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. 

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.

About Physics and Philosophy BSc

Gain a deeper understanding of how the mind, the world and the universe work. This course explores the relationship between physics and philosophy to address some of the most fascinating philosophical questions raised by modern physics.

You will study advanced areas of core physics such as Quantum Mechanics. Optional philosophy modules such as Knowledge and Justification will develop your expertise in this specialist field.

Why choose this course?

Specialist modules

in advanced areas of core physics, such as quantum mechanics

Paid research project

available, where you can work directly with our researchers


of our research is classed as ‘world-leading’ (4*) or ‘internationally excellent’ (3*). 

Research Excellence Framework 2021

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2023 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 contextual admissions policy for more information.

IB score 38 (6 in maths - analysis and approaches accepted, applications and interpretations not accepted - plus 6 in physics and 6 in a third subject all at Higher Level)

A levels

A*AA-AAA 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.

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
  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Workshops
  • Tutorials
  • 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
  • Written exam
  • Research project
  • Lab reports

Contact time and study hours

Typically in the first year, there are 10 lectures per week including problem sheets and directed reading. You will have a tutor from both physics and philosophy who will take an interest in your academic progress. they will provide support and guidance and answer any questions you might have.  You will take part in a physics tutorial every other week in first year.

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.


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.


Build up your knowledge of the subject through modules in the core elements of physics. The first year modules will teach you key mathematical and computational skills for your degree.

You will also study interconnecting philosophy modules such as Mind, Knowledge, and Ethics and Reasoning, Argument, and Logic.

Core modules

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
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. 

Mind, Knowledge, and Ethics

This is your main starting point to explore philosophical thinking about understanding ourselves and relationship with the world.

It introduces several different areas of philosophy, and the links between them. These include:

  • philosophy of the mind
  • perception
  • epistemology
  • agency
  • normative ethics
  • meta-ethics

Some of the key issues we'll look at include:

  • the relationship between mind and body
  • free will
  • moral scepticism and relativism
  • the nature of moral judgements

We know our students come with a wide range of philosophical knowledge and skills so this core first-year module helps develop a common level of:

  • understanding of philosophical terms and concepts
  • skills in argument and debate

This gives you the building blocks for successful study and philosophising in the rest of your degree.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Reasoning, Argument, and Logic

Ideas are at the heart of philosophy. Creating them, arguing your case and defending your thinking is a core skill. Equally, being able to interrogate other people's arguments is essential.

The knowledge, skills and tools to do this can be learnt. And that's what we'll do together in this module. We'll help you to:

  • understand the nature and structure of arguments
  • acquire critical tools for assessing the arguments of others
  • improve your ability to present your own reasoning in a clear and rigorous manner, particularly in essays

Philosophy isn't just about opinions and arguments. It's also about clear proof. So we'll also develop some knowledge of logic and its technical vocabulary.

As a core first year module it will help you develop some of the key skills you need to philosophise with confidence.


This module is worth 20 credits.

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

Optional modules

Metaphysics, Science, and Language

Come and explore some fundamental thinking about the world around us and our knowledge of it.

You'll look at questions such as:

  • metaphysics – how should we think about the identity of things over time and through change? What does your personal identity over time consist in?
  • philosophy of science – is science the guide to all of reality? Is there a scientific method?
  • philosophy of language – what is truth? Is truth relative? Does language create reality?

An ideal introduction to metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of science, and the philosophy of language.

This module is worth 10 credits.

Philosophy of Religions

All religions have a distinctive philosophical framework. Together we'll look at some of the common concerns such as:

  • the variety of conceptions of ultimate reality
  • goals for the spiritual life
  • the nature of religious experience
  • the relations of religion and morality
  • explanations of suffering and evil
  • human nature and continuing existence after death

As there is such a range of beliefs we'll also look at the problems of religious diversity.

Some of the sources we draw on might include (but is not limited to):

  • atheists - Feuerbach, Nietzsche
  • Buddhists - Śāntideva, Dōgen, Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Christians - Augustine, Pascal, Weil
  • Hindus - such as the writers of the Upanisads and Shankara
  • Jews - Spinoza, Buber
  • Muslims - Mulla Sadra, Nasr
  • Taoists - Zhuangzi

More contemporary thinkers might also be included.

With such a wide range of issues and traditions the exact mix will vary - each year will focus on a few key thinkers and themes.

This module is worth 10 credits.

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 Tuesday 25 October 2022.

You will study more advanced areas in core physics, such as quantum mechanics.

You will have the option to choose from a selection of philosophy modules. This will allow you to tailor your study into aspects of physics and philosophy that particularly interests you.

Core modules

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!
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...
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.

Optional modules

Philosophy of Art
  • What is art?
  • Is there a relationship between art and ethics?
  • What is the relationship between art and emotion?

Together we'll explore these philosophical issues and more. By the end of the module you'll:

  • have a good awareness of many of the critical debates in the philosophy of art
  • recognise and judge for yourself the strengths and weaknesses of arguments on the issues

This module is worth 20 credits.

Being, Becoming and Reality

We look at some fundamental metaphysical questions about the cosmos. A selection of the following topics will be studied:

  • Objects: concrete vs. abstract; existence and nothingness
  • Sets and mereology
  • Properties, Property bearers, Relations
  • States of affairs and non-mereological composition
  • Modality (including counterfactuals) and possible worlds
  • Time, persistence, change, and the non-present
An Introduction to Metaethics

Metaethics is about how ethics works. It's not about judging whether something is morally good or bad in any particular instance but critiquing the foundations used to make the judgements. Some of the questions we might ask are:

  • Are there moral facts?
  • What is moral truth?
  • Do psychopaths really understand moral language?

Like many areas of philosophy metaethics has several branches and by the end of this module you'll be able to:

  • understand the main positions in contemporary metaethics
  • analyse and evaluate rival views on these topics

This module is worth 20 credits.

For a good pre-module introduction to the subject have a read of chapter six of Ethics for A level by Mark Dimmock and Andrew Fisher. It's an open-source resource so free to access.

Normative Ethics

We all have opinions about moral matters. But for most of us, our moral opinions are not very well-organised. Indeed, upon reflection we may discover that some of our beliefs about morality are inconsistent.

Normative ethics is the branch of moral philosophy that attempts to systematize everyday judgements about the rightness and wrongness of actions.

It's a wide area of study and we'll focus on two traditions within it:

  • contractualism - which holds that the rightness and wrongness of acts depends on principles no one could reasonably reject
  • character ethics - which emphasises the relationship between right action and good and bad character

By the end you'll have a clear understanding of:

  • the aims and methodologies of involved
  • some of the main theories, such as consequentialism, deontology, contractualism and virtue ethics (and some of their influential variants)

You'll also be able to:

  • reason to a well thought-out position on various topics in ethics
  • develop your own views, drawing upon the sources on which the module focuses

This module is worth 20 credits.

Freedom and Obligation
  • Are you obliged to obey the law even when you disagree with it?
  • What features must a state have in order to be legitimate?

In this module we will approach these classic questions of political philosophy by examining the work of a number of important past political philosophers. This might include Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau but this isn't a fixed list - it may vary according to particular issues and student input.

We will look at both:

  • why the thinkers' works have been open to different interpretations
  • evaluate their arguments under these different interpretations

This module is worth 20 credits.

Knowledge and Justification

This module explores contemporary treatments of issues pertaining to knowledge and the justification of belief. It addresses issues such as the following:

  • The structure of justification and its relation to one's mental states and evidence (foundationalism vs. coherentism; internalism vs.externalism; evidentialism)
  • The justification of induction; the notion of a priori justification
  • The relation between your evidence and what you know
  • The natures of perceptual experience and perceptual knowledge
  • Safety and contextualist theories of knowledge
  • Moore's response to scepticism
  • Testimonial knowledge, "virtue" epistemology and its relation to "reliabilist" epistemology
Mind and Consciousness

Where does the mind meet the world? In sensory perception.

By perceiving, we become conscious of a reality beyond our minds. Or do we?

Mind and Consciousness explores perception and perceptual consciousness.

It asks question such as:

  • Do we really perceive a world beyond our minds?
  • What are the theories of perception and perceptual consciousness?
  • How do we distinguish different senses – what makes seeing different from hearing?
  • Can our perceptions be biased? Do our prejudices change the way we see things?
  • Is dreaming perceiving, or does it belong to another category of mind like imagining?

By the end of this module, you'll be able to:

  • understand the main positions in the philosophy of perception
  • analyse and evaluate rival views on these topics

This module is worth 20 credits.

The Nature of Meaning

The module begins with an exploration of various theories of naming, paying particular attention to the works of Frege, Russell (including the theory of descriptions), and Kripke. We then turn our attention to various puzzles concerning the nature of meaning, including the distinction between analytic and synthetic sentences.

In the final part of the module, we move on to a discussion of some of the mainstream theories of meaning; particularly, a truth-conditional semantics, and we explore how this might be developed to take into account indexical terms such as 'I', 'now', and 'here'. Some of the skills acquired in Elementary Logic will be applied in this module.

Ancient Greek Philosophy

This module explores some of the major thinkers, texts and themes of Ancient Greek philosophy. Ancient Greek philosophy stands at the beginning of the western philosophical tradition and western philosophy has been shaped by a sustained engagement with Ancient Greek thought in areas of philosophy, such as epistemology, metaphysics, ethics and political theory.

Topics and thinkers may include: Presocratic Philosophy; Heraclitus; Parmenides; the Sophistic movement; Plato and Platonism; Socrates and the Socratic Schools (Cynics, Cyrenaics and Megarics); Aristotle (ethics, political theory, natural philosophy, metaphysics); Epicurus and Epicureanism; Stoicism; Academic and Pyrrhonian Scepticism; Plotinus and Neoplatonism; Pythagoreansim. No knowledge of the Ancient Greek language is required.

Social Philosophy

This module addresses issues in social metaphysics and social epistemology. We will examine the metaphysics of social kinds and explore different accounts of social kinds that have been offered. We will also examine how the fact that we are situated in a social world can affect what we can or cannot know or understand about ourselves, each other, and the social world itself. We will also address ethical and/or political issues that arise once we take account of social metaphysics and social epistemology.

In particular, we might consider whether there are special kinds of injustices that arise due to our social reality. What is epistemic injustice and how does it relate to social injustice? How do certain privileged groups structure the social world that create and maintain privilege and patterns of ignorance that perpetuate that privilege? What are some obligations that we have, given metaphysical and epistemological concerns we have explored? 

Continental Philosophy

This module will introduce the European tradition of philosophical thinking prevalent over the past two centuries. It will begin with an introduction to the influence of Kant and Hegel and recurrent characteristics of European thought, before turning to focus on representative texts by key thinkers.

Texts for more in- depth study might include, for example: Ludwig Feuerbach’s Principles of the Philosophy of the Future; Henri Bergson’s Creative Evolution; Friedrich Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols; Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time; Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition; and Luce Irigaray’s Speculum of the Other Woman.

Emphasis will be placed on the different images of thought at work in European philosophical texts, as well as on how differing approaches to metaphysics, ethics and politics are grounded in newly created perspectives.

Islamic Theology and Philosophy

This module examines how Muslims have addressed fundamental theological and philosophical questions relating to their faith. These questions concern the foundations of religious knowledge and authority, God's unity and attributes, God's relationship to the world, divine determinism and human freedom, prophecy, and eschatology. Key figures will include the rationalist Mu'tazili and Ash'ari theologians, the philosophers Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes), and the influential medieval intellectuals al-Ghazali, Ibn al-'Arabi, and Ibn Taymiyya. Selections from primary sources will be read in translation, and special attention will be given to the integration of late antique philosophical traditions into Islamic theology.

Watch Dr Jon Hoover give an overview of this module in just 60 seconds.

School of Humanities Work Placement

This module embeds employability into the curriculum, giving students direct experience of a workplace, developing hard and soft skills (both subject-specific and beyond).

The module involves part-time professional placement (1 day a week for 6 weeks or equivalent) in an external organisation. It is aimed at developing hands-on work experience and employability skills in a workplace relevant to Arts/Humanities graduates.

Lectures, seminars and workshops will be organised across the School, with input by the Careers team to provide learning support/‘scaffolding’.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Intermediate Logic

This module takes formal logic beyond the basics (as covered in first year Reasoning, Argument, and Logic). We’ll cover Propositional Logic, First-Order Logic, and Modal Logic (going into more detail where these were covered in first year).

We’ll learn about existence, identity, possibility, and necessity, and we’ll learn formal techniques for testing the validity of arguments. We’ll apply these logical techniques to help us make sense of challenging concepts and arguments in metaphysics and philosophy of language.

Space, Time, and Motion

What is the nature of space, time and motion? Is space/time/motion relative or absolute? How can we come to know? These are some central questions in the philosophy of space and time which this module explores. 

This module will discuss how thinkers such as Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, Du Chatelet, Mach and Einstein have used philosophical arguments to try to answer the question about the nature of space, time and motion.

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 complete the core elements of physics. Optional modules will give you the opportunity to study advanced physics modules that interests you. On the philosophy side, you will have a wide range of choices from among the more advanced options offered by the University.

You will also complete either a non-experimental physics project or a philosophy dissertation.

Core modules

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.

Students must take 20 credits from the following:

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. You will also be required to maintain a diary/laboratory notebook throughout.

Occasionally the work from these projects is used in scientific publications, and the students involved are named as authors on those publications.

Depending upon the type of project that you decide to do, you will design and carry out your own experiments, theoretical calculations or computational work and use them to generate what are often new and interesting results. The project culminates in your writing a scientific report which is submitted for assessment along with your laboratory notebook.

Dissertation in Philosophy

The aim of this module is to provide you with an opportunity to write an 8,000-word dissertation on a philosophical topic, the precise subject of which is by agreement with the supervisor. At the completion of the module, you will have had an opportunity to work independently, though with the advice of a supervisor.

Optional modules

Atmospheric and Planetary Physics

In this module you will explore the physics of planets and their atmospheres — a topic that is at the forefront of modern astrophysics and planetary science.

In the last few decades, the discovery of thousands of exoplanets beyond our Solar System has revolutionised the study of planets and their atmospheres.

Closer to home, understanding the physical processes at play in the Earth’s atmosphere remains vital for predicting weather and climate.

You’ll study:

  • Exoplanet detection methods and the physics of planet formation
  • The structure, temperature and composition of planetary atmospheres
  • Atmospheric dynamics
  • Exoplanet atmospheres and the search for biosignatures
Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos

How can complicated nonlinear mechanical, electrical and biological systems be understood? 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 behaviours, and approaches to understand and control them.

You’ll learn:

  • In-depth knowledge of nonlinear dynamics in continuous and discrete classical systems
  • Practical skills in using analytical, geometric and numerical approaches to analyse dynamics in nonlinear systems of various dimensions
  • Methods to understand and create beautiful fractals through simple iteration rules.
Soft Condensed Matter

This module aims to to give you a basic grounding in key concepts in soft condensed matter physics. It will focus on the dynamic, structural and kinematic properties of these materials as well as their self-assembly into technologically important structures for the production of nanostructured materials.

Key differences and similarities between soft matter, hard matter and liquid systems will be highlighted and discussed throughout the module. Material that will be covered includes:

  • Introduction to soft matter
  • Forces, energies and timescales in soft matter
  • Liquids and glasses
  • Phase transitions in soft matter (solid-liquid and liquid-liquid demixing)
  • Polymeric materials
  • Gelation
  • Crystallisation in soft systems
  • Liquid crystals
  • Molecular order in soft systems
  • Soft Nanotechnology
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. 

Introduction to Cosmology

Cosmology is the scientific study of the Universe as a whole. It aims to understand what the Universe is made of, and its evolution from the Big Bang until today (and into the future).

You’ll study:

  • observational evidence for the Big Bang
  • how the expansion of the Universe depends on its contents and geometry
  • how the contents of the Universe evolve as it expands and cools
  • dark matter and dark energy: observational evidence and the latest theoretical models
  • inflation, a proposed period of accelerated expansion in the very early Universe
From Accelerators to Medical Imaging

Science is the cornerstone of modern healthcare. For example, in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) more than 80% of clinical decisions are informed by scientific analysis.

In this module, we will explore some of the critical technologies that underpin these decisions. The course begins by exploring particle accelerators, and how they are used to create, for example, high energy photons or anti-matter particles. We will then see how these are used to either diagnose or treat illnesses such as cancer.

We will look closely at medical imaging techniques such as X-ray computed tomography (the CT scan), exploring the mathematics of how high-definition images of the body can be formed. We will cover nuclear medicine – how radiation can be used to track the function of organs in the body – and how advanced mathematical models feed into diagnostic decisions. 

Quantum Dynamics

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.

You’ll study:

  • Connections between the dynamics of quantum systems and that of more familiar classical ones
  • When (and how) to use approximations that allow complex problems to be made much simpler
  • The extent to which the evolution of quantum states can be controlled
  • How to put theory into practice using one of IBM’s prototype quantum computers.
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.

Introduction to Solid State Physics

Solid state physics underpins almost every technological development around us, from solar cells and LEDs to silicon chips and mobile phones.

The aim of this module is to introduce to you the fundamental topics in solid state physics. We start by looking at why atoms and molecules come together to form a crystal structure. We then follow the electronic structure of these through to interesting electronic, thermal and magnetic properties that we can harness to make devices.

You’ll study:

  • Why atoms and molecules come together to form crystal structures
  • The description of crystal structures, reciprocal lattices, diffraction and Brillouin zones
  • Nearly-free electron model – Bloch's theorem, band gaps from electron Bragg scattering and 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
Enterprise for Chemists

Students will learn about the factors that lead to successful innovation, including evaluation and management of an idea/concept.

In addition, students will consider the factors required to extract the value from a product/concept (e.g. market awareness) and the potential routes to market available from both an academic and industrial viewpoint.

Functional Medical Imaging
The techniques for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) are explored. The course aims to introduce the brain imaging technique of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), giving an overview of the physics involved in this technique. The electromagnetic techniques of electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) will then be outlined, and the relative advantages of the techniques described.
Quantum Coherent Phenomena
This module will introduce a number of systems in which quantum coherent phenomena are observed, discuss their common features and the general underlying theoretical ideas for their description as well as some of their applications.
  • Bose condensation review of Bose statistics, BEC, BEC in cold atomic gases.
  • Superfluidity in Helium-4 quantum fluids, macroscopic wave functions, superfluidity, non-classical rotational inertia and vortices, phonon and roton excitations.
  • Superconductivity conduction in metals, superconducting materials, zero-resistivity, Meissner effect, perfect diamagnetism, type I and type II behaviour, London theory.
  • BCS theory of superconductivity.- electron-phonon interaction, Cooper pairs, BCS wave function, order parameter and microscopic origin of GL.
  • Applications: squids, superconducting magnets etc.
Extreme Astrophysics

This module explores the physical processes involved in the most extreme environments known in the Universe. Among the objects studied are neutron stars, black holes, supernova explosions, and active galactic nuclei.

Imaging and Manipulation at the Nanoscale
The invention of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) in the 1980s has led to a revolution in the imaging of surfaces and has provided an enormous stimulus for the development of nanoscience. The operation of a scanning probe microscope relies on the interaction between a local probe and a surface. A family of techniques has been derived from the STM which exploit a range of different forces and other interactions for image formation. The most widely-used of these techniques is atomic force microscopy which, unlike, STM, can be used to image insulating samples. In this module the focus will be on the development of physical models to describe the interaction between a local point-like probe and a surface. The operation of the STM will be considered in detail together with design considerations which are common across all scanning probe microscopes. In the second half of the course, forces between the tip and sample will be considered and methods for measuring these interactions will be discussed. The probe-surface interaction can also be used to modify the surface with a specificity which can result in placement of single atoms and molecules and these patterning processes will be discussed. Throughout the course images from the current research literature will be introduced to inform students of the range of possible applications of this these techniques.
Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics

Particle physics has been hugely influential in both science and society, from the discovery of the electron to the detection of the Higgs boson. In this module you will be introduced to the mathematical tools required to understand our current description of the Standard Model of particle physics.

You’ll study:

  • The Dirac equation, which describes electrons, quarks and neutrinos
  • How symmetry and conservation laws are crucial in particle physics
  • The Feynman approach to computing the scattering of particles
Semiconductor Physics

This module introduces you to the physics and applications of Semiconductors. Semiconductors are key materials of the current Information Age. They enabled most of the devices and technologies we use everyday, such as computers, internet, mobile phones. Semiconductors help us to mitigate global warming, data theft, end of the Moore’s law and other global challenges.

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.

You’ll study:

  • Physics and applications of conventional semiconductor materials and devices, for example p-n diodes and field-effect transistors
  • Physics and applications of novel semiconductor materials, quantum materials, nanostructures, low dimensional materials, such as graphene and quantum dots
  • Current and future semiconductor challenges and technologies, such as efficient solar cells, ultrasensitive phone cameras and quantum computers.
Theory Toolbox

This module introduces a range of theoretical techniques for the construction and analysis of simplified effective models. You will learn advanced mathematical methods and apply them to problems in quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, and other areas of physics.

You’ll study:

  • Differential calculus of complex functions
  • Advanced solution methods for differential equations such as the Schrödinger equation
  • Vector spaces of functions and Green functions
The Structure of Stars

In this module you will learn how the same physics that works on Earth – gravity, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, optics, quantum physics, atomic and nuclear physics – is used to understand stars. You will explore the most important physical processes occurring in stars of different types. You will then use this knowledge to build mathematical models of stars and to understand their internal structure, their formation, evolution, and death.

You’ll study:

  • How astronomers measure the most important properties of stars such as their mass, size, distance, brightness, temperature, chemical composition and age. This module will then teach you how physics is able to explain these properties.
  • How energy is generated inside stars through nuclear fusion, and how it is transported to the surface to make stars shine.
  • How to write the equations that describe the structure of stars, and how to use them to build mathematical models that explain their properties and evolution.
  • How stars are born, how they evolve with time, how long they live, how they die, and what remnants they leave behind. You will be able to understand, for instance, how supernovae explode and how some black holes form.
The Structure of Galaxies

This module will develop your current understanding of the various large-scale physical processes that dictate the formation, evolution and structure of galaxies, from when the Universe was in its infancy to the present day.

You’ll explore a range of topics, starting with the fundamentals of observational techniques used by astronomers for understanding the structure of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. We will then look at the more sophisticated ways of unpicking the physics that drives the complexity we see throughout the population of galaxies in the Universe.

Specifically, in this module, you will study:

  • The structure of the Milky Way – how we determine the structure of the Milky Way, its rotation curve and what this implies for its dark matter content
  • Properties of galaxies in the Universe – how astronomers classify galaxies, the properties of the different classes and how their constituents vary between classes
  • Dynamics of galaxies – kinematics of the gas and stars in galaxies, why spiral arms form, the theory of epicycles, bar formation, different types of orbits of matter within galaxies
  • Active galaxies – radio galaxies, quasars and active galactic nuclei, super-massive black holes
  • The environment of galaxies – how the environment that a galaxy resides in affects its evolution and structure
  • Galaxy evolution – observations of galaxy evolution from the early Universe to the present day, models of galaxy evolution.
Force and Function at the Nanoscale

We will study some of the fundamental forces at the nanoscale and look at the role of key concepts such as entropy. We will also learn how we can visualise and measure the nanoscale structures that form.

The nanoscale world is very different from our regular experience. Thermal energy pushes and pulls everything towards a state of disorder whilst nanoscale forces allow for materials to resist this and stay together. We will study some of the fundamental forces at the nanoscale and look at the role of key concepts such as entropy. We will also learn how we can visualise and measure the nanoscale structures that form.

While the forces we will study operate over distances as small as 1 nanometre we will explore how these concepts are responsible for phenomena in our everyday world we often don’t even think about:

  • Why is a droplet spherical?
  • What is going on when you scramble an egg?
  • How can a gecko walk across a perfectly smooth ceiling?
  • Why do you use soap when you wash?
  • Why don’t oil and water mix?

Karl Marx's thoughts and words have had an enormous impact on history. Revolutions have been fought, economic policies pursued and artistic movements established by followers (and opponents) of Marxism.

Together we'll examine some of Mark's original writing and explore his thinking. Specific themes we'll cover include:

  • alienation
  • the materialist conception of history
  • ideology
  • the labour theory of value

By the end of the module you should have a good overview of Marx's attempt to synthesise German philosophy, French political theory, and British economics.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Environmental Ethics

In this module we'll ask questions like:

  • How should human beings interact with the non-human natural world?
  • Is nature intrinsically valuable, or does it possess value only by being valuable to us?

As part of this we'll cover topics such as:

  • the moral status of animals
  • the ethics of zoos
  • responsibility for climate change
  • whether there is any connection between the twin oppressions of women and nature
  • the environmental impact of having children
  • the ethics of restoring nature after it has been damaged by human development

This module is worth 20 credits.

Taking Utilitarianism Seriously

This module is an extended discussion of utilitarian approaches to moral and political philosophy, including utilitarian accounts of:

  • the nature of wellbeing
  • reasons and rightness
  • rights and justice
  • democracy
  • individual decision-making
  • praise and blame
Communicating Philosophy

This module will teach you how to communicate philosophy through a variety of different mediums, assessing them in each. We will look at how philosophy can be communicated through legal documentation, press releases, handouts, lesson plans, webpages, funding bids and posters (with optional presentations).

A number of the sessions will be delivered by professionals from outside the university, with support from the module convener. Seminars will be used to develop each of the items for assessment. You will be invited to draw upon your prior philosophical learning to generate your assessments, except in the case of handout where you will be set a specific philosophical task and asked to complete some (very basic) independent research.

Subjectivism and Relativism in Ethics

One often hears the opinion that ethics is subjective. But what does this mean, exactly?

And one often hears the view that ethics is relative. But relative to what?

And what is ‘ethics’ anyway?

And if ethics is subjective, or relative, what does that mean for ethics as a discipline? Does it mean, for example, that our ethical pronouncements can never be incorrect, never be challenged, or never disagreed with?

This module addresses these and other questions about the foundations of ethics, and gives you the material to develop your own views of this peculiarly human phenomenon.

Philosophy and Mortality

Illness, ageing, death and dying are universal experiences. Yet discussion about them often only happens in times of emotional distress.

Together we'll explore philosophical issues related to human mortality in an open, supportive and compassionate way.

As well as a deeper understanding of the issues you will also build capacity to think sensitively and humanely about the human experience of ageing, illness, and dying.

Typical topics might include:

  • experiences of being chronically ill
  • psychiatry and mental health
  • the oppression of ill persons · illness narratives
  • the moral and spiritual significance of illness
  • the experience of dying
  • empathy, grief, and mourning
  • death and the meaning of life
  • the significance of human mortality to wider philosophical issues and concerns


This module is worth 20 credits.

Knowledge, Ignorance and Democracy

Politics and truth have always had a complicated relationship. Lies, bullshit, spin, and propaganda are nothing new.

Polarization is on the rise in many democracies and political disagreements have spread to disputes about obvious matters of fact.

But have we really entered the era of 'post-truth' politics? Is debate now framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the facts?

In this module, we'll explore questions such as:

  • Should the existence of widespread disagreement in politics make us less confident in our own views?
  • Are voters morally or epistemically obligated to vote responsibly?
  • Is it rational for citizens to base their political views on group identity rather than reasoned arguments?
  • Should we have beliefs about complex policy questions about which we are not experts?
  • Is democracy the best form of government for getting at the truth?


This module is worth 20 credits.

Philosophy of Sex
  • How many people have you had sex with?
  • Is there a difference between sex work and working in a supermarket?
  • What is love? Do we chose who we love?
  • What is gender? What do we mean when we say 'trans women are women'?

These are some of the many philosophical questions which arise when you start thinking about sex and related topics.

During this module we will tackle the conceptual, moral, political, and metaphysical issues raised by sexual activity. Possible topics we'll look at include:

  • the nature of sexual desire
  • sexual consent
  • sexual objectification
  • prostitution
  • pornography
  • sexual orientation

Together we'll look at the experiences and testimony of a variety of groups, including those considered sexual and gender minorities. Then we'll use philosophical tools to explore the issues that such testimony raises.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Mind, Psychology and Mental Health

This module will consider mind, psychology, and mental health from a philosophical angle. The module will cover a range of exciting and fundamental topics in the philosophy of mind and psychology (chosen from topics such as, the social mind, animal minds, the nature of consciousness, the mind-body problem, the emotions, imagination, pain, will and action, belief, perception, mind as machine, and artificial intelligence - selected topics will vary from year to year).

We will always ask how these relate to mental health. But the module will also have a more specific focus on mental health as we will take the tools of philosophy of mind and psychology to mental health: we will consider how philosophy of mind and psychology can help us better understand mental health, but also how reflection on mental health can impact work in philosophy of mind and psychology. So the module will also cover content chosen from topics and areas such as the nature of mental health (and mental illness), delusion, thought-insertion, therapy, self-deception and the philosophy of specific mental disorders (for example, addiction, schizophrenia, depression) - specific topics varying from year to year.

So, in sum the module will combine focus on specific topics in philosophy of mind and psychology (with a mental health angle), and specific topics in philosophy of mental health (with a philosophy of mind and psychology angle).

Advanced Logic

This module investigates different kinds of contemporary logic, as well as their uses in philosophy. We will investigate the syntax and semantics of various logics, including first order logic, modal logics, and three-valued logics, as well as ways to apply formal techniques from these logics to philosophical topics such as possibility and necessity, vagueness, and the Liar paradox.

We’ll cover ways to reason and construct proofs using the logics we study, and also ways to reason about them. We’ll look at proofs regarding the limits of formal logic, including proofs of soundness, completeness, and decidability.

Philosophy of Criminal Law

There is perhaps no more vivid example of the exercise of state power over individuals than through the institution of criminal law. This power relationship raises a host of important philosophical questions, such as:

  • Is there a general obligation to obey the law? If so, what is the basis for this obligation?
  • What sorts of acts should be criminalised, and why?
  • What does it mean for someone to be responsible for a crime, or for the state to hold someone responsible?
  • Is criminal punishment justified? If so, why?
  • What is the proper role for the presumption of innocence: Who must presume whom to be innocent of what? 
  • Is the state ever justified in imposing legal restrictions on offenders even after they have completed their punishment?
  • How should the criminal law function in the international context?

We'll look at thinking from across history, from seminal figures such as Plato, Bentham, and Kant, to more contemporary philosophers such as Hart, Hampton, Duff, and others.

No experience of criminal law necessary. Ideal for both philosophers and practitioners.


This module is worth 20 credits.

Topic in the Philosophy of Science

We'll consider and evaluate some key debates in one specific area of philosophy of science.

The area will vary from year to year but recent areas and their questions have included:

Artificial intelligence

  • What is it?
  • Can it be creative?
  • Can it understand or have phenomenal consciousness?
  • What would a paradigm shift in the way we understand intelligence and artificial intelligence look like?
  • What are the ethical constraints on the research and methods of artificial intelligence?
  • What are the dangers associated with the wider use of AI in human society ?


  • What is progress?
  • What is a diseases?
  • Theory confirmation in medical science
  • What are the ethical constraints on the research and objectives of the health sciences?
  • Types of explanation in the health sciences


This module is worth 20 credits.

Philosophy of Education

Education plays a fundamental part in all our lives. It shapes who we are as individuals, our value systems, our political and religious outlooks. As a consequence it changes how society looks, how it operates, and what we think society ought to be like. Education then, is of the most profound importance.

As philosophers we are uniquely placed to think long and hard about education:

  • what is its role?
  • what should its role be?
  • who gets to decide what is taught?

Rising to this challenge this module creates the space, and provides the tools, for you to do just this.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Philosophy of Recreation

We expect recompense when we work but appear to do recreational activities just for their own sake.

You'll use philosophical tools to examine the meaning and value of such recreational activities, exploring questions such as:

  • Is recreational sex and drug consumption merely about pleasurable sensations?
  • Why do we put such great effort into achieving seemingly arbitrary goals in sport?
  • Does it make sense for fans to feel elated if they played no part in a team’s success?
  • Is there something special about being in a zone of effortless attention whilst playing an instrument?
  • Could risking death seeking sensations of the sublime by climbing a mountain be better than safely siting on your sofa watching trash tv?
Authenticity, Freedom, and Ethics

This module concerns these three themes: Authenticity, Freedom, and Ethics, and their relations. We will be exploring these themes via a focus on how they are handled by three different schools of thought: Kantianism; Existentialism; and Contemporary Compatibilism.

Philosophers on the agenda include: Kant, Korsgaard, and Velleman (from the Kantian School); Sartre, Camus, and Beauvoir (from the Existentialist School); and Frankfurt, Watson, and Wolff (from the Contemporary Compatibilist School).


What are the proper concerns of an egalitarian society? If we’re concerned about equality, what kind of world should we be working towards? What does it mean to treat one another as equals? Should we treat each other that way? If so, why? And what are the political implications of such obligations? 

In this module we will be exploring these and other questions at the heart of the egalitarian project. Subjects will include equality of condition, relational equality, moral equality and political equality. We will also touch on issues around welfare, luck, rights, dignity, status and democracy. Writers covered may include Dworkin, Sen, Parfit, Anderson, Kant, Rousseau, Scanlon, Christiano and Rawls.

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

Per year

International students

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


This interdisciplinary course will give you lots of sought-after skills, such as critical analysis and independent study, improving your employability.

Studying advanced physics will enable you to become more adaptable and better at problem solving. These are invaluable traits for any career. Our students pursue a wide variety of career paths, including teaching, science policy, science communication as well as finance and IT.

Average starting salary and career progression

73.9% of undergraduates from the School of Physics & Astronomy secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £27,714.*

*HESA Graduate Outcomes 2019/20 data published in 2022. 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.

71.3% of undergraduates from the Department of Philosophy secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £22,196.*

*HESA Graduate Outcomes 2019/20 data published in 2022. 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).

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" I love studying Physics and Philosophy at Nottingham. I see it like learning two languages; answering two different sets of questions about the world. It’s an incredible course. "

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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.