Photonics and Optical Science

Photonics and Optical Science


Study Photonic and Optical Sciences at Macquarie University

Why Study Photonic and Optical Sciences at Macquarie University?

Why come undertake your higher degree focused in Photonics and Optics at Macquarie University? We have smart people, excellent infrastructure and facilities, research that is ranked well-above world standard and a supportive environment focused on building your skills for enquiry and innovation.

Intellectual Environment

Members of our academic staff are highly regarded nationally and internationally, and are frequently invited to present their research at international conferences. Notably some have been awarded ARC Research Fellowships (Future Fellows A/Profs Jim Rabeau, Rich Mildren and Helen Pask, DECRA Fellows Drs Wei Deng, Christian Schwab, Varun Sreenivasan, and Simon Gross). Profs Mick Withford and Ewa Goldys, and Emeritus Profs Brian Orr and Jim Piper are all Fellows of the Optical Society of America. Prof Deb Kane is chair of the IUPAP Commission on Laser Physics and Photonics.

Researchers in Photonics and Optics are all members of one or more Research Centres. MQ Photonics Research Centre is a University Research Centre hosted in the Department, and with members from Engineering, Medicine, Chemistry and other areas. Photonics is a valuable tool and is widely used in a rich variety of related disciplines. The MQ BioFocus Research Centre, Centre in Quantum Science and Technology (QSCITECH) and the Centre for Astronomy, Astrophysics and Astrophotonics are University Research Centres that offer research in cross-disciplinary aspects of optics and photonics.  There is scope to collaborate with researchers at other universities, through two nationally funded ARC Centres of Excellence which have nodes within the department: the ARC Centre for Ultra-high-bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems, CUDOS, and the ARC Centre for Nanoscale Biophotonics, CNBP.

Training Environment

The Centre offers a highly nurturing and stimulating environment for early career researchers, with weekly MQ Photonics seminars, shared equipment facilities, and a strong culture of research collaboration between the groups. Students take part in our integrated Quark-to-Quasars professional skills development programme, in which targeted workshops are offered to all researchers in the department to develop specific skills or techniques including academic writing and communications, career development, intellectual property and commercialisation, ethics, and writing research proposals.

Research Foci 

The research areas in Photonics showcase our research strengths: building on our collaborations and industry interactions:


The Centre houses one of the largest laboratory floor spaces in optics and photonics research in Australia. These labs include specialist work spaces in:

  • On-chip optical and quantum device fabrication facilities
  • Laser labs (ultrafast, terahertz, nonlinear optics, high power lasers)
  • Optical lab environments suitable for biological samples
  • Plasmonic labs
  • Nanophotonics labs

Researchers also have access to outstanding facilities in OptoFab, a node of the Australian National Fabrication Facility situated in the new Hearing Hub building on campus.

Where are our Alumni now?

Our alumni have taken up a wide range of careers in a variety of industries, government labs and universities. They work in Australia and overseas, and in small start-ups and in multinational companies. They are to be found in industry R&D and management, as lasers, photonics and optics and biomedical equipment product managers, as technology managers and business consultants, as University, CSIRO and Defence laboratory researchers, in patent law, IT and data analytics, astronomy instrumentation, engineering, science communications and science teaching.  

The MQ Photonics and Optical Sciences focused PhD Programme

Students can be trained to be high achieving researchers in Photonics and Optical Sciences via the MQ Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). These students work with leading researchers, both experimental and theoretical to develop deep understanding in theoretical fundamentals as well as how to exploit these to develop new technologies. PhD researchers will develop considerable expertise in experimental design and measurement, data analysis, modelling and computer visualisation during their studies. The 3 year PhD program enables the student to progress to become an independent researcher, with the ability to undertake and innovate state-of-the-art original research questions within in their research field, and to be able to communicate the relevance, significance and context with their peers.  Students graduating from the Photonics/Optical Sciences focused PhD programme often choose a diverse range of careers spanning industry R&D through to science education, and many have continued to postdoctoral research in major international research institutes such as the University of Southampton, Heriot-Watt University, and Oxford University in the UK, the Hawaii Keck Observatory, Rice University in Texas, University of Texas at Austin, and Tsinghua University in Beijing.

PhD Projects

A wide range of potential PhD topics are on offer. Students interested in particular projects are strongly encouraged to contact the relevant supervisor(s).

Funding to support your PhD development

Funds are available to each student to help source small equipment or consumables, access to facilities, or specialist training, and to present your research results at premier national or international meetings. For more information click here…

Outreach and Education

There are many opportunities for MQ Photonics/Optical Sciences PhD students to be involved in outreach and communication including the annual community-focused Macquarie Astronomy and Physics Open Night. The Macquarie University Student Chapter of the Optical Society of America provides a social, fun and constructive way to be actively engaged in promoting photonics.

MRES: Masters by Research

We offer Masters by Research degrees focusing on Photonics and Optical sciences related research topics through the Macquarie University MRES degree. This two year degree involves eight units of coursework training and then a full year research project. Students accepted to this degree receive an automatic scholarship which increments from Yr1 to Yr2. For more information on the MRES degree click here.

How to Apply

To apply for either our PhD or MRES degree programme you need to complete an EXPRESSION OF INTEREST application form online. For this you will be asked to select your preferred research project from the list of offered projects your CV, and list of two potential Referees who you agree we can contact, and a brief statement regarding your short-term and long-term motivation for undertaking the degree programme.

This information allows us to judge your capability with other students applying so we can select those best suited to advance to full admission through the University scholarship programme.

Once selected you will be paired with a potential Supervisor who will then invite you to an interview. These interviews help potential students get a better feel for what the Degree Programme and research will be like. These interviews will be via Skype, phone or in-person and will take place at most one month after the Expression of Interest deadline.

Once you have passed the interview and the potential Supervisor agrees to supervise your PhD studies you need to prepare a formal application. This application will be to Macquarie University and will enable you to apply to all types of scholarships that you will be eligible for. You will need some referees to also fill out pre-set referee application forms and these are sent separately to the Macquarie University HDR office. Applicants are strongly advised to prepare their applications as soon as possible after finding a supervisor. Copies of some documents must be certified (by the relevant authorities) as part of the formal application.


The competition is high to obtain a Macquarie University PhD scholarship and to get some idea regarding the academic quality and eligibility for these please see this link. Proficiency in English is required by all HDR candidates and the standards set by Macquarie University are:

  • TOEFL (computer-based): Overall of 237 with minimum 19 in Listening, 19 in Reading, 25 in Structure/Writing and TWE of 5.0; OR
  • TOEFL (paper-based): Overall of 580 with 53 in Listening, 52 in Reading, 59 in Structure/Written Expression and TWE of 5.0; OR
  • iBT (internet-based TOEFL): Overall score of 92 with 23 in Speaking, 18 in Listening, 17 in Reading and 22 in Writing; OR IELTS (academic version): Overall 6.5 with minimum of 6.0 in each band

The University rigorously applies these.

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More information about Higher Degree Research at Macquarie University can be found here.

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