Welcome to the School of Physics & Astronomy. These web pages are intended to give an overview of the teaching, both undergraduate and postgraduate, and research of the School. Although these activities are often considered distinct, I should emphasize the close interplay between them here. Lecturing by active researchers means that our students are exposed to the enthusiasm of those directly involved in this enterprise, and also ensures that the material they learn gets them right to the cutting edge of this fast-moving subject. Similarly, postgraduate work and also undergraduate projects and internships provide key elements of the School’s thriving research programme.
The undergraduate degree programmes here are designed to give students the maximum of flexibility in either maintaining a broad-based physics education or pursuing a particular sub-discipline. As you will see from the wide range of options available, these specialized “strands” draw on the expertise of our research from all across physics. In addition, we invest a lot of time developing the skills you will need as a trained physicist, whether it is the sophisticated mathematical manipulations required for theoretical physics or the computer control of apparatus for advanced experimentation. This training culminates in the fourth year of our MSci programmes, where conventional exam-based modules are replaced entirely by student-led activities designed both to integrate your understanding of the subject and to develop the research skills you will need if you decide to carry on with postgraduate training. These skills are also highly valued by employers, making our graduates very sought after for a wide range of interesting and well-paid careers. As well as acquiring a valuable qualification, our students enjoy being a part of this exciting enterprise, as reflected in the strong scores we obtain in the National Student Survey completed by each graduating class.
Research in the School is organised into the general areas of Astronomy, Magnetic Resonance Imaging & Spectroscopy, Experimental Condensed Matter & Nanoscience, Particle Theory, Ultracold Atoms & Quantum Optics, and Condensed Matter Theory, but with much productive cross-over between these themes and with new areas emerging. As an indication of the quality of the work undertaken here, the School was ranked second equal amongst UK physics departments in the last national Research Assessment Exercise, and we take particular pride that one of our staff, Professor Sir Peter Mansfield, won a recent Nobel Prize for the work undertaken here on the invention of magnetic resonance imaging. The strong international reputation of this research has attracted a large portfolio of funding from a wide range of agencies including EPSRC, STFC, MRC, BBSRC, the Wellcome Trust and other charities, the Royal Society, and the European Union, allowing us to maintain a vigorous programme of research using cutting-edge experimental apparatus. We also foster strong links with industry, exemplified by the major electronics company e2v’s decision to base one of its centres directly within the School, encouraging the flow of both research ideas to industry and industrial techniques into academia.
I hope that this very brief introduction has been helpful, and that looking at the rest of our web pages conveys some of the excitement of the subject that we have the privilege to study, develop and teach. If you do need any further information, do not hesitate to contact us.
Prof Michael Merrifield
Head of School
School of Physics & Astronomy