Admission to doctoral studies

Doctoral studies in the Institute of Physics are regulated by the university Regulations for Doctoral Studies.
More information about the doctoral studies can be found in the Doctoral center page of Faculty of Science and Technology together with the information about organisation, planning and completing doctoral studies.

An overview of the steps you need to take if you are planning to apply for doctoral studies at the University of Tartu can be found in the web-page Admission to doctoral studies.

Important information for doctoral students is available on the web page of Doctoral Center of Faculty of Science and Technology. There is also specific section for the 1st year students including the to-do list for the first semester.

Our institute is participating in the curriculum of Physics, the curriculum of Materials Science and the curriculum of Environmental Technology.

Since the year 2022/2023, we are participating in the following new doctoral programmes: 

The programme includes three specialities with responsible institutes shown in parenthesis:

1. Physics (Institute of Physics) 

  2. Chemistry (Institute of Chemistry)

  3. Space research and technology (Tartu Observatory)

See programme information

The programme includes five specialities with responsible institutes shown in parenthesis:

1. Computer Engineering (Institute of Technology)

2. Sustainable Energetics (Institute of Chemistry)

3. Environmental Technology  (Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences)

4. Materials Science  (Institute of Physics)

5. Molecular Biotechnology (Institute of Technology)

See programme information


Progress review of doctoral students follows the procedure of Faculty of Science and Technology:

During the progress review, the progress of doctoral students in doctoral programmes opened from 2022/2023 is evaluated based on outcomes (not in credit points).

In the progress review, it is necessary to submit the progress review report and period plan for the next year which can be obtained from the Doctoral center web-page.

The progress review report along with the activity plan for the next period, certified by the student’s and supervisors' digital signatures, must be loaded to CIS and sent to the head of the progress review committee. The first year students must also the individual plan for the end of first semester.

The estimated time for the review per one student is 15 min, including a short (up to 5 min) report with few slides, followed by answers to the questions from the members of the committee.


PhD projects 2024

The successful PhD research projects for the year 2024 are listed below. There are 4 projects in the specialty of Physics and 3 projects in the specialty of Materials Science.

The admission period is 1-15 May. Information about admission will be announced on the website of the University of Tartu on April 15.


Anthropogenic aerosols offset an uncertain fraction of global warming induced by greenhouse gases. Rapid future warming would be expected if aerosols currently exert a strong cooling effect on Earth's climate. This project evaluates the plausibility of strong present-day aerosol cooling through aerosol impacts on clouds. Aerosols could strongly cool the climate if, in addition to leading to more numerous and smaller cloud droplets, they made clouds thicker and more extensive. This project analyses a large dataset of ship tracks – linear cloud features polluted by shipping emissions that can be identified in the satellite images of clouds. Ship tracks serve as natural experiments of aerosol-cloud interactions, where the properties of aerosol-polluted clouds can be directly compared to the properties of nearby unpolluted clouds. This means that ship tracks are similar to controlled experiments and allow quantifying aerosol impacts on clouds with exceptional reliability, although experiment-like settings have been created without an intervention by a researcher. The project results will lead to more reliable climate projections urgently needed for climate change mitigation and adaptation.        

Please contact dr. Velle Toll ( The study will be carried out in the Centre for Climate Research.

Chemical and Physical Sciences (Physics).

In the recent years, effects of climate change including drought and high-light conditions have become more abundant. Therefore, an adaptation to these changing environmental conditions will become unavoidable for a sustainable development of agriculture in the future. One promising strategy is to study native adaptation mechanisms in photosynthesis to battle environmental stress. In this regard, two promising bioprotectants are trehalose and glycerol, which act as stabilizer and plasticizer, respectively, for the photoactive proteins responsible for photosynthesis in plants. 
Trehalose is a specific sugar found in organisms able to survive extreme external stresses, such as high or very low temperatures or periods of complete drought. Most importantly, trehalose was shown to preserve the function of native photosynthetic proteins upon dehydration. Glycerol is a highly hydrophilic compound that is able to attract water, thus, leading to an increase of the protein surface hydration. This plasticizing effect ensures the functionally important protein flexibility and prevents harmful aggregation or misfolding of proteins. However, the molecular mechanisms of the protective roles of trehalose and glycerol are still debated and often poorly understood.
Neutron scattering methods are well-suited for direct nanoscale investigations of protein structure and mobility under nearly native conditions as well as to study their interactions with bioprotectants. Small angle neutron scattering with contrast variation will be used to investigate the location of the trehalose or glycerol molecules with respect to the protein surface and the hydration shell to shed more light on the particular molecular interaction mechanisms. In addition to structural integrity, proteins also have to preserve a specific level of flexibility to perform their function. Quasielastic neutron scattering spectroscopy will be employed to directly study the protein flexibility under environmental stress conditions in the presence of bioprotectants.

Please contact prof. Jörg Pieper ( The study will be carried out in the Workgroup of Neutron Scattering Techniques.

Chemical and Physical Sciences (Physics).

An integral radiation monitoring plan is an important element of any nuclear power program to achieve the fundamental safety objective – protection of people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. Small and modular reactors (SMRs) have become a choice for several utilities in different countries. Yet, integral radiation monitoring programs, which are fit for SMRs, are not currently available for practical use.
This PhD project will develop an integral radiation monitoring plan optimised for SMRs that includes specific instructions for i) pre-operational (construction, background measurement), ii) operational (normal and emergency conditions), and iii) post-operational (decommissioning) phases – so called “greenfield-to-greenfield" approach.
Special attention will be given to off‑site emergency preparedness and response (EPR) arrangements tailored to the scale and needs of SMRs. Focus is placed on the modelling of air pollution dispersion based on atmospheric dynamics. 
The monitoring plan developed in this project will be based on SMRs parameters and deploy modern measurement systems (drones, measurement grid) in combination with real-time dispersion analysis (JRODOS, SILAM etc) to inform EPR activities (sheltering, evacuation, iodine prophylaxis etc.).

Please contact dr. Siiri Salupere ( Co-supervisors are dr. Marko Kaasik and dr. Marti Jeltsov (National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics). The study will be carried out in the Laboratory of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences.

Chemical and Physical Sciences (Physics).

The project is aimed at the development of a novel scintillation material for gamma-radiation detection, operating on a combination of Cherenkov emission and ultra-fast cross-luminescence. Such scintillator may be prospective for applications in time-of-flight positron emission tomography (TOF-PET) devices, bringing medical diagnostics on a new quality level with improved spatial resolution and reduced patient dose. The study will be focused on synthesis and thorough investigation by the methods of time-resolved spectroscopy of ternary wide-gap fluorides, containing cations characteristic of cross-luminescence materials (Rb, Cs, Ba) and heavy elements with atomic number exceeding 70 (Lu, Hf, Ta, W, Pb, Bi) facilitating higher yield of Cherenkov emission. The brightest compounds with suitable luminescence properties will be selected for future applied studies. The work will be conducted in close international collaboration with scientists (CCC collaboartion at CERN) specialized in the TOF-PET research and development.

Please contact dr. Vitali Nagirnõi ( Co-supervisor is prof. Marco Kirm. The study will be carried out in the Laboratory of the Physics of Ionic Crystals.

Chemical and Physical Sciences (Physics).

The PhD project will focus on the development of antimicrobial coatings that act efficiently in dry and semi-dry conditions. We plan the preparation and testing of stable antimicrobial coatings based on two kinds of promising antimicrobial nitrogen-containing compounds, alkylated PEI (polyethylenimines) or N-halamines. The work will include synthesis of antimicrobial polymeric salts based on alkylated PEI or N-halamines, developing/selecting the best covering procedure (spray, paint, immersion), developing the methods of covalent attachment (with or without chemical modification of antimicrobial compounds). Composition, uniformity and thickness of obtained coatings will be studied. Testing of the stability of coatings for wear and tear and antimicrobial tests will be performed.
Additionally, the PhD project will cover combinations of known or proposed antimicrobial compounds to create surfaces with synergistic antimicrobial effect. Combinations between the most efficient alkylated PEI and N-halamine compounds together with several inorganic antimicrobial compounds (including TiO2, ZnO, copper and silver metal nanoparticles) will be prepared and used to create surfaces. Those selected compounds act via different modes of action (photocatalytic effect or metal toxicity combined with cell membrane rupture effect by alkylated PEI or halamines) and are therefore expected to exhibit broad antimicrobial effect. The latter would ensure significant and prompt microbicidal effect and decreased possibility for surviving microbial cells, including potentially resistant microbes. Three scientific publications are foreseen within the PhD project.
The present application relates to TEM-TA55 project “Antimicrobial synergy-driven surface coatings - innovative solutions in healthcare environment”.

Please contact dr. Vambola Kisand ( Co-supervisors are dr. Alexander Vanetsev and prof. Angela Ivask. The study will be carried out in the Laboratory of X-Ray spectroscopy.

Engineering and Technology (Materials Science).

The project will seek thin films of metal oxides simultaneously possessing optical transparency, electronic conductivity, hardness and elasticity. Oxides of different metals, such as gallium, niobium, titanium, hafnium, zirconium, aluminum, as well as their combinations will be synthesized at low temperatures and thoroughly analysed. Advanced materials layers will be prepared, consisting of ternary compounds formed after doping and mixing host solids with foreign elements. 
During the 4-year project, the PhD student will have access to state-of-art laboratories and equipment used for material studies. The student will exploit the atomic layer deposition method for the synthesis of abovementioned materials layers and use the contemporary electrical probe station for electrical measurements for their evaluation. Additionally, the student will have the possibility to work on different characterisation tools, while studying the elemental composition, structure and optical properties of thin films. All this will be used with the aim at the determination of the thin film structures and material combinations with chemical and physical properties allowing applications in nanoelectronics and optics. Concurrently, the main result is the graduation of highly qualified and skilled young researcher with doctoral degree, able to contribute to the further development of science and technology.

Please contact prof. Kaupo Kukli ( Co-supervisor is dr. Lauri Aarik. The study will be carried out in the Laboratory of Thin Film Technology.

Engineering and Technology (Materials Science)

The use of secondary raw materials for the production of technologically important materials is investigated within the framework of this doctoral thesis. The work examines the mechanical properties of the manufactured materials and the technological methods required for their production. For example, silicate bricks left over from the demolition of buildings and carbon from plastic or wood waste are used as raw materials.

Please contact dr. Taivo Jõgiaas (  The study will be carried out in the Laboratory of Thin Film Technology.

Engineering and Technology (Materials Science)

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Night Library lasts longer than ever this spring

Training Camp 2023: The Art of Giving a Popular Science Talk

12th Training Camp "How to Give a Popular Sciecne Talk" to PhD students in natural sciences will take place on May 19-20 (Fri - Sat).