Compound Semiconductor Physics (MSc)

The MSc Compound Semiconductor Physics has been designed to deliver thorough training and practical experience in compound semiconductor theory, fabrication and applications, and integration with silicon technology.

The MSc Compound Semiconductor Physics has been designed to deliver thorough training and practical experience in compound semiconductor theory, fabrication and applications, and integration with silicon technology.

The programme is jointly delivered by the School of Physics and Astronomy and the Institute for Compound Semiconductors (ICS).  The ICS is an exciting new development at the cutting edge of compound semiconductor technology. The Institute has been established in partnership with IQE plc, to capitalise on the existing expertise at Cardiff University and to move academic research to a point where it can be introduced reliably and quickly into the production environment. It is unique facility in the UK, and aims to create a global hub for compound semiconductor technology research, development and innovation.

Our flexible curriculum contains a robust set of required modules and a number of cutting-edge elective modules, which include the latest results, innovations and techniques) and are designed to incorporate the most effective teaching and learning techniques.

As part of the programme you will undertake a 3-month summer project which will be based either in the School of Physics and Astronomy, within the ICS, or in placement with one of our industrial partners.  We have strong, long-established industrial links with companies such as IQE and are therefore in a unique position to be able to offer a portfolio of theoretical, practical, fabrication and applications-centred projects in both academic and industrial placement environments.  No other Russell Group university can boast such opportunities in this field.

Upon graduation, you will have the training, skillsets and hands-on experience you need to succeed in the dynamic and highly competitive field of compound semiconductors.

Distinctive features

  • Cardiff University’s unique position at the forefront of compound semiconductor technology will provide you with the opportunity to develop experience and build contacts with a range of leading companies and organisations.
  • Our specialist elective modules are delivered by expert scientists, who deliver their courses based on their research expertise and current research portfolio.
  • We offer a range of specialist modules that give you the opportunity to tailor the programme to suit your interests and ambitions. Whether you’re fascinated by superconductivity and magnetism or want to specialise in photonics we have modules to suit you. We also have modules designed to develop commercial skills and more technical options such as advanced LabVIEW programming.
  • Central to the design of this programme is the opportunity to ownership of real theoretical or practical projects. You will have acquired a full year’s worth of practical research experience by the time you complete your MSc, greatly enhancing your CV and prospects for employment or further study.
  • You will be trained in the practical use of the LabVIEW programming environment. Recognised by industry this will serve as a solid foundation for preparing for the National Instruments (NI) Certified LabVIEW Associate Developer (CLAD) examination.
  • We currently offer the opportunity to take the CLAD examination for free as an extra-curricular activity, supported by our certified academic staff. CLAD status is industrially recognised and indicates a broad working knowledge of the LabVIEW environment.
  • We encourage a “research group” atmosphere within which you’ll be given the opportunity to work together, across disciplines, to enhance each other’s learning and be a vital part of our thriving, international scientific community.

Key facts

Next intakeSeptember 2017
Duration1 year
Typical applications received“The major learning outcome from the course for me was appreciation of incremental achievement, as week in week out we had to produce lab diaries and updates of an ongoing process where often, if you didn't stop to think about it, it would seem that nothing had been achieved. I found the exercise increased my confidence and crucially has instilled a self-sustaining motivation to keep making small steps towards goals rather than relying on the sprint finish. Furthermore the feedback we had every week meant that we were constantly given the chance to improve, and I found this to be a far more valuable learning experience than anything I had during my undergraduate degree.” – Cameron Mills MSc Physics 2015/16 “Staff members are very eager to get involved and help where needed. I have found this to be a very enjoyable year and I am very glad that I chose to study this MSc.” – Simon Shelford MSc Astrophysics 2015/16
Admission Tutor contact(s)

Admissions criteria

  1. BSc Physics (2:1 minimum) OR
  2. BEng Electrical Engineering (2:1 minimum) OR
  3. BEng Electronic Engineering (2:1 minimum).

If you have a 2:2 bachelor’s degree in the above subjects, a related physical science, mathematics, engineering or relevant industrial experience, your application will be given individual consideration.  In such circumstances you may be required to attend a formal interview with the admissions tutor before an offer can be made.

For 2:2 holders, the likelihood of being offered a place on the course is highest if your overall marks lie close to the 2:1/:2:2 boundary.

For those applying solely or partially on the basis of relevant industrial experience, the likelihood of being offered a place on the course is highest for research and development experience in the field of silicon or compound semiconductors, but experience will be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis.

English Language Requirements for non-UK applicants

Typical IELTS offer: 6.5

Typical offers for other qualifications: equivalent to IELTS 6.5, determined at time of application as required. 

Will this course require a DBS Certificate?


Will this course be ATAS registered?

Yes: this course will be a taught master’s programme with a JACS code prefix of F3 (Physics).

Duration of Programme (normal length of registration)  

Full-time  1 year 

Mode of Study (face-to-face, distance learning, blended learning) 

This is a face to face Programme over one year full time.

Programme Start/End dates – please see for the exact start and end dates.

This is a 12 month, 2 stage programme over three terms: autumn (taught, term 1), spring (taught, term 2), summer (research, term 3).  The first year’s dates would be:

October to September

Subsequent years would work to the University autumn semester start date as the start date.  The end date is determined by the date of the final MSc exam board, currently around the beginning of the third week of September.

The MSc Compound Semiconductor Physics is a two-stage programme delivered over three terms.

Autumn term (60 credits, taught)

You will undertake two required modules (30 credits total) covering core skills and three elective modules of 10 credits value each covering specialist skills.

Spring term (60 credits, taught)

You will undertake three required modules (40 credits total) covering core skills and two elective modules of 10 credits each covering specialist skills.

You must successfully complete the 120 credits of the taught component of the course before you will be permitted to progress to the research project component.

Summer term (60 credits, research project)

The summer term consists of a single 60 credit research project module of 3 months’ duration.  You will be required to produce a research dissertation and present your research to the School in order to complete this module.

You will have two weeks at the beginning of the autumn term to attend any elective modules you are interested in so that you can finalise your choice for that term.  You will need to make your final selections for the spring term before the Christmas recess.  You will be supported in generating and negotiating a research project proposal during the spring term in order to prepare for your summer research project.

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

How will I be taught?

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials, seminars and practical laboratory sessions.

Lectures can take a variety of forms depending on the subject material being taught.  Generally, lectures are used to convey concepts, contextualise research activities in the School and to demonstrate key theoretical, conceptual and mathematical methods.

In tutorials and seminars you’ll have the opportunity to discuss and reflect upon particular physical, mathematical, coding / practical or specialist concepts, to consolidate and get feedback on your individual learning and to develop skills in oral presentation. Communication skills are developed in tutorials, where you will make individual contributions to group study, for example by summarising and critiquing a recent research article for the group.

You will practise and develop critique, reflective, analytical and presentational skills by participating in diverse learning activities such as research group meetings, School seminar discussions and in open group discussions.  At all times you will be encouraged to reflect on what you have learned and how it can be combined with other techniques and concepts to tackle novel problems.

In the practical laboratory sessions you will put the breadth of your knowledge and skills to use, whether that be using your coding skills to automate a laboratory experiment, designing components for a large piece of equipment or troubleshooting research hardware.  The emphasis on the MSc Compound Semiconductor Physics is squarely on acquiring and demonstrating practical skills which will be of use in a research environment and hence highly sought-after by employers.

How will I be supported?

Our MSc Coordinators will act as your personal tutors.  They will help you reflect on your performance and advise you on research and study techniques, module selection and career planning (in conjunction with the University’s Career Service). They will also provide a first point of contact if you experience any difficulties.  Since the MSc Coordinators’ office is located within the MSc Teaching Facilities, any issues can be dealt with very quickly.

MSc students are invited to all postgraduate events including the Postgraduate Lecture Series and Postgraduate Research Conference.  At these events you can meet and talk with PhD students, researchers and attend key lectures covering the School’s research activities, best practice and safety.

When you undertake the summer research project you will be assigned a primary and secondary academic supervisor whose responsibility it will be to keep you properly advised and supported throughout your research project.  They will be your first point of contact during the research project and it is usual that your primary supervisor is the lead researcher in the group / sub-group that you join.

This programme is designed to foster a strong community spirit within the MSc cohort.  You will often work together in pairs, in groups and as a cohort.  MSc groups will meet weekly at which point you will report progress, discuss problems and suggest solutions.  This strong peer-support and peer-learning/teaching has proven extremely powerful in enhancing our students’ learning.

How will I be assessed?

Multiple assessment methods are used in order to enhance learning and accurately reflect your performance on the course.  In the required modules, a mixture of problem-based learning, short practical projects, written assignments, coding exercises, written and oral examinations and group work will be used.

In some of the required modules there are weekly assignments.  The feedback provided for these allows you to make incremental improvements to the development of your core skillset, giving you ample opportunity to implement the suggestions made by our expert staff.

The methods used on the elective modules vary depending on the most appropriate assessment method for each module, but typically include written and/or practical assignments together with a written and/or oral examination.

All assessments make use of feedback, which can be divided into formative and summative feedback.

What skills will I practise and develop?

As a result of engaging fully with this course, you will acquire and develop a range of valuable skills, both discipline-specific and more generic ‘employability skills’.

Knowledge & Understanding:

Students completing the Programme will demonstrate:

  • A sophisticated level of knowledge and understanding of the current state-of-the-art in the field of compound semiconductors;
  • A sophisticated level of the core knowledge applicable to the practice of compound semiconductor physics, including an up-to-date acquaintance with the academic literature, the major companies and market pressures in the industry, the wider semiconductor physics context and relevant legal and safety issues;
  • Knowledge and understanding of the most effective software packages, programming languages and mathematical techniques central to tackling real-world problems in the field of semiconductor physics.

Intellectual Skills:

Students completing the Programme will demonstrate:

  • A sophisticated theoretical and practical physical, mathematical and semiconductor-specific skillset and the ability to adapt these skills to novel applications;
  • A sophisticated specialist skillset derived from the elective modules and the ability to adapt these skills to novel applications;
  • The ability to critically analyse, critique, curate and synthesise state-of-the-art academic literature and the most up-to-date techniques.

Professional Practical Skills:

Students completing the Programme will be able to:

  • Efficiently and effectively integrate into a research group environment, including concisely reporting progress, negotiating activities and timescales, supporting colleagues and working in a team;
  • Plan, propose and execute a sophisticated research project with realistic goals, deliverables and contingency plans;
  • Demonstrate a solid, research-grade semiconductor device theory, design and fabrication skillset across the range of silicon and compound semiconductors and semiconductor photonics.

Transferable/Key Skills:

Students completing the Programme will demonstrate:

  • Effective communication skills, including literature reviews, literature critiques, academic article writing, long report writing and formal scientific presentations both long (>20min) and short (<20min);
  • Effective and efficient group and team working skills, including negotiation, compromise, contingency planning, time management and record-keeping;
  • Engagement, liaison and collaboration with expert academic and industrial research scientists and the ability to transfer concepts, methodologies and modes of presentation between both environments.

An MSc Compound Semiconductor Physics degree will open up opportunities in the following areas:

  • Technical, research, development and engineering positions in industrial compound semiconductors, silicon semiconductors and semiconductor photonics;
  • Theoretical, experimental and instrumentational doctoral research;
  • Numerate, technical, research, development and engineering positions in related scientific fields;
  • Physics, mathematics and general science education.

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2017/18)

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Students from outside the EU (2017/18)

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Additional costs

If students are required to travel to/from an industrial placement during a summer research project, then there are student mobility bursaries available to cover these costs, which will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

What the student should provide:

  • The University will provide everything necessary to undertake the degree scheme, but it is strongly recommended that you bring a relatively modern laptop computer in order to be able to tackle the coding, literature review and dissertation writing activities while away from the University facilities.

What the University will provide:

  • A dedicated MSc Teaching facility with sufficient PCs, laboratory equipment and core textbooks for the entire cohort’s activities during the required modules;
  • Access to the University’s research-grade cleanroom facilities for practical instruction in the taught component of the course and a number of the summer research projects;
  • Access to the Trevithick and other University libraries where textbooks and recommended reading for the required and elective modules;
  • A 1 year LabVIEW student licence for student PCs, providing access to the full LabVIEW Development System for the duration of the degree programme.  In addition, students will be able to undertake the Certified LabVIEW Associate Developer examination free of charge following successful completion of PXT101 “Advanced Experimental Techniques in Physics”.

There will be a number of industrial placements each year for the summer research project module, which will either be hosted at the ICS or at the industrial partner’s facilities.  The number and nature of these projects will vary from year to year and will be assigned based on merit demonstrated during the autumn and spring terms.