From ‘Cool Your Jets’

The PhD Research Playlist

Jet engines, Victorian fantasy, teaching robots — find out what some of our DPhil students get up to.


Oxford has about 6,800 research students (and counting), each working hard on their own individual contribution to their field.

We talked to some of our DPhil (PhD) students about their research to give you just a taste of what’s possible across the University.

(Is a DPhil the same thing as a PhD? Yes. For more, check out What is a DPhil?)

Dive into the world of Alice in Wonderland with Franziska Kohlt (DPhil English) as she explores the influence of science on Victorian authors like Lewis Carroll

“In the 19th century, disciplinary boundaries were not drawn in the way they are now. A lot of the people who were engaged in these debates and who contributed to science were actually authors.”

New scientific ideas and pure fantasy intertwine on the pages of Victorian children’s literature. With examples from the Christ Church archives and her own collection, Franziska explores how the history of science has influenced some of our most beloved stories.

Adam Formica’s data-driven research (DPhil in Geography and the Environment) explores how we can make agriculture more efficient, helping increase yields but reduce the levels of deforestation and habitat destruction.

“Ideas have been floating around for decades now, but we’re still losing forests rapidly.”

Finding solutions to the urgent problem of climate change demands understanding the entire supply chain of agriculture. Adam explains his approach to gathering information and cooperation vital to saving forests.

Anna Jungbluth (DPhil Condensed Matter Physics) talks about her research developing organic solar cells, with the aim of harnessing more of the solar energy we’re not making use of

“One of the things I’m looking forward to seeing is solar cells being integrated into buildings, in windows, possibly even on your phone.”

Traditional silicon-based solar panels are growing in popularity, but if organic solar cells can be made more efficient and easily fabricated we could see semi-transparent cells printed and installed throughout our environments. Anna explains how looking at the fundamental physics of the materials might create a more affordable, renewable energy resource.

Julie Dequaire (DPhil Engineering Science) on the three questions she’s teaching robots to ask themselves in her research into autonomous robotics, and the future of robots alongside humanity.

“It’s important to think about, what do we want robots to do, and what are the limits we want them to have?”

For driverless cars to navigate our cities, they need to learn how to see the world around them as well as you do. Julie demonstrates how modelling allows AI to drive safely.

Gladys Ngetich (DPhil Engineering Science) describes her research into advanced cooling technologies for jet engines

“If we are making the engine efficient and cutting emissions, there is a direct impact on the environment from the work we do.”

Jet engines run at very high temperatures need to be continuously cooled to avoid damage of their vital components. Gladys explains how she’s building a more efficient jet engine through fluid dynamic modelling, saving fuel and emissions.

David Grainger (DPhil Medical Sciences) researches how blood stem cells are made, with the aim of being able to grow these cells in a dish to help treat blood cancer patients.

“It could help cure patients, rather than just helping them with their disease.”

The future of medicine may lie in an increasingly complex understanding of disease, where therapies can be targeted to individual patients. David explains the potential of stem cell research to enhance treatment.

Find your niche

The DPhil is a fantastic opportunity to completely immerse yourself in the pursuit of new knowledge, with the support of world-leading experts and facilities in your field.

Explore our academic departments and research interests to see if Oxford is the right place for your PhD:



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A perspective on masters’, DPhil (PhD) and other graduate courses from Graduate Admissions at the University of Oxford