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Course overview

We're home to Nobel Prize-winning research and the popular Sixty Symbols YouTube channel. Join us if you are curious about using advanced mathematics to understand how our universe works.

This course focuses on the sophisticated theoretical techniques and applications of modern physics. You'll also study the core physics modules to give you a broad understanding of this exciting subject.

Optional modules on topics ranging from nanoscience to astronomy allow you to focus on a specialist area that interests you. There is flexibility to transfer between most physics degrees after the first year. Practical study will be replaced by more in-depth mathematical study.

You'll be taught all the key mathematical, computational and theoretical skills to help with your future career. Our students go on to work in industries such as engineering, aerospace, IT, and finance.

Why choose this course?

  • We’re ranked joint 3rd for research quality in physics in the UK (Research Excellence Framework 2014)
  • This course is accredited by the Institute of Physics
  • You'll study specialist modules in mathematical physics such as Theory Toolbox
  • There is flexibility to transfer between most physics degrees after the first year
  • Our teaching is rated 'Gold' (Teaching Excellence Framework 2017)

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2021 entry.

UK entry requirements
A level offer A*AA including both maths and physics with at least one of these subjects achieving an A*
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. However, due to the pandemic and the uncertainty of practical tests taking place, this will not be required for 2021 applicants.

Foundation progression options

If you don't meet our entry requirements there is the option to study the engineering and physical sciences foundation programme. If you successfully pass the year, you can progress to any of our computer science courses. 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. Experimental and other practical work is continually assessed through laboratory notebooks and formal reports.

Assessment methods

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

Contact time and study hours

Typically in the first year, there are 10 lectures per week including problem sheets and directed reading. The practical modules involve working between three and six hours per week in laboratories. Subsequent years will vary with the largest change being no more weekly tutorials or laboratory work.

You will be assigned a tutor who will guide your studies and take an interest in your academic progress and personal well-being. You will meet your tutor each week in year one, to review your work and answer questions on your lectures. 

Modules

Build up your knowledge of the subject through modules in the core elements of physics. The first two years will provide you with key practical, mathematical and computational skills. You therefore do not have to make an early decision as to whether you wish to pursue a three-or four-year degree.

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. 

Introductory Experimental Physics

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

Mathematics for Physics and Astronomy

You’ll study a selection of mathematical techniques that are used for analysing physical behaviour. Topics will include:

  • complex numbers
  • calculus of a single variable
  • plane geometry
  • differential equations
  • calculus of several variables
  • matrix algebra

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

Quantitative Physics

This module will teach you how the basic principles of physics are applied in a range of situations and provide you with knowledge of the primary mathematical methods for the analysis of physical problems. On completion of the module, you will be able to formulate problems in physics using appropriate mathematical language. 

Frontiers in Physics

This module introduces you to major areas of physics beyond those encountered in the core modules, including those at the forefront of modern research. Particular focus is placed on introductions to astronomy, biophysics and nanoscience. Other topics include condensed matter physics, atomic and particle physics and the physics of the environment.

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.
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 may change or be updated 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 the latest information on available modules.

You won't do any laboratory work after your first year. Instead, you will focus on more advanced modules in theoretical physics, such as Theory Toolbox and Classical Fields.

Core modules

Wave Phenomena

Many physical systems support the propagation of waves, from the familiar waves on the surface of water to the electromagnetic waves that we perceive as light. 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; optical interferometry. The second half of the module will introduce more general methods for the discussion of wave propagation, and Fourier methods.

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.

Classical Fields

In the module From Newton to Einstein, you learnt about the idea of a field a quantity which is defined at every point in space. In this module, the description of fields will be extended by introducing the mathematics of vector calculus.

The module will begin with an introduction to vector calculus, illustrated in the context of the flow of ideal (non-viscous) fluids.

The math­ematics will then be used to provide a framework for describing, understanding and using the laws of electromagnetism. We discuss how electric and magnetic fields are related to each other and to electrical charges and electrical currents. The macroscopic description of electric fields inside dielectric materials and magnetic fields inside magnetizable materials will be described, including the boundary conditions that apply at material interfaces.

The last section of the module will discuss Maxwells equations of electrodynamics and how they lead to the vector wave equation for electromagnetic waves.

Theory Toolbox

Theory Toolbox will enhance your knowledge of the principles of theoretical physics and your understanding of the analytical methods for the analysis of physical problems.

The Quantum World

This module will provide an introduction to the theory and elementary applications of quantum mechanics, a theory that is one of the key achievements of 20th-century 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 but it has been tested experimentally for over 50 years and, wherever predictions can be made, they agree with experiment.

Principles of Dynamics

In this module you’ll be introduced to the mathematical language for discussing extreme problems. The formulations of mechanics due to Lagrange and Hamilton will be described and techniques for the solutions of the consequent equations of motion will be discussed. You’ll learn the underlying principles of dynamics and develop techniques for the solution of dynamical problems. You’ll have two hours per week of lectures studying this module.

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.

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 may change or be updated 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 the latest information on available modules.

You will complete the core elements of physics and theoretical physics. Optional modules will give you the opportunity to study specialist modules in an area of physics that interests you.

You will apply the wide range of skills that you have learned to a theoretical physics project.

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.
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’ll work in pairs and will be 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.

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.
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

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.

Quantum Dynamics

You’ll extend and develop your  knowledge of quantum theory with a particular emphasis on how quantum systems evolve over time. The module will focus on developing the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics as well as introducing important physical models and calculational techniques.

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.
Symmetry and Action Principles in Physics

Symmetry is a powerful notion, both in the development of theories of physical phenomena and in the solution of physical models. In this module, the basic aspects of the mathematical language of symmetry will be introduced and applied to a range of physical phenomena, and the principle of least action, introduced in The Principles of Dynamics module, will be further developed.

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.
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.

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 may change or be updated 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 the latest information on available modules.

Fees and funding

UK students

£9,250
Per year

International students

To be confirmed in 2020*
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 2021/22 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/EU students

We offer a range of Undergraduate Excellence Awards for high-achieving international and EU scholars from countries around the world, who can put their Nottingham degree to great use in their careers. This includes our European Union Undergraduate Excellence Award for EU students and our UK International Undergraduate Excellence Award for international students based in the UK.

These scholarships cover a contribution towards tuition fees in the first year of your course. Candidates must apply for an undergraduate degree course and receive an offer before applying for scholarships. Check the links above for full scholarship details, application deadlines and how to apply.

Careers

Physics is a fundamental subject that serves as a foundation for most areas of science and engineering. Studying this specialist subject will develop your expertise in theoretical physics. You will be taught all the key mathematical, computational and theoretical skills to help with your future career.

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

Disclaimer

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.