Research Areas

The main areas covered by the doctoral programme in physics engineering are: a) Plasmas and its applications including fusion; b) New materials, including biological materials and materials science; c) Space engineering and astrophysics instrumentation; d) Computational physics and its applications to information systems; e) Applied nuclear and radiation physics; f) New technologies and methodologies in physics education.

Plasmas and its applications including nuclear fusion

As over 99% of the mater in the Universe is in the plasma state, this subject of physics involves a large number of research fields ranging from lightning phenomena, space propulsion and laboratory ionized gases for technological, medical and environmental purposes, to the challenging and demanding issue of achieving controlled nuclear fusion. Plasma physics is an interdisciplinary area bridging up fundamental aspects of electromagnetic theory, statistical and atomic and molecular physics.

Faculty: Carlos Pintassilgo, Francisco Salzedas, Paulo Sá

New materials, including biological materials and materials science

The main objective of this area is the study of fundamental concepts of materials science in order to understand the relationship between the structure, processing and design on the properties of engineering materials, from traditional alloys to polymers, ceramics, semiconductors, composites and biomaterials. Experimental and/or theoretical activities take place giving special attention to the physical principles underlying each technique, its scope and its limitations, as well as applications.

Faculty: Helena Braga, Joana Oliveira, Luis Martelo, Maria José Vaz

Space engineering and astrophysics instrumentation

This area deals with the deployment of satellites and instrument payload, including ground based instrumentation for space observations and astronomy and astrophysics. It is an interdisciplinary area making use of expertise in several fields of engineering and physics. Parallel activities in astronomy and astrophysics, making use of the developed instrumentation and in cosmology also take place.

Faculty: Joana Oliveira, Paulo Garcia, Paulo Sá

Computational Physics and Applications of Information Systems in Physics

Computational physics is concerned with performing computer calculations and simulations to solve physical problems. Many areas of physics lead to problems that cannot be solved analytically and must be treated numerically. The rapid evolution of the computing facilities in the last few decades has led to very active research in those areas.
Quantum computing is another area where very active research is taking place and it poses very good opportunities for cooperation among computer scientists and theoretical physicists.
Information systems are very important to manage the collaborations involved in large-scale experiments and to store and handle the huge amounts of data produced in those experiments. That need for better information systems in physics research was responsible for the birth of the World Wide Web at CERN.

Faculty: Jaime Villate

Applied nuclear and radiation physics

The area of applied nuclear physics covers the various steps involved in the use of nuclear materials in industrial and medical instrumentation, starting from radioisotope and nuclear materials production down to their end of use and disposal. Interaction of radiation with matter is covered in its various aspects, including radiation detection and measurement, quality control and assessment, radiation hazards and biological effects. Safety and protection are considered within each use of nuclear and radiation sources, including applicable legal regulations. Nuclear and X-ray physics in medicine include basic imaging and dosimetry topics. Laboratory activities with X-rays are available. Students with a more theoretical profile can undertake research on algorithm development or on nuclear reaction rates calculations.

Faculty: António Silva, Diana Urbano

New technologies and methodologies in physics education

With the advent of MOOCs, video, dedicated software, social media/networks and remote laboratories the landscape in physics education is rapidly evolving. This research area focuses in the developing of new technology for physics education, the study of the impact of technology in student motivation and learning of physics. Although the faculty focus in university students, activities involving all levels of education in physics take place.

Faculty: Diana Urbano, Jaime Villate, Paulo Garcia


Prospective students wishing to follow a PhD in other areas are invited to contact the doctoral programme for further information. The doctoral programme has an open approach by design. It nurtures other areas in interface and in collaboration with existing doctoral programmes at FEUP, Porto University or abroad.