Triangle

Course overview

About Physics at the University of Nottingham

We have a proud history of learning and innovation. Research undertaken within the School of Physics and Astronomy, by Professor Sir Peter Mansfield, was recognised with a 2003 Nobel Prize for the invention of Magnetic Resonance Imaging body scanners. This technology has already helped more than half a billion people worldwide. More recently, our use of quantum technologies to understand how the brain works is changing the way that neurological conditions are detected and treated.

Our research activities cover cutting-edge topics ranging from probing quantum mechanics at ultralow temperatures to understanding the largest structures in the Universe. We have been ranked joint third in the UK for research quality in physics (Research Excellence Framework 2014).

Our courses offer a wide range of optional modules, so you can explore new areas of physics and specialise in the ones that interest you the most. You can study topics as diverse as cosmology, nanoscience, and medical imaging and learn from experts in those fields. What’s more, there is flexibility to transfer between most physics courses after the first year.

Some of our teaching staff share their love of physics with budding scientists worldwide through the popular Sixty Symbols YouTube channel. Our unique, student centred MSci course offers innovative teaching methods, with few to no exams in the final year.

We encourage students to share their fascination with physics with the wider community through our outreach programme. This programme can help you further develop skills such as organisation, communication and team working. We also have an active student society, PhysSoc, which organises social events throughout the year. Our mentoring scheme gives new starters the opportunity to connect with more experienced physics students, helping you settle into university life.

Physics with European Language MSci

Expand your horizons and shape your future with a year abroad. We offer all the support you need to help you make the most of this unique, life-changing experience. You can choose study in a European country at one of our partner universities, such as France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. Studying abroad and learning a new language will also develop your communication skills, independence and employability.

Our unique final year will develop your professional and transferrable skills with immersive, student-centred learning. You will focus on fewer but more specialised areas and complete a year-long research project. Under the guidance of our expert staff you will benefit from a range of learning styles. These include group work, projects, delivering seminars and independent learning.

Why choose this course?

Research project

supervised by one or more academic staff members

Study abroad

at one of our European partner universities

Develop fluency

and expertise in another language 

Specialise

in a range of options reflecting our expertise, from nanoscience to cosmology

Paid research project

available, where you can work directly with our researchers

Joint 3rd

in the UK for research quality in physics

Research Excellence Framework 2014

Accredited

by the Institute of Physics


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.

UK entry requirements
A level A*AA-AAA

Please note: Applicants whose backgrounds or personal circumstances have impacted their academic performance may receive a reduced offer. Please see our contextal admissions policy for more information.

IB score 38 (6 in maths, plus 6 in physics and 6 in a third subject all at Higher Level)

A levels

A*AA including both maths and physics with at least one of these subjects achieving an A*. For example, A* maths, A physics or A* physics, A maths. Contextual offer goes to AAA.

A pass is normally required in science practical tests, where these are assessed separately. 

GCSEs

GCSE in a relevant language at grade 7 (A) or above.

Foundation progression options

If you don't meet our entry requirements there is the option to study the Engineering and Physical Sciences Foundation Programme. There is a course for UK students and one for EU/international students.

Mature Students

At the University of Nottingham, we have a valuable community of mature students and we appreciate their contribution to the wider student population. You can find lots of useful information on the mature students webpage.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

Teaching methods

  • Computer labs
  • Lab sessions
  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Workshops
  • Problem classes

How you will be assessed

For a typical core module the examination carries a weight of 80%, the remaining 20% usually being allocated for regular coursework and workshop assignments throughout the year.

Experimental and other practical work is continually assessed through laboratory notebooks and formal reports.

Assessment methods

  • Coursework
  • Group project
  • Lab reports
  • Research project
  • Written exam

Contact time and study hours

Typically in the first year, there are 10 lectures per week including problem sheets and directed reading. You will take part in weekly small group tutorials (typically five students), where your tutor will provide support and guidance. The practical modules involve working between three and six hours per week in laboratories. Subsequent years will vary with the largest change being no more weekly tutorials.

Study abroad

Students who choose to study abroad are more likely to achieve a first-class degree and earn more on average than students who did not (Gone International: Rising Aspirations report 2016/17).

Benefits of studying abroad:

  • explore a new culture
  • a reduced tuition fee of up to 80% for the time you are abroad
  • improve your communication skills, confidence and independence

You can apply to spend your third year in countries such as:

  • France
  • Germany
  • Spain
  • Switzerland

Year in industry

Our year in industry degree courses give you the opportunity to spend a year on placement with an industrial partner. These placements enable you to apply your learning to a practical setting within a physics-related industry.

Placements

There are opportunities to take on a paid summer research internship within the School. 

Study Abroad and the Year in Industry are subject to students meeting minimum academic requirements. Opportunities may change at any time for a number of reasons, including curriculum developments, changes to arrangements with partner universities, travel restrictions or other circumstances outside of the university’s control. Every effort will be made to update information as quickly as possible should a change occur.

Modules

In addition to your physics courses, you will take courses in your nominated language for the first two years before undertaking your year abroad. The level at which you will start will depend on how far you have previously studied. The appropriate level will be assessed by your language tutor.

The first-year modules will provide you with key practical, mathematical and computational skills.

From Newton to Einstein

How does the world really work?

We’ll take you from Newton’s mechanics, the pinnacle of the scientific revolution and the foundation of our understanding of modern physics, right through to our current understanding of physics with Einstein’s theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.

This module will underpin your entire physics degree. It contains all the ideas and principles that form the basis of our modern world. As you’ll find out, some of these ideas are very strange indeed.

You’ll study:

  • Newton’s laws of mechanics
  • The physics of waves and oscillations
  • Electricity and magnetism
  • Quantum mechanics and the foundations of modern physics
  • Einstein’s relativity
Introductory Experimental Physics

In this module you will receive: an introduction to the basic techniques and equipment used in experimental physics; training in the analysis and interpretation of experimental data; opportunities to observe phenomena discussed in theory modules and training in the skills of record keeping and writing scientific reports.

Computing For Physical Science

You’ll receive training in basic computing techniques using Python, and will be introduced to their use in solving physical problems.

You’ll spend two hours in computer classes and a one hour lecture each week. 

Quantitative Physics

This year-long module will train you in the mathematical modelling of physical processes. You’ll cover topics such as basic statistics and errors, dimensional analysis, curve sketching, orders of magnitude and estimates, and integrating problems in physics among others.

Basic Mathematical Methods for Physics

This year-long module covers the mathematical background required for the majority of undergraduate-level study of physics and astronomy. It will complement the material studied in other first-year physics degree modules.

The structure of the module has been designed to ease students into the level of maths required for the early stages of your degree. 

The topics covered in this module are:

  • Complex numbers
  • Differentiation and Taylor Series representations
  • Stationary points of two-dimensional functions
  • Integration techniques for functions of single and multiple variables
  • Partial derivatives of functions of multiple variables
  • Conic sections in plane geometry
  • Fourier representation of functions and the Fourier transform
  • Matrices and eigenvalue problems
  • Solving first-order ordinary differential equations (ODEs)
  • Solving homogeneous and inhomogeneous linear constant coefficient ODEs
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. This content was last updated on Wednesday 10 August 2022.

You will continue to study the same core modules as MSci Physics. You will also take the necessary language modules to raise your language skills to stage three.

Core modules

Intermediate Experimental Physics

In this module you will develop your experimental technique and gain experience of some key instruments and methods. The experiments will cover electrical measurements, optics and radiation. You will also learn how to use a computer to control experiments and to record data directly from measuring instruments.

In this module you will further develop your laboratory skills.

  • You will learn how to create software to perform automated laboratory experiments, such as driving a robot buggy, measuring the time taken for heat to flow through a thin metal sheet, and developing a sensitive temperature controller.
  • You will explore topics at greater depth by performing open-ended laboratory investigations in areas such as chaos, quantum physics, elementary particles, x-ray and gamma radiation, and magnetic resonance imaging.
Thermal and Statistical Physics

Macroscopic systems exhibit behaviour that often differs from that of their microscopic constituents. This module explores the relationship between the macro and micro worlds, and the complexity which emerges from the interplay of many interacting degrees of freedom.

You’ll study:

  • Laws of thermodynamics, and how they are still relevant
  • Macroscopic characterisation of matter, for example how liquid nitrogen is made and understood
  • Statistical formulation, linking micro and macro systems
  • Quantum statistics, providing a theory for everything!
Classical Fields

In this module you will explore the concepts of scalar and vector fields. You will learn the mathematics of vector calculus, which give us a powerful tool for studying the properties of fields and understanding their physics.

You will then study its application in two important and contrasting areas of physics: fluid dynamics, and electromagnetism. We use examples such as water draining from a sink or wind in a tornado to provide intuitive illustrations of the application of vector calculus, which can then help us to understand the behaviour of electric and magnetic fields.

You’ll study:

  • The fundamental principles and techniques of vector calculus, and methods to visualise and calculate the properties of scalar and vector fields
  • The application of vector calculus to fluid flow problems
  • Maxwell’s equations of electrodynamics, and their applications in electrostatics, magnetic fields and electromagnetic waves.
Wave Phenomena

The physics of waves features in our everyday lives. Waves are important phenomena. They include:

  • electromagnetic waves that we know as light
  • communication via radio and microwaves
  • surface waves on water
  • shock waves in earthquakes

Understanding light and how it can be manipulated leads to important technical applications such as optics and cameras in mobile phones, telecommunication and the internet or even quantum computers.

This module will cover the wave description of light; geometrical optics and imaging, interference and diffraction; optical interferometry. The second half of the module will introduce more general methods for the discussion of wave propagation, and Fourier methods.

You’ll study:

  • Imaging and matrix methods
  • Microscopes and telescopes. State of the art telescopes such as the Hubble Telescope, the VLT (Very Large Telescope) and the James Webb Telescope.
  • Interference patterns and their applications, for example to study the structure of proteins, of crystals and of fullerenes
The Quantum World

This module provides an introduction to the theory and elementary applications of quantum mechanics, a theory that is one of the key achievements of physics. Quantum mechanics is an elegant theoretical construct that is both beautiful and mysterious. Some of the predictions of quantum mechanics are wholly counter-intuitive and there are aspects of it that are not properly understood. Nonetheless, it has been thoroughly tested empirically for nearly a century and, wherever predictions can be made, they agree with experiment.

The notes, videos, and simulations for the first semester of The Quantum World are all publicly available and freely accessible. Check out the notes online, which include embedded links to the videos and interactive simulations.

You’ll study:

  • Quantum vs classical states
  • Fourier series and transforms: translating from position to momentum space
  • The Heisenberg uncertainty principle (particularly from a Fourier perspective)
  • The time-dependent and time-independent Schrödinger equation
  • Bound and unbound states, scattering and tunnelling
  • Wavepackets
  • The subtleties of the particle in a box
  • Operators, observables, and the thorny measurement problem
  • Matrix mechanics and Dirac notation
  • The quantum harmonic oscillator
  • Conservation and correspondence principles
  • Angular momentum
  • Stern-Gerlach experiment
  • Spin
  • Zeeman effect, Rabi oscillations
  • 2D and 3D systems
  • Degeneracies
  • Hydrogen atom and the radial Schrödinger equation
  • Entanglement and non-locality
  • ... and, of course, that ever-frustrating feline...
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. This content was last updated on

This year is spent at one of our European partner universities, studying in the appropriate European language. Since different universities offer different modules, we tailor the programme to both the individual's interests and what the particular institution has to offer.

In the final year, you will work on a range of activities, projects and presentations. You will also carry out a major research project, either involving consultancy work in industry or collaboration within one of the research groups.

Core modules

Physics Research Project

In this year-long module you’ll work on an original theoretical or practical problem directly relevant to the research taking place in the school or in a collaborating external organisation, such as industry or an overseas university. You’ll spend semester one researching the background to your chosen project and carry out your original research in semester two.

You’ll:

  • Choose a project from a wide range of options reflecting the broad range of research in the school (Astronomy; Particle Cosmology; MRI; Experimental and Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics)
  • Study the background and underlying physical principles of your choice
  • Carry out the original research and present your results orally and in a written report

Optional modules

Gravity

After more than 200 hundred years of Newtonian gravity, Einstein revolutionised the way we view space and time. This module will introduce you to the key concepts and tools used to describe gravitational physics as set down in General Relativity.

You’ll study:

  • How geometry plays a central role in physical measurements
  • How to compute the paths of objects in curved spacetime
  • The spacetime geometry of black holes
Magnetic Resonance

This module will explain how the intrinsic spin of nuclei and electrons is exploited in magnetic resonance experiments. It will describe the classical and quantum pictures of the phenomenon of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and show why NMR forms such a powerful analytical tool, today. Basic electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) will also be described, along with the equipment used for NMR and EPR, and some applications of these techniques. 

The Politics, Perception and Philosophy of Physics

In this module you'll gain an appreciation of the broad societal impact of physics (and science in general). You'll be introduced to the politics surrounding science policy (on, e.g., global warming/renewable energy R&D) and research funding. You'll also explorre some of the key ideas in the philosophy of physics and science, particularly as they relate to public perception of scientific research.

Imaging and Data Processing

Modern science is data rich. For example, it’s not uncommon for a single experiment to generate terabytes, or even petabytes of data. As scientists, one of the major challenges we face is to collapse these vast data archives into meaningful information that we can understand, and use to draw conclusions.

In this module, you will learn the critical mathematical techniques that are used to do this. We will cover techniques from simple image processing, all the way to advanced blind source separation and machine learning. You will then put these techniques into practice, in a data processing project that may range from satellite imaging to measuring the amount of information stored by the human brain.

Order, Disorder and Fluctuations

This module will develop the modern theoretical description of phase transitions and critical phenomena and provide an introduction to the dynamics of non-equilibrium systems. Topics to be covered will include:

 • ordered phases of matter;

 •  order parameters;

 •  scaling behaviour at critical points;

 •  mean-field approaches;

 •  finite-size scaling;

 • stochastic processes;

 • Langevin dynamics and the Fokker-Planck equation.
Applications, both within and beyond, condensed matter physics will be discussed.

Quantum Transport

Electronic devices such as transistors and light emitting diodes are the basic building blocks of the technology that underpins all aspects of the modern world.

Previous modules on Solid State Physics and Semiconductor Physics should have given you a good understanding of how these devices work. The move to make these building blocks ever smaller leads us into regimes where we have to treat the quantum nature of electrons in solids much more seriously.

Research in this area has led to the development of entirely new types of electronic devices such as quantum well lasers. It has also uncovered entirely new physical phenomena like the quantum Hall effects. It is this new physics and its applications that is the topic of this module.

You will study:

  • The quantum theory of electrical transport in solids – elastic and inelastic scattering, conductance quantization
  • Quantum confinement – technology for producing 2d, 1d and 0d electronic systems
  • Quantum interference phenomena – weak and strong localization, Aharonov Bohm effect
  • Carbon Nanotubes and Graphene
  • Quantum Dots – tunnelling, charging effects, optoelectronic applications
  • Quantum Hall Effects and Topological Insulators.
Research Techniques in Astronomy

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.

Advanced Techniques for Nanoscience Research

The module provides a detailed presentation of advanced research topics in nanoscience. The focus is on analysis of experimental data (workshops), self-guided study of current literature (literature review) and developing an experimental proposal (group project).

You’ll study:

  • Atoms and molecules at surfaces: surfaces in ultra-high vacuum (UHV), characterisation of surfaces and molecules via scanning probe microscopy (SPM), diffusion at surfaces, on-surface synthesis.
  • Near-field optics and optical spectroscopy: advanced optical microscopy, vibrational properties of molecules and nanomaterials, nearfield scanning probe optical microscopy.
  • Magnetism at the Nanoscale: Magnetic ordering at the nanoscale, nanoscale magnetic imaging techniques and electrical control of magnetic order.
Quantum Coherent Devices

In earlier modules on quantum mechanics, the focus was mostly on individual quantum systems. In this module we will investigate quantum systems that can interact with each other. These will be solid-state devices in which the interactions and behaviours are engineered to create the desired properties. We will describe the theoretical and experimental techniques needed to create the solid-state devices that are now being used to make quantum computers and quantum sensors.

You’ll study:

  • Composite quantum systems – quantum systems that are coupled together
  • Superconducting quantum devices and their use in quantum computers
  • Nanoelectromechanical systems and NV- defects in diamond
  • Experiments that probe the boundary between quantum and classical physics.
Modern Cosmology

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.

Light and Matter

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. 

Modern Applications of Physics

This module will give you insights into how physics is applied in a range of academic and industrial environments including research to advance knowledge, product development and problem-solving.

How is physics used in the real world? This module will give you insights into how physics is applied in a range of academic and industrial environments including research to advance knowledge, product development and problem-solving.

You’ll gain:

  • knowledge of the areas of research conducted in the School of Physics and Astronomy and their applications.
  • insights into how physicists work in industry from presentations given by invited speakers from companies and national facilities
  • experience of working in a team in which you will use the skills you have gained to solve problems such as those faced in industry.
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. This content was last updated on

Fees and funding

UK students

£9,250
Per year

International students

£26,500*
Per year

*For full details including fees for part-time students and reduced fees during your time studying abroad or on placement (where applicable), see our fees page.

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 using guidance issued by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) .

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, you should factor some additional costs into your budget, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses.

You should be able to access most of the books you’ll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies. If you do these would cost around £40.

Due to our commitment to sustainability, we don’t print lecture notes but these are available digitally. You will be given £5 worth of printer credits a year. You are welcome to buy more credits if you need them. It costs 4p to print one black and white page.

If you study abroad, you need to consider the travel and living costs associated with your country of choice. This may include visa costs and medical insurance.

Personal laptops are not compulsory as we have computer labs that are open 24 hours a day but you may want to consider one if you wish to work at home.

Scholarships and bursaries

Home students*

Over one third of our UK students receive our means-tested core bursary, worth up to £1,000 a year. Full details can be found on our financial support pages.

* A 'home' student is one who meets certain UK residence criteria. These are the same criteria as apply to eligibility for home funding from Student Finance.

International students

We offer a range of international undergraduate scholarships for high-achieving international scholars who can put their Nottingham degree to great use in their careers.

International scholarships

Careers

Studying abroad and learning a new language will also develop your communication skills and independence. These assets are hugely sought after by employers.

Studying advanced physics will enable you to become more adaptable and better at problem solving. These are invaluable traits for any career. Our students go on to work in a variety of industries, including engineering, aerospace, IT, and finance, as well as academic research.

Employers of our graduates include Accenture, EDF Energy, Jaguar Land Rover, and various NHS Trusts. Roles include Trainee Clinical Scientist, Medical Physicist, Systems Engineer, Data Analyst and Software Development Engineer.

Average starting salary and career progression

87.0% of undergraduates 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 £26,673.*

* 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.

Studying for a degree at the University of Nottingham will provide you with the type of skills and experiences that will prove invaluable in any career, whichever direction you decide to take.

Throughout your time with us, our Careers and Employability Service can work with you to improve your employability skills even further; assisting with job or course applications, searching for appropriate work experience placements and hosting events to bring you closer to a wide range of prospective employers.

Have a look at our careers page for an overview of all the employability support and opportunities that we provide to current students.

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers (Ranked in the top ten in The Graduate Market in 2013-2020, High Fliers Research).

Institute of Physics

The Institute of Physics accredits bachelor and integrated masters degree programmes for the purposes of the professional award of Chartered Physicist. Chartered Physicist requires an IOP accredited degree followed by an appropriate period of experience during which professional skills are acquired. 

An accredited integrated masters degree fulfills the academic requirement for Chartered Physicist status.

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" I am currently studying at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland. I have been given the amazing opportunity to work in the Swiss plasma centre doing disruption mitigation in preparation for ITER (world’s largest fusion energy experiment) going live in the near future. I’m looking forward to making the most of my time here to explore Switzerland, and also some more of surrounding Europe. "
Alex, Physics with European Language

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Important information

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.