Theoretical Physics MSci

Start date
September
Duration
4 years
UCAS code
F343
Course Type
Undergraduate, Single Honours
Fees

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2019/20 are as follows:
£9,250 (UK/EU)
£21,180 (International)
Further information

If you want to explore the profound concepts of modern physics with a firm mathematical focus, then this Theoretical Physics MSci degree has been created for you. It’s specifically suitable if you enjoy the challenging nature of understanding the mathematical framework upon which modern physics study depends.

Theoretical Physics MSci

Our Theoretical Physics MSci degree course draws on the expertise of Birmingham physicists engaged in cutting-edge research. This will enable you to gain strong theoretical and practical skills from experts in this field, during your modules and your final-year project too. You will become a member of one of our research groups and tackle a real open ended research problem for your project.

In addition to project work you will study a range of mathematical physics modules and also have a choice from a wide range of optional modules across all areas of physics. This will allow you to tailor your degree to your own interests, you can keep your choices broad or focus on a couple areas of physics if you wish. 

Additionally some modules from the Mathematics department are open to you, giving a wealth of choice. The sister programme (Theoretical Physics and Applied Mathematics) also allows you to keep open the possibility of specialising in applied mathematics.

Our Theoretical Physics MSci course provides you with a choice of either a ‘lab’ or a ‘no lab’ flavour. Both cover the essential core of theoretical physics, but the ‘lab’ option allows you to carry out experimental work too. Choosing the ‘no lab’ option means you’ll take courses in data analysis and some additional mathematical physics courses instead. By the middle of the second year the ‘Lab’ and ‘No Lab’ options combine with neither at a disadvantage.

Why study Theoretical Physics MSci at Birmingham?

  • 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.
   

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. 

    

Please be reassured that the vote to leave the European Union does not mean there will be any immediate material change to the UK university sector's participation in EU programmes such as Erasmus and study abroad programmes. Visit our EU Referendum information page for more information.

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.

Phoebe Cunnane, MSci Physics

Modules

The Theoretical Physics course itself comes in two varieties – ‘Lab’ and ‘No Lab’ – you are free to choose between them on arrival. By the middle of the second year the ‘Lab’ and ‘No Lab’ options combine with neither at a disadvantage.

Year 1

 Semester 1 'lab' Semester 1 'no lab'
 

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
 

Core modules

  • Quantum Mechanics 1
  • Optics and Waves
  • Classical Mechanics and Relativity
  • Mathematics for Physicists 1
  • Communication Skills and Data Analysis
  • Special Relativity, Probability and Random Processes
  • Widening Horizons Module 1
 Semester 2 'lab' Semester 2 'no lab'

Core modules

  • Electromagnetism and Electric Circuits
  • Temperature and Matter
  • Mathematics for Physicists 1
  • Chaos and Non-linear Systems
  • Widening Horizons Module 2

Core modules

  • Electromagnetism and Electric Circuits
  • Temperature and Matter
  • Mathematics for Physicists 1
  • Physics Laboratory 1
  • Dynamical Systems: from Linear to Chaos
  • Widening Horizons Module 2

Optional modules

Choose one module. Example optional modules:

  • Introduction to Astrophysics
  • Introduction to Particle Physics and Cosmology
  • Introduction to Nanoscale Physics

Year 2

 Semester 1 'lab' Semester 1 'no lab'

Core modules

  • 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

Core modules

  • Classical Mechanics and Relativity 2
  • Quantum Mechanics 2
  • Particles and Nuclei and A Quantum Approach to Solids
  • Mathematics for Physicists 2
  • Physics and Communication Skill 2
 Semester 2 'lab' Semester 2 'no lab'
  • Electromagnetism 2
  • Statistical Physics and Entropy
  • Mathematics for Physicists 2
  • Eigenphysics
  • Lagrangian and Hamiltonian Mechanics

Optional modules

Choose one module. Example optional modules:

  • Introduction to Astronomical Observing
  • Nuclear Physics and Neutrinos
  • Structure in the Universe
  • Electronics
  • Modern Optics
  • Electromagnetism 2
  • Statistical Physics and Entropy
  • Mathematics for Physicists 2
  • Eigenphysics
  • Lagrangian and Hamiltonian Mechanics

Optional modules

Choose two modules. Example optional modules:

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

Year 3

Semester 1 core modules

  • Quantum Mechanics 3
  • Statistical Physics
  • Scientific Computing 2
  • Complex Variable Theory

Semester 1 optional modules. 

Choose two modules. Example optional modules:

  • Observational Cosmology
  • Scientific Computing 1
  • Fission and Fusion
  • Medical Imaging
  • Semiconductor Optoelectronics
  • Relativistic Astrophysics and Black Holes
  • The Life and Death of Stars
  • Partial Differential Equations
  • Methods in PDEs
  • Continuum Mechanics
  • Applied Numerical Dynamical Systems
  • Perturbation Theory and Asymptotics

Semester 2 core modules:

  • General Physics
  • Radiation and Relativity
  • Chaos and Dynamical Systems
  • Current Topics in Theoretical Physics

Semester 2 optional modules. 

Choose three modules. Example optional modules:

  • Images and Communication
  • Atomic Physics
  • Group Studies
  • Particle Physics
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Evolution of Cosmic Structure
  • Asteroseismology and Exoplanets
  • Physics of Music and Sound
  • Physics Teaching in Schools
  • Methods in PDEs
  • Continuum Mechanics

Year 4

Semester 1 core modules

  • Theory Project
  • Phase Transitions
  • The General Theory of Relativity

Semester 1 optional modules. 

Choose two modules. Example optional modules:

  • Current Topics in Particle Physics
  • Experimental Particle Physics Techniques
  • Fission and Fusion
  • Observational Cosmology
  • Physical Principals of Radar
  • Superconductivity
  • Nanophotonics
  • Ultracold Atoms and Quantum Gases
  • Advanced Condensed Matter Physics
  • Nonlinear Waves
  • Topics in Applied Mathematics

Semester 2 core modules:

  • Theory Project
  • Many Particle and Quantum Field Theory

Semester 2 optional modules. 

Choose two modules. Example optional modules:

  • Images and Communication
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Quantum Optics
  • Relativistic Astrophysics
  • Evolution of Cosmic Structure
  • Asteroseismology and Exoplanets
  • Insights Into Stellar Structure
  • Numerical Linear Algebra with Applications
  • Nonlinear Waves
  • Topics in Applied Mathematics
  • Further Mathematical Finance

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

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.

How To Apply

Apply through the UCAS website using code F343.

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.

Number of A levels required:
3
Typical offer:
A*A*A
Required subjects and grades:
A level Mathematics A*, A level Physics A* and A in one further subject (which can include Further Mathematics) OR A level Mathematics A*, Further Mathematics A*, Physics A
General Studies:
not accepted

International Baccalaureate Diploma:

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

BTEC

Only considered when combined with other qualifications.

Other qualifications are considered – learn more about entry requirements.

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.

Hear from Manjinder and Helen about their time at Birmingham

Helen and Manjinder, Theoretical Physics, University of Birmingham

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 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:

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