Physics MSci

Physics addresses some of the deepest questions of how the universe works and explores nature beyond the bounds of human experience. Our staff conducts research from the longest length and time scales - e.g. the role of dark matter in the structure of the Universe and mimicking the Big Bang in heavy nuclear collisions - to the smallest length and time scales, e.g. the hunt for the Higgs boson and other aspects of elementary particle physics.

In between these extremes, understanding how the Sun and stars work, the physics and biophysics of nanoscale structures, quantum states of matter such as superconductivity and ultracold atom gases, and metamaterials (the physics of invisible cloaks) are all key to our research themes.

You can benefit directly from this research activity by joining us and being taught by internationally acknowledged experts at the frontiers of physics; and by taking part in the research itself in the final years of your degree.


Guardian University Guide third position
Times top 10 2019
Physics and Astronomy Top 10 Complete University Guide

Physics and Astronomy 2018 NSS score

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Phoebe Cunnane

Phoebe Cunnane

MSci Physics

“I studied straight physics at Birmingham, although my module choices had a focus on theoretical, particle and nuclear physics. My final year project involved the computational analysis of data from ALICE, one of the experiments at the LHC, in relation to the quark-gluon plasma. At the time there was little information in textbooks which was challenging and equally rewarding. ”

Studying Physics gives you an understanding of the fundamental rules that govern the nature of matter in the universe, and the techniques of scientific problem-solving that underpin this knowledge. You’ll gain a deep understanding of core physics within a strong mathematical framework and there are many opportunities to pursue specialist options, making the Physics degree very flexible.

The Physics programme has the largest range of options and its variety attracts the largest group of our students. Project work, both experimental and design-based, takes place throughout the degree and allows you to develop your inventiveness and independence. This aspect develops from a mini-project in the first year to Group Studies in the third year.

Hear from our students

Interested in Computer Science?

Our ' Year in Computer Science'  offers students from non-computing disciplines the chance to gain in-depth knowledge of computing and enhance their work-based skills through the study of Computer Science. 

Why study this course

  • Very broad range of leading research leading to a wide range of optional modules and projects
  • High employability rate, including a high percentage who go on to do PhDs. Employability is embedded through the course
  • Friendly and supportive environment. Year 1 and year 2 have weekly tutorials with 1 academic member of staff and no more than 4 students. Lecturers have open door policy. Elected student representatives meet weekly with staff to resolve any issues quickly
  • Flexibility between our range of specialised courses
    • BSc and MSci identical for first two years so don’t need to make final decision between the two until end of second year.
    • Physics, Physics and Astrophysics, and Physics with Particle Physics very similar initially so possible to swap after first year and in some cases after second year.
    • Theoretical Physics comes in a lab or a no-lab flavour in the first year, in some cases possible to swap to and from this course after first year.
    • Physics MSci and BSc and Astrophysics BSc students can choose to do a year abroad for third year at start of second year (subject to language qualifications or application process to an English speaking university)
    • BSc students can choose to do a year out in computer science during their third year.

Modules

Year 1

Semester 1 core modules

  • Quantum Mechanics 1
  • Optics and Waves
  • Classical Mechanics and Relativity
  • Mathematics for Physicists 1
  • Physics Laboratory 1
  • Physics and Communication Skills 1
  • Widening Horizons Module 1

Semester 2 core modules

  • Electromagnetism and Electric Circuits
  • Temperature and Matter
  • Mathematics for Physicists 1
  • Physics Laboratory 1
  • Widening Horizons Module 2

Semester 2 optional modules

Choose one module. Example optional modules:

  • Introduction to Astrophysics
  • Introduction to Particle Physics and Cosmology
  • Introduction to Nanoscale Physics
  • Chaos and Non-linear Systems

Year 2

Semester 1:

  • Classical Mechanics and Relativity 2
  • Quantum Mechanics 2
  • Particles and Nuclei and A Quantum Approach to Solids
  • Mathematics for Physicists 2
  • Physics Laboratory 2
  • Physics and Communication Skill 2

Semester 2 core modules

  • Electromagnetism 2
  • Statistical Physics and Entropy
  • Mathematics for Physicists 2
  • Physics Projects

Semester 2 optional modules

Choose two modules. Example optional modules:

  • Introduction to Astronomical Observing
  • Nuclear Physics and Neutrinos
  • Structure in the Universe
  • Electronics
  • Modern Optics
  • Eigenphysics
  • Lagrangian and Hamiltonian Mechanics

Year 3

Semester 1 core modules

  • Quantum Mechanics 3
  • Statistical Physics
  • Physics Laboratory 3 (20 credits) or Physics Laboratory 3 (10 credits) and Object-Oriented Programming with C++ with Scientific Computing 1 and/or Scientific Computing 2

Semester 1 optional modules

Select two modules. Example optional modules:

  • Scientific Computing 2
  • Fission and Fusion
  • Medical Imaging
  • Semiconductor Optoelectronics
  • Relativistic Astrophysics and Black Holes
  • The Life and Death of Stars
  • Physics Critique
  • Complex Variable Theory
  • Observational Cosmology

Semester 2 core modules

  • Group Studies
  • General Physics

Semester 2 optional modules

Select three modules. Example optional modules:

  • Images and Communication
  • Atomic Physics
  • Particle Physics
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Evolution of Cosmic Structure
  • Asteroseismology and Exoplanets
  • Physics of Music and Sound
  • Physics Teaching in Schools
  • Radiation and Relativity
  • Chaos and Dynamical Systems

Year 4

In the fourth year you become a member of a research group for an individual project

Core module

  • Project - 50 credits

Semester 1 optional modules. 

Select four modules.Example optional modules:

  • Numerical Modelling of Physical Systems
  • Physics Critique
  • Observational Cosmology
  • Physical Principals of Radar
  • Statistical Inference from Scientific Data 
  • Phase Transitions
  • Superconductivity
  • The General Theory of Relativity
  • Nanophotonics
  • Ultracold Atoms and Quantum Gases
  • Advanced Condensed Matter Physics
  • Complex Variable Theory

Semester 2 optional modules

Select three modules. Example optional modules:

  • Images and Communication
  • Many Particle and Quantum Field Theory
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Quantum Optics
  • Relativistic Astrophysics 3
  • Evolution of Cosmic Structure
  • Asteroseismology and Exoplanets
  • Insights Into Stellar Structure

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. Unless indicated otherwise, the modules listed for this programme are for students starting in 2019. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to core modules; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees 2019/20

UK/EU £9,250
International £21,180

Visit our  tuition fees page for more information.

Scholarships

At Birmingham we ensure that fears about finance do not constrain prospective students from considering university and that excellence is rewarded.

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required:
3
Typical offer:
A*AA
Required subjects and grades:
A level Mathematics and A level Physics grades A*A. You must also pass the practical element of any reformed science A levels which include Biology, Chemistry and Physics taught from 2015.
General Studies:
Not accepted

International Baccalaureate Diploma

7,6,6 at Higher Level, including Mathematics and Physics, with a minimum of 32 points overall. 7 must be in Mathematics or Physics.

BTEC

Only considered when combined with other qualifications.

Other qualifications are considered – learn more about entry requirements.

Additional information:

Foundation Year

Would you like to study for one of our degrees but lack the entry qualifications we require? Consider a Foundation Year programme which can lead to entry onto one of our courses.

International students:

Standard English language requirements apply, learn more about international entry requirements.

International students applying for this programme will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office before the University can issue you with a Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (CAS). We recommend that you apply for your ATAS certificate as soon as you receive an offer from us. More information can be found here: www.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/what-we-do/services-we-deliver/atas/.

Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in one of our foundation pathways, which offer specially structured programmes for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on Birmingham International Academy web pages.

How to apply

Apply through the UCAS website using code F302. 

UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) is a UK organisation responsible for managing applications to university and college.

View advice on ' How to apply for undergraduate courses', including advice for UK, EU and overseas applicants.

At Birmingham, you will you benefit from our national and internationally leading expertise in a broad range of physics areas. Our researchers will teach your lectures, lead your labs, act as your personal tutors and supervise your projects. That means you’ll be working alongside renowned academics who are pushing the frontiers of scientific knowledge.

How you will learn

Most modules are delivered in the form of traditional lectures given by active physics researchers. You will also learn through tutorials, examples classes and guided study, laboratory practicals and project work – group projects in the third year and individual projects in the fourth year. Lab work is an integral part of most of our degree courses, and while computing and transferrable skills are also interwoven into your studies.

How you will be assessed

Modules are assessed in a variety of ways: exams, class tests, lab assignments and project reports. There is a strong emphasis on project work in the final year/s of your degree course. Lab work is assessed continuously through the term.

Your personal tutor

When you arrive, you’ll be assigned a personal tutor for each of the first two years. You’ll meet them once a week, in a group of no more than four students. Personal tutors are also your first point of call for pastoral support, although we also have a wellbeing officer if you want to chat to someone else about issues that are troubling you. Weekly tutorials are not held in the third year due to the increasing specialism of your work, so you will talk to specific lecturers about your modules, as necessary. In year four, your project supervisor will take on the role of personal tutor.

Seminars and tutorials

Hour-long, weekly tutorials, in a group of no more than four students, give you the chance to chat through any areas of confusion from the previous week’s studies and an opportunity to review feedback on marked assessed work.

Lecturers and world-leading researchers

You will be taught by lecturers and researchers who are world leaders in their fields; several have been part of some of the most celebrated scientific ‘finds’ in recent years – the direct detection of gravitational waves and the discovery of the Higgs boson – and many more are at the forefront of research into cold atoms, molecular physics, metamaterials, atomic architecture and nuclear physics, to name but a few. As well as being world-renowned for their research, our academics are passionate about passing on their knowledge and expertise.

Resources and facilities

Our world-class teaching and laboratory facilities include state-of-the-art study spaces and computing suites, as well as our own particle accelerator, the MC40 cyclotron, and laboratories used for the construction of the detectors and electronics used in the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. We are home to one of the four UK quantum technology hubs, which at Birmingham is developing quantum sensors. We also have our own observatory.

The University of Birmingham Astronomical Society (AstroSoc) organises sessions to view the night sky through the society’s telescopes and puts on talks by experts from all aspects of astronomical-based backgrounds. AstroSoc also runs regular events aimed at the local community.

Contact hours

Throughout your Physics programmes you can expect an average of about 20 hours of contact time per week comprising of lectures, laboratory based activity and tutorials. These figures may vary due to module choice and progression.

Programmes including a Year in International Study or a Year in Computer Science may include a different amount of contact hours during that year. This figure may also vary on The Theoretical Physics and Applied Mathematics programmes due to the teaching of the School of Mathematics modules.

As a graduate in Physics, the choice of career remains wide open. You may go on to apply your physics knowledge directly in a scientific environment, or you might be employed in a high-profile job for your problem-solving and computational skills, in the worlds of finance and information technology. 

Physics and Astronomy employabilityPhysics and Astronomy graduates from Birmingham are highly employable (96% employment rate in Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey 2016/17) and the career possibilities are numerous, both in the world of science and research and in other sectors of industry, business and commerce. Physicists are problem solvers at heart, and throughout your degree you’ll learn how to tackle a variety of problems so you can apply your breadth of understanding to many different areas.

Graduates who have studied our courses:

Example employers

  • NASA
  • NHS - Medical Physics
  • Rolls-Royce
  • EDF Energy
  • BAE Systems
  • Barclays Capital
  • PriceWaterhouse Coopers
  • Accenture - Technology Services

Example careers

  • Scientific researcher
  • Medical physicist
  • Energy consultant
  • Defence analyst
  • Meteorologist
  • Statistician
  • Financial services analyst
  • Business consultant

I am now a Management Consultant, focusing specifically on Operational Excellence within the private sector. This means that I am part of a team that helps firms to make their processes more efficient, optimise their workforce and organisational structure, and reduce cost.

Although I don’t use my physics knowledge directly, the skills that I developed make me stand out. Problem-solving skills are highly valued, along with being able to draw insights from data analysis – “what is this really telling us?” as opposed to just presenting the numbers. Working as a consultant means that I get to experience lots of different industries.

Phoebe Cunnane, alumna, MSci Physics.

Careers Network

We provide a wealth of opportunities to develop your career. From your first day at Birmingham to after you graduate, the Careers Network  is here to help you identify and achieve your individual career aspirations through its wide range of services.

Our dedicated careers team brings you information, advice and guidance tailored to your specific needs. Careers advisers offer one-to-one advice appointments where you can discuss your career plans and explore your options. In addition, our employer-endorsed award-winning  Personal Skills Award (PSA) recognises your extra-curricular activities, and provides an accredited employability programme designed to improve your career prospects.

Visit the Careers Network website for more details

Internships

Our multi-award-winning work experience team has dedicated internship officers to help find the right work experience for you. Make the most of these opportunities and apply for our Work Experience Bursary Scheme, the Birmingham Undergraduate Internship Programme or one of our successful mentoring schemes. 

The video below talks to students, staff and employers about their internship experience:


Professional accreditation

Birmingham has transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Clubs and societies

The Guild has over 200 Societies, community volunteering groups and associations for you to join; they cover every topic and activity that you can think of - there really is something for everyone.

The Poynting Physical Society is the oldest student society at Birmingham. Other societies which may be of interest include the Astronomical Society , Theoretical Physics Society and the Nuclear Society

Accommodation

Coming to Birmingham might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and culture, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work.

Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.

International students

The University of Birmingham has been welcoming international students onto our campus since 1900.

We have one of the largest and most vibrant international student communities in the UK, with 5,000 international students from more than 150 different countries and 31% of our academic staff from overseas.

If you would like further information about entry requirements, how to apply and funding options, then you can visit our international students webpage. You may also wish to take a virtual tour of our campus and watch the video below to hear our international students say their favourite thing about the University of Birmingham.