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We offer two courses in Mathematical Physics at Nottingham, a 4-year MSci course (F325) and a 3-year BSc course (F326). The prospectus pages give information about these courses, such as the typical modules you would take in each year. However, we often get asked questions about these courses and their relation to our other courses which this page aims to address.
What exactly is Mathematical Physics?
In 2014, the Institute of Physics produced a report on Mathematical Physics: What is it and why do we need it? Their conclusion was that Mathematical Physics is physics that proceeds primarily through mathematical means and areas of mathematics that work to solve the problems posed by physics. In other words, it is the more mathematical areas of Physics and the more Physics-related areas of mathematics. Our Mathematical Physics courses involve taking modules taught by the School of Physics & Astronomy and modules taught by the School of Mathematical Sciences to produce a coherent program of study. Having a strong understanding of mathematics helps you understand the physics better than you would if you took a straight Physics degree, and having a strong understanding of physics helps you understand why you are learning the mathematics.
Why Mathematical Physics and not Joint Honours Maths and Physics?
Our Mathematical Physics degrees are single-honours programmes with approximately 50% of modules taken from Mathematics and 50% from Physics. Some Universities offer Joint-Honours courses in Maths and Physics instead. We think that Mathematical Physics is better because we can design a set of modules that fit together in a coherent manner, rather than allowing students to take modules from the two subject that may not slot together so well.
What is the difference between Mathematical Physics and Physics with Theoretical Physics?
The 'Physics with Theoretical Physics' course at Nottingham is for students who want to do Physics but are more interested in the theoretical side rather than the practical one. All modules are taught by Physics. There is a reasonable level of mathematics but the mathematics is principally taught as a necessary tool to solve Physics problems. Mathematical Physics is for students who want to know more about how and why the maths works as a subject in its own right. There is much more rigour in the maths presented.
Is it harder taking Mathematical Physics than just Maths or just Physics?
Mathematics and Physics very much complement each other. Many students find that hearing explanations of, say, quantum mechanics, from both maths and physics points of view results in things making more sense in both subjects. For those students, Mathematical Physics is the right course to do. On the other hand, some students find making the links between the subjects difficult and might find some of the maths too abstract. They are the ones who may be better off doing Physics with Theoretical Physics.
Does Mathematical Physics involve more contact hours than just Physics or just Mathematics?
All courses involve taking 120 credits per year, so the amount of timetabled activities are about the same (typically 15-20 hours per week) on all of these courses. This includes lectures, tutorials, computer workshops, problems classes etc. To fit in the required mathematics and physics, you do not have any options in the first year.
Can I transfer to another course?
Any student who feels in the first couple of weeks of their first year that they have made the wrong choice should be able to change course (subject to space on an alternative course being available and other admissions criteria being met). After this, transfer from Mathematical Physics to single honours Mathematics (G100/G103), single-honours Physics (F300/F303) or Physics with Theoretical Physics (F340/F344) will be possible at the end of the first year (subject to satisfactory performance in the appropriate subject and to space requirements). Note that it is not possible to transfer in to Mathematical Physics from either Physics or Mathematics as you would not have covered the relevant core from the other subject so would not be qualified to take the core second-year modules.
Students transferring to Physics / Physics with Theoretical Physics will be required to do F32ETI (Experimental Techniques and Instrumentation) in year 2, as they will not have taken the first-year laboratory module. It is not possible to transfer to Physics with Theoretical Astrophysics (F345/F346) as there are not enough credits available to do the necessary theoretical and astronomy modules along with the required laboratory module.
Transfer between the BSc and MSci courses is possible up to the end of the second year, or even in the third year for students who have taken the modules required for the MSci course. To transfer to the MSci you must meet a minimum level of performance in year 2. MSci students not meeting the appropriate threshold at the end of year 2 will be automatically transferred to the BSc.
What Options can I do?
Mathematical Physics involves taking core modules in both Mathematics and Physics. In both subjects, modules in higher years very much build upon the core modules done in earlier years. However, you will still have some choice of modules from year 2 onwards, with most of the 4th year being options.
Must I do the same number of credits in Physics and Maths?
In the first year, Mathematical Physics you must take 60 credits of modules from the School of Physics & Astronomy and 60 credits from the School of Mathematical Sciences in order to cover the core of the two subjects. In higher years, you may do a split of modules from the two Schools between 60-60 and 80-40 credits (either way round), depending upon your choice of options.
Can I get involved with Research?
Undergraduate students can learn about the internationally-recognised research that is taking place in both the School of Physics and Astronomy and the School of Mathematical Sciences through specialised options and project work. Some of the 3rd and many of the 4th year projects are associated with research groups in Physics and in Mathematics. Also, there are usually a number of summer project studentships on offer to students to undertake some research in the Summer between their second and third or third and fourth years. These are awarded competitively. Mathematical Physics students are eligible to apply for summer project studentships in both Schools.
Will I restrict my options for a PhD by doing Mathematical Physics?
We have had many students who have gone on to do PhDs after graduating from Mathematical Physics. On the Maths side, these are usually in applied mathematics, and on the Physics side they are usually in theoretical physics, but we do occasionally have students working in other subjects (e.g. experimental physics, engineering).
If you have any further questions about our Mathematical Physics courses, please get in touch with the Mathematical Physics Admissions Tutor, Janette Dunn (email: Janette.firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: 0115 951135).