Research overview

Join one of UK's leading physics and astronomy schools. Our excellence in research is demonstrated by our top 3 ranking in the latest Research Excellence Framework (2014) for physics. We conduct internationally leading research in a wide range of experimental and theoretical areas of physics and astronomy. Explore our research groups below to see what opportunities we can offer.

Research groups:

Your PhD will be about conducting original research in an area of your choice under the supervision of academic staff members. You will be encouraged to participate in national and international conferences to present your work, and you will be supported in submitting your results for publication in scientific journals. You will participate in seminars and be part of the vibrant research community of our School.

Course content

Your PhD will be in an area of research you have chosen. Alongside this, you will do research training modules. The school and the Graduate School deliver these.

This formal training element is designed to provide you with transferable skills in writing and oral presentation needed to support your PhD. These modules can be tailored to your needs.

An MRes is a one-year course which combines a research project with 40 credits of taught modules. See below for example modules. 

You can also take up to 20 optional credits of generic training taken in the Midlands Physics Alliance Graduate School (MPAGS) and/or the Researcher Academy.

Modules are taught by academic staff.

Example modules

Radiation is a term which can cover many different phenomena and a wide range of energies (acoustic, electromagnetic, ionizing). In this module we will learn how physicists can harness the health benefits of using radiation, as well as measuring and controlling levels of radiation in the environment or therapy.

This module develops a range of modern astronomical techniques through student-centered approaches to topical research problems. You’ll cover a range of topics related to ongoing research in astronomy and astrophysics, and will encompass theoretical and observational approaches. This module is based on individual and group student-led activities involving the solution of topical problems including written reports and exercises, and a project.

This module introduces you to the physics and applications of Semiconductors. This module includes detailed overview of the Semiconductors past, present and future, and provides skills and knowledge essential for a future Semiconductor researcher or engineer.

This module will extend previous work in the areas of atomic and optical physics to cover modern topics in the area of quantum effects in light-matter interactions. Some basic material will be introduced in six staff-led seminars and you’ll have around two hours of lectures and student-led workshops each week. 

This module aims to provide you with a working knowledge of the basic techniques of image processing.

The major topics covered will include:

  • acquisition of images
  • image representation
  • resolution and quantization
  • image compression
  • on-Fourier enhancement techniques

You’ll spend around four hours in lectures, eight hours in seminars and have a one-hour tutorial each week. 

Understanding the dynamics of quantum systems is crucial, not just for describing the fundamental physics of atoms, but also for the development of exciting new quantum-based technologies. This module will equip you with the key theoretical concepts and methods needed to explore how quantum systems evolve with time.

This module introduces you to the key ideas behind modern approaches to our understanding of the role of inflation in the early and late universe, in particular through the formation of structure, the generation of anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background radiation, and the origin of dark energy. You’ll study through a series of staff lectures and student-led workshops.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules.

You will complete a written thesis of up to 100,000 words, with expert support and advice from your academic supervisor(s). You will also take a verbal examination called a viva voce where you explain your project in depth to an examination panel.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2022 entry.


2:1 or a masters in physics, mathematical physics or mathematics

2:2 physics or a masters in physics, mathematical physics or mathematics

Additional information

Most applicants are interviewed. It is preferred they are done in person but if that isn't practical they can be done through a telephone call or video call.

Most applicants are interviewed. It is preferred they are done in person but if that isn't practical they can be done through a telephone call or video call.


2:1 or a masters in physics, mathematical physics or mathematics

2:2 physics or a masters in physics, mathematical physics or mathematics

International and EU equivalents

We accept a wide range of qualifications from all over the world.

For information on entry requirements from your country, see our country pages.

We accept a wide range of qualifications from all over the world.

For information on entry requirements from your country, see our country pages.

Additional information

Most applicants are interviewed. It can be done online through a video call.

Most applicants are interviewed. It can be done online through a video call.

IELTS6.5 (6.0 in each element)6.5 (6.0 in each element)
English language requirements

As well as IELTS (listed above), we also accept other English language qualifications.

This includes TOEFL iBT, Pearson PTE, GCSE, IB and O level English.

As well as IELTS (listed above), we also accept other English language qualifications.

This includes TOEFL iBT, Pearson PTE, GCSE, IB and O level English.

Meeting our English language requirements

If you need support to meet the required level, you may be able to attend a presessional English course. Presessional courses teach you academic skills in addition to English language. Our Centre for English Language Education is accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK.

If you successfully complete your presessional course to the required level, you can then progress to your degree course. This means that you won't need to retake IELTS or equivalent.

For on-campus presessional English courses, you must take IELTS for UKVI to meet visa regulations. For online presessional courses, see our CELE webpages for guidance.

Visa restrictions

International students must have valid UK immigration permissions for any courses or study period where teaching takes place in the UK. Student route visas can be issued for eligible students studying full-time courses. The University of Nottingham does not sponsor a student visa for students studying part-time courses. The Standard Visitor visa route is not appropriate in all cases. Please contact the university’s Visa and Immigration team if you need advice about your visa options.

We recognise that applicants have a variety of experiences and follow different pathways to postgraduate study.

We treat all applicants with alternative qualifications on an individual basis. We may also consider relevant work experience.

If you are unsure whether your qualifications or work experience are relevant, contact us.


Use our research webpages and staff listings to find a research topic that we work on. In your application, you should tell us which area of physics you want to do a PhD in. You don't need to do a research proposal. 

We accept applications all year round for some groups but you may want to check specific deadlines with your supervisor or prospective funder.

Our step-by-step guide contains everything you need to know about applying for postgraduate research.

How to apply


UK fees are set in line with the national UKRI maximum fee limit.

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you may be asked to complete a fee status questionnaire and your answers will be assessed usingguidance issued by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).

These fees are for full-time study. If you are studying part-time, you will be charged a proportion of this fee each year (subject to inflation).

Additional costs

All students will need at least one device to approve security access requests via Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). We also recommend students have a suitable laptop to work both on and off-campus. For more information, please check the equipment advice.

As a student on this course, we do not anticipate any extra significant costs, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses. You should be able to access most of the books and journals you’ll need through our libraries. 


UK applicants

Each year we offer a number of competitive funded places from a variety of funding sources. Some of these will be advertised on the University's studentships page.  

There are many ways to fund your research degree, from scholarships to government loans.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding


You'll be integrated into the school's research community as a member of your research group. You can also take part in research seminars and colloquia given by visiting speakers.

You will have at least 10 meetings per year with your supervisor.

Researcher training and development

The Researcher Academy is the network for researchers, and staff who support them. We work together to promote a healthy research culture, to cultivate researcher excellence, and develop creative partnerships that enable researchers to flourish.

Postgraduate researchers at Nottingham have access to our online Members’ area, which includes a wealth of resources, access to training courses and award-winning postgraduate placements.

Student support

You will have access to a range of support services, including:

  • academic and disability support
  • childcare services
  • counselling service
  • faith support
  • financial support
  • mental health and wellbeing support
  • visa and immigration advice
  • welfare support

Students' Union

Our Students' Union represents all students. You can join the Postgraduate Students’ Network or contact the dedicated Postgraduate Officer.

There are also a range of support networks, including groups for:

  • international students
  • black and minority ethnic students
  • students who identify as women
  • students with disabilities
  • LGBT+ students

SU Advice provides free, independent and confidential advice on issues such as accommodation, financial and academic difficulties.

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Where you will learn

University Park Campus

University Park Campus covers 300 acres, with green spaces, wildlife, period buildings and modern facilities. It is one of the UK's most beautiful and sustainable campuses, winning a national Green Flag award every year since 2003.

Most schools and departments are based here. You will have access to libraries, shops, cafes, the Students’ Union, sports village and a health centre.

You can walk or cycle around campus. Free hopper buses connect you to our other campuses. Nottingham city centre is 15 minutes away by public bus or tram.


Whether you are considering a career in academia, industry or haven't yet decided, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

Expert staff will work with you to explore PhD career options and apply for vacancies, develop your interview skills and meet employers. You can book a one-to-one appointment, take an online course or attend a workshop.

International students who complete an eligible degree programme in the UK on a student visa can apply to stay and work in the UK after their course under the Graduate immigration route. Eligible courses at the University of Nottingham include bachelors, masters and research degrees, and PGCE courses.

Many of our research students continue with an academic career. This may start with a postdoctoral research role. Others move into research within a company.

Outside of research, physics graduates can work in finance, energy, technology or science journalism to name a few.

95.5% of postgraduates from the School of Physics and Astronomy secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £34,063.*

* HESA Graduate Outcomes 2020. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. The average annual salary is based on graduates working full-time within the UK.

Related courses

Research Excellence Framework

We are ranked 7th in the UK for research power (2021), according to analysis by Times Higher Education. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a national assessment of the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

  • We're ranked joint 3rd of all the physics departments in the UK (overall, institutions ranked by subject)
  • 90%* of our research is classed as 'world-leading' (4*) or 'internationally excellent' (3*)
  • 100%* of our research is recognised internationally
  • 51% of our research is assessed as 'world-leading' (4*) for its impact**

*According to analysis by Times Higher Education ** According to our own analysis.

This content was last updated on 25 May 2022. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.