago
Location: Cambridge, ENGLAND
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 20 Oct 2020

  • Do you have a background in physics, materials science or engineering?
  • Would you like to become part of the next generation of experts in materials for cognitive applications?
  • Have you just graduated or are you in the first four years of your research career?
  • Are you interested in doing your PhD in a joint network of high profile research institutes across Europe under guidance of renowned supervisors?

Apply for a position in our exciting research on “Materials for Neuromorphic Circuits” (MANIC), and become part of the next generation of neuromorphic experts!

Funded by the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie ITN Programme, the MANIC network offers a high level fellowship for joint research on new materials for cognitive applications to do a theoretical PhD on theory of domain formation and ferroelasticity or, if you prefer, an experimental PhD on acoustic spectroscopy. The most talented and motivated students will be selected for advanced multidisciplinary research training, preferably starting November 2020.


The scientific aim of MANIC is to synthesize materials that can function as networks of neurons and synapses by integrating conductivity, plasticity and self-organization. Successes in deep learning show that the paradigm of neuromorphic computing is very attractive. However, current technology is based on the Turing/von Neumann architecture, requiring extensive communication and an excessive amount of energy for computing. The human brain performs pattern recognition tasks with a fraction of the power needed by supercomputers for similar tasks. In this multidisciplinary project, new (memristic) materials and architectures for neuromorphic computing will be investigated in order to develop materials that can learn.


The project is focused on the analysis of ferroelastic and ferroelectric oxides with high concentrations of domain walls. These domain walls under strain fields but also under electric and magnetic fields. Movements under electric fields occur also in non-polar bulk materials because the domain walls contain the polarity as part of the internal domain wall structure. Typical examples are CaTiO3, SrTiO3, SnTe, KMnF3 etc. When the movement is a-thermal (not thermally activated) we observe wall movements close to the dynamics of neuron networks. This includes power-law distributed energies, long waiting times between events and specific distributions for the duration of events. Experimental results will be obtained in Cambridge (optical, RUS and RPS spectroscopy) and via a worldwide consortium with laboratories including China and France. The main part of the research will be performed at Cambridge University, United Kingdom, under the supervision of Ekhard Salje and Michael Carpenter Additionally, the ESR will spend the secondments at partner institutions.

For more information on the available position and more detailed project description, please visit .


ITNs are financially supported by the European Commission because they provide excellent research, training and career aspects. The benefits of being a PhD student in an ITN network:

  • You will get the chance to participate in specially developed lectures and courses (e.g. on specific techniques, academic soft skills, etc.);
  • You can already at an early stage in your career start building your personal professional network due to the embedding of our PhD projects in a high profile consortium with renown universities and innovative companies (such as IBM Research Zurich);
  • You will be exposed to research in a non-academic environment. You will spend at least one month in the non-academic sector. This will enhance your capacity to understand the strategies, requirements and skills for doing research in a business environment.
  • You will get the opportunity to spend some time in the labs of other partners in the consortium (thereby you will get familiar with other disciplines, techniques, cultures etc.);
  • You will be advised by excellent group leaders who are outstanding in their research and experienced in doctorate training.


To comply with the funding rules of the Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie programme:

  • You qualify as an Early Stage Researcher, meaning that - on the starting date of your employment with the host institute – you are in the first four years of your research career and have not (yet) been awarded a doctoral degree.
  • You have not resided and/or have had your main activity (study, work, etc.) in the United Kingdom (UK) for more than 12 months during the 3 years prior to the starting date of your employment with the respective host institute.

In addition:

  • You have research experience in one or multiple fields relevant to the MANIC project, such as physics, materials science, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, artificial intelligence and/or engineering, or a combination thereof.
  • You are proficient in English language (academic level).
  • Important! Additional requirements apply for the admission at Cambridge University. We strongly recommend to check those.

Please also note that, while specific expertise can be a plus, methods can always be learned.


You may apply for a position until October 19, 23:59 (CET) / before October 20 via the online application form on our website: .

Only applications that are complete and submitted before the application deadline via website will be considered.


Your application should consist of one PDF file containing the following documents, in the following order:

  • Motivation letter
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Copy of your Bachelor or Master certificate or equivalent (depending on the requirement of the host institution(s) you are applying to)
  • An abstract of the thesis of your highest obtained degree (max. 500 words)

Failure to submit any of the required documents will automatically result in a rejection of your application on formal grounds.


Marie Sklodowska Curie (MSC) projects offer highly competitive and attractive salary and working conditions.

  • Selected candidates will have a fulltime employment contract for the duration of 36 months. Selected candidates will have an initial appointment of 12 months that will be extended by 24 months if they perform satisfactorily. Host institutes of which the standard PhD trajectory is more than 36 months may decide to offer an employment contract for a longer period.
  • The salaries during the EU funded period of the fellowship comply with the H2020 Marie Sklodowska Curie Work Programme. More information can be found in the Information note for Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellows inInnovative Training Networks (ITN) (version 2, 11/11/2019). Note that the total amount received may vary from employer to employer, even within the same country. This is because employer as well as employee payroll taxes and social security costs can be deducted from the gross salary.
  • Selected candidates will enjoy at least the same standards and working conditions as those applicable to local researchers at the host institution holding a similar position.

MANIC is committed to the principles of the European Charter and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers .

MANIC has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 861153.

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