You will complete the core elements of physics and theoretical astrophysics. Optional modules will give you the opportunity to study advanced physics modules that interest you.
You will apply the wide range of skills that you have learned to a theoretical astrophysics project.
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).
- 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
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.
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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?
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.
- 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
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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
- Crystallisation in soft systems
- Liquid crystals
- Molecular order in soft systems
- Soft Nanotechnology
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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
Symmetry and Action Principles in Physics
Symmetry plays a central role in physics. Most of the fundamental Laws of modern physics have been formulated using symmetry principles. Symmetry is also expected to guide for further understanding and development of theories of physical phenomena.
Through a combination of lectures, engagement sessions and workshops, this module equips you with:
- the key concepts of symmetry
- the correspondence between symmetries and conservation laws
- the derivations of physics laws from the action principles
- and the consequences of symmetry breaking.
- Symmetries of space and phase space using classical mechanics
- Symmetries of spacetime and in electromagnetism using special relativity
- Main symmetry groups of modern physics laws
- How structures in nature are results of symmetry breaking.
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.
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.