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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.

We have received the highest rating of ‘Gold’ for teaching excellence (Teaching Excellence Framework 2017). 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.

Mathematical Physics BSc

Ever since Newton’s theories of motion and gravity, the fields of physics and mathematics have been interlinked. This accredited course is taught by the Schools of Mathematical Sciences, and Physics and Astronomy. It uses advanced mathematics to further your understanding of how our universe works. It offers a solid foundation in theoretical physics and associated mathematical topics. Optional modules such as Relativity, Differential Geometry, and Black Holes give you the opportunity to specialise in the areas that interest you the most.

Why choose this course?

Specialist modules

in mathematical physics

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

TEF Gold

standard of teaching

Teaching Excellence Framework Awards

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
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. 

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.

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.

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 benefit from having both a maths and a physics tutor. You will take part in weekly small group tutorials (typically five students), where your tutor will provide support and guidance. These will alternate between maths and physics in the first year. Subsequent years will vary with the largest change being no more weekly tutorials.

Study abroad

Our Physics with European Language degree courses give you the opportunity to spend a year studying in a European country and develop proficiency in another language.

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. 

Modules

Build up your knowledge of the subject through modules in the core elements of physics. You will study key mathematical physics concepts, such as Quantitative Physics and Linear Mathematics.

From Newton to Einstein
This module aims to provide students with a rigorous understanding of the core concepts of physics at an introductory level. The module underpins all other physics modules in all years.
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.

Analytical and Computational Foundations

The idea of proof is fundamental to all mathematics. We’ll look at mathematical reasoning using techniques from logic to deal with sets, functions, sequences and series.

This module links directly with your study in Calculus and Linear Mathematics. It provides you with the foundations for the broader area of Mathematical Analysis. This includes the rigorous study of the infinite and the infinitesimal.

You will also learn the basics of computer programming. This will give you the chance to use computational algorithms to explore many of the mathematical results you’ll encounter in your core modules.

Your study will include:

  • propositional and predicate logic; set theory, countability
  • proof: direct, indirect and induction
  • sequences and infinite series (convergence and divergence)
  • limits and continuity of functions
  • programming in Python
Calculus

How do we define calculus? How is it used in the modern world?

The concept can be explained as the mathematics of continuous change. It allows us to analyse motion and change in time and space.

You will cover techniques for differentiating, integrating and solving differential equations. You’ll learn about the theorems which prove why calculus works. We will explore the theory and how it can be applied in the real world.

Your study will include:

  • functions: limits, continuity and differentiability, rules of differentiation
  • techniques for integration, fundamental theorem of calculus
  • solution of linear and nonlinear differential equations
  • multivariate calculus, Lagrange multipliers, stationary points
  • multiple integrals, changes of variables, Jacobians

This module gives you the mathematical tools required for later modules which involve modelling with differential equations. These include:

  • mathematical physics
  • mathematical medicine and biology
  • scientific computation
Linear Mathematics

Vectors, matrices and complex numbers are familiar topics from A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics. Their common feature is linearity. A linear mathematical operation is one which is compatible with addition and scaling.

As well as these topics you’ll study the concept of a vector space, which is fundamental to later study in abstract algebra. We will also investigate practical aspects, such as methods for solving linear systems of equations.

The module will give you the tools to analyse large systems of equations that arise in mathematical, statistical and computational models. For example, in areas such as:

  • fluid and solid mechanics
  • mathematical medicine and biology
  • mathematical finance

Your study will include:

  • complex numbers, vector algebra and geometry
  • matrix algebra, inverses, determinants
  • vector spaces, subspaces, bases
  • linear systems of simultaneous equations, Gaussian elimination
  • eigenvalues and eigenvectors, matrix diagonalisation
  • linear transformations, inner product spaces
Probability

What is the importance of probability in the modern world?

It allows us to assess risk when calculating insurance premiums. It can help when making investment decisions. It can be used to estimate the impact that government policy will have on climate change or the spread of disease.

We will look at the theory and practice of discrete and continuous probability. Your study will include:

  • sample spaces, events and counting problems
  • conditional probability, independence, Bayes’ theorem
  • random variables, expectation, variance
  • discrete and continuous probability distributions
  • multivariate random variables
  • sums of random variables, central limit theorem

These topics will help you prepare for later modules in:

  • probability methods
  • stochastic models
  • uncertainty quantification
  • mathematical finance
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 19 May 2021.

You will study core physics theories including electromagnetism and quantum mechanics. You'll also study specialist mathematics modules such as Vector Calculus. Optional modules offered by both schools will give you the opportunity to tailor your study in an area that interests you.

Core modules

Thermal and Statistical Physics

Macroscopic systems exhibit behaviour that is quite different from that of their microscopic constituents studied in isolation. New physics emerges from the interplay of many interacting degrees of freedom. In this module you will learn about the important physical properties of matter and the two main approaches to their description. One, thermodynamics, treats macroscopically relevant degrees of freedom (temperature, pressure and so on) and find relations between these and the fundamental laws which govern them, independent of their microscopic structure. The other approach, statistical mechanics, links the macroscopically relevant properties to the microphysics by replacing the detailed microscopic dynamics with a statistical description. The common feature of both of these methods is the introduction of two macroscopic quantities, temperature and entropy, that have no microscopic meaning.

Introduction to Mathematical Physics
This course develops Newtonian mechanics into the more powerful formulations due to Lagrange and Hamilton and introduces the basic structure of quantum mechanics. The course provides the foundation for a wide range of more advanced courses in mathematical physics.
Vector Calculus

This course aims to give students a sound grounding in the application of both differential and integral calculus to vectors, and to apply vector calculus methods and separation of variables to the solution of partial differential equations. The module is an important pre-requisite for a wide range of other courses in Applied Mathematics.

Optics and Electromagnetism
The first half of the module will focus on optics: the study of light. Topics to be covered will include geometrical optics, wave description of light, interference and diffraction and optical interferometry. There will be a small number of practical sessions illustrating the ideas developed. The second half of the module will cover various aspects of electromagnetism including the treatment of dielectric and magnetic media, the propagation of electromagnetic waves and various techniques for the solution of electromagnetic problems.
Differential Equations and Fourier Analysis
This course aims to introduce standard methods of solution for linear ordinary and partial differential equations and to introduce the idea and practice of Fourier series and integral transforms. The mathematical methods taught in this module find wide application across a range of courses in applied mathematics.

Optional modules

The Structure of Stars

You will develop your knowledge of the various physical processes occurring in stars of different types. You’ll use this knowledge to build both mathematical models and your qualitative physical understanding of stellar structure and evolution will be enhanced. You’ll have two hours per week of lectures studying this module.

The Structure of Galaxies

This module will develop your current understanding of the various physical processes that dictate the formation, evolution and structure of galaxies. You’ll explore a number of topics including The Milky Way, The Dynamics of Galaxies, Active Galaxies and Galaxy Evolution among others. You’ll spend two hours per week in lectures studying this module.

Force and Function at the Nanoscale

You’ll be given an overview of how forces at the nanoscale are different to those observed in macroscopic systems and will consider how they can be exploited in nanometre-scale processes and devices.

You’ll focus on the physical basis and measurement of forces operating on the nanoscale, considering van der Waals, electrostatic, hydrophobic and hydrophilic interactions.

You’ll spend around three hours per week in lectures and workshops studying this module.

Complex Functions

In this module you will learn about the theory and applications of functions of a complex variable using a method and applications approach. You will develop an understanding of the theory of complex functions and evaluate certain real integrals using your new skills.

Mathematical Analysis

In this module you will build on the foundation of knowledge gained from your core year one modules in Analytical and Computational Foundations and Calculus. You will learn to follow a rigorous approach needed to produce concrete proof of your workings.

Modelling with Differential Equations

This course aims to provide students with tools which enable them to develop and analyse linear and nonlinear mathematical models based on ordinary and partial differential equations. Furthermore, it aims to introduce students to the fundamental mathematical concepts required to model the flow of liquids and gases and to apply the resulting theory to model physical situations. 

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

You will study advanced topics in physics and mathematics, applying the core theories and methods learn from year one and two.

You will also work on a year-long research project in a specialist area of your choice.

Core modules

Introduction to Solid State Physics
This module will provide a general introduction to solid state physics. Topics covered include:
  • Bonding nature of chemical bonds, thermodynamics of solid formation
  • Crystal structures description of crystal structures, k-space, reciprocal lattice, Bragg diffraction, Brillouin zones
  • Nearly-free electron model - Bloch's theorem, band gaps from electron Bragg scattering, effective masses
  • Band theory Fermi surfaces, qualitative picture of transport, metals, insulators and semiconductors
  • Semiconductors - doping, inhomogeneous semiconductors, basic description of pn junction
  • Phonons normal modes of ionic lattice, quantization, Debye theory of heat capacities, acoustic and optical phonons
  • Optical properties of solids absorption and reflection of light by metals, Brewster angle, dielectric constants, plasma oscillations
  • Magnetism- Landau diamagnetism, paramagnetism, exchange interactions, Ferromagnetism, antiferromagnetism, neutron scattering, dipolar interactions and domain formation, magnetic technology
Atoms, Photons and Fundamental Particles

This module will introduce students to the physics of atoms, nuclei and the fundamental constituents of matter and their interactions. The module will also develop the quantum mechanical description of these.

Topics to be covered are:

  • Approximation techniques first order perturbation theory, degeneracies, second order perturbation theory, transition rates, time-dependent perturbation theory, Fermi's golden rule
  • Particle Physics protons and neutrons, antiparticles, particle accelerators and scattering experiments, conservation laws, neutrinos, leptons, baryons and hadrons, the quark model and the strong interaction, weak interactions, standard model
  • Introduction to atomic physics review of simple model of hydrogen atom, Fermi statistics and Pauli principle, aufbau principle, hydrogenic atoms, exchange, fine structure and hyperfine interactions, dipole interaction, selection rules and transition rates
  • Lasers optical polarization and photons, optical cavities, population inversions, Bose statistics and stimulated emission, Einstein A and B coefficients
  • Nuclear Physics Radioactivity, decay processes, alpha, beta and gamma emission, detectors, stability curves and binding energies, nuclear fission, fusion, liquid drop and shell models.
Advanced Quantum Theory

In this module you will apply the general theory you learnt in Introduction to Mathematical Physics to more general problems. New topics will be introduced such as the quantum theory of the hydrogen atom and aspects of angular momentum such as spin.

Mathematical Physics Project

The module consists of a project which aims to solve a theoretical problem. Problems are sponsored by theoreticians from either physics and astronomy or mathematical sciences. Day-to-day supervision of the project is carried out by the supervisor but the assessment will involve input from both the supervisor and the module convenors.

Optional modules

Atmospheric and Planetary Physics

In this module you’ll explore the theoretical aspect of atmospheric physics. Topics will include planetary atmosphere, troposphere, solar radiation and the Energy budget, radiation transfer and Photochemistry among others. You’ll have two hours of lectures per week studying this module.

Introduction to Cosmology
Cosmology is the scientific study of the universe as a whole. The module provides an introduction to modern cosmology, including some of the more recent observational and theoretical developments. No prior knowledge of General Relativity is required. Topics covered include: observed features of the universe, the Cosmological Principle, Newtoniaan and Relativistic cosmology, the Friedmann Models, cosmic expansion, the cosmological constant, evidence for the big bang model, the thermal history of the big bang, the early universe and inflation, the classical cosmological tests, structure formation (brief treatment only).
Extreme Astrophysics
To develop an understanding of high-energy phenomena in astrophysics and the relative importance of different processes in different situations.
To make models of extreme astrophysical sources and environments basedon physical theory.
To interpret observational data in the light of relevant physical theory.
Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos

In this module you will develop your knowledge of classical mechanics of simple linear behaviour to include the behaviour of complex nonlinear dynamics. You’ll learn about the way in which nonlinear deterministic systems can exhibit essentially random behaviour because of sensitivity relating to initial conditions. You’ll have two hours per week of lectures studying this module.

Semiconductor Physics
This module introduces you to the physical properties of semiconductors and low-dimensional systems, such as quantum wells, wires and dots. The aim is to explain the physics that underlies optical and transport properties of these structures and and their applications in advanced technologies.
This course is structured in two main parts. The first part focuses on the foundation of quantum mechanics and solid state physics needed to describe a low dimensional system. The module then moves on describing the physical principles of semiconductor junction and devices.
Scientific Computing

This module aims to provide you with the skills necessary to use computational methods in the solution of non-trivial problems in physics and astronomy. You’ll also sharpen your programming skills through a three hour computing class and one hour of lectures per week. 

Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics
To introduce the key theoretical ideas of elementary particle physics, such as symmetry and conservation laws, and to build the foundations for a mathematical description of particle properties and interactions.
Fluid Dynamics
This course aims to extend previous knowledge of fluid flow by introducing the concept of viscosity and studying the fundamental governing equations for the motion of liquids and gases. Methods for solution of these equations are introduced, including exact solutions and approximate solutions valid for thin layers. A further aim is to apply the theory to model fluid dynamical problems of physical relevance.
Differential Equations

This course introduces various analytical methods for the solution of ordinary and partial differential equations, focussing on asymptotic techniques and dynamical systems theory. Students taking this course will build on their understanding of differential equations covered in Modelling with Differential Equations.

Classical and Quantum Dynamics

The course introduces and explores methods, concepts and paradigm models for classical and quantum mechanical dynamics exploring how classical concepts enter quantum mechanics, and how they can be used to find approximate semi-classical solutions.

In classical dynamics we discuss full integrability and basic notions of chaos in the framework of Hamiltonian systems, together with advanced methods like canonical transformations, generating functions and Hamiltonian-Jacobi theory. In quantum mechanics we recall Schrödinger's equation and introduce the semi-classical approximation. We derive the Bohr-Sommerfeld quantization conditions based on a WKB-approch to the eigenstates. We will discuss some quantum signatures of classical chaos and relate them to predictions of random-matrix theory. We will also introduce Gaussian states and coherent states and discuss their semi-classical dynamics and how it is related to the corresponding classical dynamics. An elementary introduction to complete descriptions of quantum mechanics in terms of functions on the classical phase space will be given.

Relativity

In this module you’ll have an introduction to Einstein’s theory of general and special relativity. The relativistic laws of mechanics will be described within a unified framework of space and time. You’ll learn how to compare other theories against this work and you’ll be able to explain new phenomena which occur in relativity.

Project (Autumn)

This course consists of a self-directed investigation of a project selected from a list of projects or, subject to prior approval of the School, from elsewhere. The project will be supervised by a member of staff and will be based on a substantial mathematical problem, an application of mathematics or investigation of an area of mathematics not previously studied. Further information will be provided to you on the Moodle page. The course includes training in the use of IT resources, the word-processing of mathematics and report writing.

Project (Spring)

This course consists of a self-directed investigation of a project selected from a list of projector, subject to prior approval of the School, from elsewhere. The project will be supervised by a member of staff and will be based on a substantial mathematical problem, an application of mathematics or investigation of an area of mathematics not previously studied. Further information will be provided to you on the Moodle page. The course includes training in the use of IT resources, the word-processing of mathematics and report writing.

Physics Project

You will carry out a project drawn from one of several areas of physics. The project may be experimental or theoretical in nature. Many of the projects reflect the research interests of members of academic staff. You will work in pairs and are expected to produce a plan of work and to identify realistic goals for your project. Each pair has a project supervisor responsible for setting the project.

Complex Functions

In this module you will learn about the theory and applications of functions of a complex variable using a method and applications approach. You will develop an understanding of the theory of complex functions and evaluate certain real integrals using your new skills.

Modelling with Differential Equations

This course aims to provide students with tools which enable them to develop and analyse linear and nonlinear mathematical models based on ordinary and partial differential equations. Furthermore, it aims to introduce students to the fundamental mathematical concepts required to model the flow of liquids and gases and to apply the resulting theory to model physical situations. 

Mathematical Analysis

In this module you will build on the foundation of knowledge gained from your core year one modules in Analytical and Computational Foundations and Calculus. You will learn to follow a rigorous approach needed to produce concrete proof of your workings.

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

To be confirmed in 2021*
Keep checking back for more information
*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 starting your course in the 2022/23 academic year, you will pay international tuition fees.

This does not apply to Irish students, who will be charged tuition fees at the same rate as UK students. UK nationals living in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will also continue to be eligible for ‘home’ fee status at UK universities until 31 December 2027.

For further guidance, check our Brexit information for future students.

Additional costs

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 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 bachelor degree partially fulfils the academic requirement for Chartered Physicist status. Further study to masters level, or equivalent work-based experience, is required to achieve Chartered Physicist.

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Related courses

The University has been awarded Gold for outstanding teaching and learning

Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) 2017-18

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.