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BScExperimental Physics

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Overview

Four centuries of scientific advancement would have been impossible without experimental discoveries. Even today, we continue to learn from the methods used by luminaries like Galileo, Newton and Faraday, who changed the course of history with the discovery of the moons of Jupiter, the spectral splitting of white light and the uncovering of fundamental electromagnetic effects.

Experimental physics is also the engine behind modern technology; every measuring instrument and device known to humanity, from the wooden ruler to the most advanced high energy particle detection trigger mechanism for CERN was once discovered or invented in the hands of a physicist.

On our three-year Experimental Physics BSc, we continue in this tradition, delving into the thrills and surprises that nature has in store, making challenging experiments work, and convincing others that your observations and measurements are correct.

As long as experiments are performed correctly, you could render the most longstanding, elegant and profound theories utterly obsolete by one simple experimental fact.

While we’ll cover the same core skills and concepts of the Physics BSc programme for the first two years, the focus will later shift to the experimental techniques and methods that drive modern Physics. You’ll take courses like Frontiers of Metrology, Metals & Superconductors, with the key focus on experimental components through our specialist laboratory teaching.

Programme structure

Year 1

Mathematics for Scientists 1
In this module you will develop an understanding of how to solve problems involving one variable (either real or complex) and differentiate and integrate simple functions. You will learn how to use vector algebra and geometry and how to use the common probability distributions.

Mathematics for Scientists 2
In this module you will develop an understanding of how to solve problems involving more than one variable. You will learn how to use matrices and solves eingenvalue problems, and how to manipulate vector differential operators, including gradient, divergence and curl. You will also consider their physical significance and the theorems of Gauss and Stokes.

Scientific Skills 1
In this module you will develop an understanding of good practices in the laboratory. You will keep a notebook, recording experimental work as you do it. You will set up an experiment from a script, and carry out and record measurements. You will learn how to analyse data and plot graphs using a computer package, and present results and conclusions including error estimations from your experiments.

Scientific Skills 2
In this module you will develop a range of skills in the scientific laboratory. You will learn how to use the Mathematica algebra software package to solve simple problems and carry out a number of individually programmed physics experiments. You will also work as part of a team to investigate an open-ended computational problem.

Classical Mechanics
In this module you will develop an understanding of how to apply the techques and formulae of mathematical analysis, in particular the use of vectors and calculus, to solve problems in classical mechanics. You will look at statics, dynamics and kinematics as applied to linear and rigidy bodies. You will also examine the various techniques of physical analysis to solve problems, such as force diagrams and conservation principles.

Fields and Waves
In this module you will develop an understanding of how electric and magnetic fields are generated from static charges and constant currents flowing through wires. You will derive the properties of capacitors and inductors from first principles, and you will learn how to analyse simple circuits. You will use complex numbers to describe damped harmonic oscillations, and the motion of transverse and longitudinal waves.

Classical Matter
In this module you will develop an understanding of the macroscopic properties of the various states of matter, looking at elementary ideas such as ideal gases, internal energy and heat capacity. Using classical models of thermodynamics, you will examine gases, liquids, solids, and the transitions between these states, considering phase equilibrium, the van der Waals equation and the liquefaction of gases. You will also examine other states of matter, including polymers, colloids, liquid crystals and plasmas.

Physics of the Universe
In this module you will develop an understanding of the building blocks of fundamental physics. You will look at Einstein’s special theory of relativity, considering time-dilation and length contraction, the basics of quantum mechanics, for example wave-particle duality, and the Schrödinger equation. You will also examine concepts in astrophysics such as the Big Bang theory and how the Universe came to be the way we observe it today.

Year 2

Mathematical Methods
In this module you will develop an understanding of the mathematical representation of physical problems, and the physical interpretation of mathematical equations. You will look at ordinary differential equations, including linear equations with constant coefficients, homogeneous and inhomogeneous equations, exact differentials, sines and cosines, Legendre poynomials, Bessel’s equation, and the Sturm-Liouville theorem. You will examine partial differential equations, considering Cartesian and polar coordinates, and become familiar with integral transforms, the Gamma function, and the Dirac delta function.

Scientific Computing Skills
In this module you will develop an understanding of how computers are used in modern science for data analysis and visualisation. You will be introduced to the intuitive programming language, Python, and looking at the basics of numerical calculation. You will examine the usage of arrays and matrices, how to plot and visualise data, how to evaluate simple and complex expressions, how to sample using the Monte Carlo methods, and how to solve linear equations.

Quantum Mechanics
In this module you will develop an understanding of quantum mechanics and its role in and atomic, nuclear, particle and condensed matter physics. You will look at the wave nature of matter and the probabilistic nature of microscopic phenomena. You will learn how to use the key equation of quantum mechanics to describe fundamental phenomena, such as energy quantisation and quantum tunnelling. You will examine the principles of quantum mechanics, their physical consequences, and applications, considering the nature of harmonic oscillator systems and hydrogen atoms.

Optics
In this module you develop an understanding of the properties of light, starting from Maxwell’s equations. You will look at optical phenomena such as refraction, diffraction and interference, and how they are exploited in modern applications, from virtual reality headsets to the detection of gravitational waves. You will also examine masers and lasers, and their usage in optical imaging and image processing.

Electromagnetism
In this module you will develop an understanding of how James Clerk Maxwell unified all known electrical and magnetic effects with just four equations, providing Einstein’s motivation for developing the special theory of relativity, explaining light as an electromagnetic phenomenon, and predicting the electromagnetic spectrum. You examine these equations and their consequences, looking at how Maxwell’s work underpins all of modern physics and technology. You will also consider how electromagnetism provides the paradigm for the study of all other forces in nature.

Atomic and Nuclear Physics
In this module, you will develop an understanding of how the quantum mechanics of matter and light can be used to explain atomic and nuclear phenomena. You will look at the various quantum effects involved in the physics of electrons in atoms, and protons and neutrons in the nuclei. You will examine the atomic spectra, radioactive decay, nuclear reactions, the interaction of radiation with mater, as well as experimental techniques. You will also consider the applications of quantum effects, from modern spectroscopy techniques to the detection of radioactivity.

Classical and Statistical Thermodynamics
In this module you will develop an understanding of themal physics and elementary quantum mechanics. You will look at the thermodynamic properties of an ideal gas, examining the solutions of Schrödinger’s equation for particles in a box, and phenomena such as negative temperature, superfluidity and superconductivity. You will also consider the thermodynamic equilibrium process, entropy in thermo-dynamics, and black-body radiation.

The Solid State
In this module you will develop an understanding of the physical properties of solids. You will look at their structure and symmetry, concepts of dislocation and plastic deformation, and the electrical characteristics of metals, alloys and semiconductors. You will examine methods of probing solids and x-ray diffraction, and the thermal properties of phonons. You will also consider the quantum theory of solids, including energy bands and the Bloch thorem, as well as exploring fermiology, intrinsic and extrinsic semiconductors, and magnetism.

Year 3

Experimental or Theoretical Project

Metals and Semiconductors

Superconductivity and Magnetism

Frontiers of Metrology

Optional modules

In addition to these mandatory course units there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Career opportunities

A degree in Physics is one of the most sought after and respected qualifications available.

The training in logical thinking, the ability to analyse a problem from first principles in an abstract, logical and coherent way, and to define a problem and then solve it, are critically important skills. These skills go well beyond your specific knowledge of physical phenomena they’re the reason why Physics graduates go on to excel in all types of employment, including those only loosely related to Physics, like management and finance, as well as scientific, technical, engineering and teaching careers. In this way, a degree in Physics helps keep your future employment options both bright and open.

Apply now! Fall semester 2021/22
This intake is not applicable

We are currently NOT ACCEPTING applications from NON-EU countries, except Georgia and Serbia.

Application deadlines apply to citizens of: United States

Apply now! Fall semester 2021/22
This intake is not applicable

We are currently NOT ACCEPTING applications from NON-EU countries, except Georgia and Serbia.

Application deadlines apply to citizens of: United States