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Theoretical and Computational Physics (BSc)

Entry year


Theoretical and Computational Physics is for people who want to study Physics but with rather more emphasis on computational physics.

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Course overview

This three-year course combines a solid grounding in general physics with specialised study in theoretical and computational physics.

You will develop a sophisticated understanding of the concepts that form the basis of the physical laws of the universe, as well as the key mathematical and experimental methods we use to understand them. You will also learn why theoretical and computational physics are so integral to making sense of the world around us.

Accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP), this course aims to prepare you for a wide range of careers, in areas such as research, teaching, industrial development, business, finance, and other roles that require mathematical or computational skills and an analytical approach.

Theoretical physicists often work in close collaboration with experimental physicists. They may spend much of their time developing and experimenting with computer models of systems that are too complicated to model in any other way. Good examples of this are the Earth’s atmosphere and the modelling of weather systems, areas in which interest has grown rapidly over the last few years.

You will be part of a friendly and welcoming department currently housed in the Queen’s Building complex, which contains a wide variety of purpose-built laboratories, lecture theatres and computing facilities.

You will be able to work alongside internationally respected physicists engaged in world-leading research and have access to state-of-the-art equipment, including our super-computers and parallel processor.

Distinctive features

The distinctive features of the course include:

  • The opportunity to learn in a department which has a strong commitment to research
  • The involvement of research-active staff in course design and delivery
  • An emphasis on computational physics
  • Frequent opportunities to conduct practical work in the School’s laboratory facilities
  • An emphasis on independent learning
  • Effective course monitoring and opportunities for student feedback

The course contains all the core content required for the degree to be accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP).

Accreditations

UCAS code
Next intakeSeptember 2018
Duration3 years
ModeFull time
Typical places availableThe School typically has approx 105 places available.
Typical applications receivedThe School typically receives approx 570 applications.

Entry requirements

AAB-ABB to include B in Mathematics and Physics with (where applicable) a pass in the practical element of the science A level. Please note, General Studies will not be accepted. 

Extended Project Qualification: Applicants with grade A in the EPQ will typically receive an offer one grade lower than the standard A level offer. Please note that any subject specific requirements must still be met.

The Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate will be accepted in lieu of one A-Level (at the grades listed above), excluding any specified subjects.

The Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate will be accepted in lieu of one A-Level (at the grades listed above), excluding any specified subjects.

34-30 points including 6 in Higher Level Mathematics and Physics, or 665 including 6 in Higher Level Mathematics and Physics.

Alternative qualifications may be accepted. For further information on entry requirements, see the School of Physics & Astronomy admissions criteria pages.

IELTS (academic)

At least 6.5 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in each sub-score.

TOEFL iBT

At least 90 with minimum scores of 17 for writing, 17 for listening, 18 for reading and 20 for speaking.

PTE Academic

62 with a minimum of 51 in all communicative skills.

Trinity ISE II/III

II: at least two Distinctions and two Merits.
III: at least a Pass in all components.

Other accepted qualifications

Please visit our English Language requirements page for more information on our other accepted language qualifications.

Applications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome. Specific admissions and selection criteria for this degree programme can be found online.

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2018/19)

Tuition feeDeposit
£9,000None

Visit our tuition fee pages for the latest information.

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

Students from outside the EU (2018/19)

Tuition feeDeposit
£19,950None

Visit our tuition fee pages for the latest information.

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

Additional costs

The School covers the cost of essential equipment, including core course textbooks in the first two years. All other suggested textbooks are available through the University libraries.

Course specific equipment

The University will provide all essential equipment. It currently also provides the core first-year physics and maths textbooks. You may choose to buy additional textbooks following advice from staff. You may also wish to consider purchasing a personal computer, laptop or tablet device, although specific computing facilities are available on site.

Accommodation

We have a range of residences to suit your needs and budget. Find out more on our accommodation pages.

Course structure

This is a three-year full-time degree. The course includes a carefully chosen balance of core modules, along with some optional modules. Modules are typically worth 10 or 20 credits and you need to attain 120 credits a year.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2018/19 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2018.

Year one

The range of modules in year one is designed to stimulate your interest in physics while giving you a sound foundation upon which to build in later years. At the end of the first year, you may continue with your original degree programme of choice or choose another of our single honours physics and astronomy degrees. 

You will study core modules worth 100 credits and two optional 10-credit modules.

In the Autumn Semester, you may take a module on the mathematical practice for physical sciences or, if you have an A grade or higher in Mathematics A-level, an alternative 10-credit module.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Mathematical Methods for Physicists 1PX112020 credits
Mechanics and MatterPX112120 credits
Experimental Physics 1PX112310 credits
Planet EarthPX112710 credits
Electricity, Magnetism and WavesPX122120 credits
Experimental Physics 2PX122310 credits
Computational Skills for Problem SolvingPX122410 credits
Mathematical Methods for Physicists 2PX123010 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Module titleModule codeCredits
How the Human Body WorksPX122610 credits
Introduction to AstrophysicsPX122810 credits
Communicating SciencePX122910 credits

Year two

Year two of the course continues to build on the core physics material and offers a choice for your one optional module.

Module titleModule codeCredits
The Physics of Fields and FlowsPX213120 credits
Introductory Quantum MechanicsPX213210 credits
Structured ProgrammingPX213410 credits
Thermal and Statistical PhysicsPX223120 credits
OpticsPX223210 credits
Introduction to Condensed Matter PhysicsPX223610 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Intermediate Practical Physics 1PX213310 credits
Electronic InstrumentationPX213510 credits
Electricity in the Human BodyPX213710 credits
Observational Techniques in AstronomyPX213910 credits
The Stars and their PlanetsPX214010 credits
Intermediate Practical Physics 2PX223310 credits
Synoptic PhysicsPX223410 credits
Synoptic AstrophysicsPX223510 credits
Radiation in Medical DiagnosisPX223710 credits
Observing the UniversePX223910 credits

Year three

The final year of our degree allows you to specialise and study selected topics in depth. A 20-credit physics-related research project gives you the opportunity to apply your physics learning and to develop skills in independent research, making presentations, report writing and information management.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Atomic and Nuclear PhysicsPX314120 credits
Computational PhysicsPX314310 credits
Particle Physics and Special RelativityPX324120 credits
Theoretical PhysicsPX324810 credits
Physics ProjectPX331520 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Condensed Matter PhysicsPX314210 credits
Electromagnetic Radiation DetectionPX314410 credits
Digital Medical ImagingPX314710 credits
Acoustics and Studio SoundPX314810 credits
Environmental PhysicsPX315310 credits
Semiconductor Devices and ApplicationsPX324210 credits
Laser Physics and Non-Linear OpticsPX324310 credits
Medical UltrasoundPX324610 credits
Radiation for Medical TherapyPX324710 credits
Statistical MechanicsPX324910 credits
CosmologyPX325210 credits
Commercialising InnovationPX325310 credits
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.

Learning and assessment

How will I be taught?

Teaching is carried out using a range of techniques, such as traditional lectures, tutorials and laboratory work and computer-based, project-based and skills-based exercises. Physics is a hierarchical discipline so the structure of the course is systematic, building on fundamental understanding.

Exercises are an integral part of all lecture-based modules, and these give you the opportunity to apply your knowledge, increase your critical awareness and enhance your problem-solving skills.

You will undertake weekly laboratory classes in the first two years, to prepare you for a major experimental study as part of your final-year project.

Mathematics is taught alongside the major Physics and Astrophysics concepts in all years, with specific modules in the first year. It is fundamental to understanding the subject and is incorporated into many physics modules.

Key IT skills are taught throughout the course as well as elementary programming using Python. You may also have the opportunity to take further computing and numerical-methods modules as the course develops.

Regular small-group tutorials are held in years one and two. These meetings will allow you to meet with other students in small groups (typically four or five students to one tutor) and receive feedback on your continuous assessment. In the first year these sessions are usually given on a weekly basis, in year two they take place fortnightly.

Throughout the delivery of the programme, wherever possible, recent research results are used to illustrate and illuminate the subject.

Year 1

Scheduled learning and teaching activities

33%

Guided independent study

67%

Placements

0%

Year 2

Scheduled learning and teaching activities

31%

Guided independent study

69%

Placements

0%

Year 3

Scheduled learning and teaching activities

30%

Guided independent study

70%

Placements

0%

How will I be supported?

Your main interaction with academic staff will be through lectures, laboratory practical sessions, workshops or small-group teaching sessions (tutorials).

You will also be allocated a personal tutor, a member of academic staff who can provide pastoral support and academic advice during your course.

All lecturing staff can be contacted by email and have either an ‘open door’ policy for students with specific queries about course material, or a system to book meeting times. The School Office can answer most administrative queries immediately.

You will be given access to relevant multimedia material, presentations, lecture handouts, bibliographies, further links, electronic exercises and discussion circles through the University’s virtual learning environment, Learning Central. Opportunities for you to reflect on your abilities and performance are available through the Learning Central ‘Personal Development Planning’ module.

The University offers a range of services including the Careers Service, the Counselling Service, the Disability and Dyslexia Service, the Student Support Service, and excellent libraries and resource centres.

Feedback

Feedback on progress is typically provided through a combination of discussion in class, written comments on submitted work and review of outline solutions to problems. You are encouraged to discuss any queries related to specific modules with individual lecturers.

How will I be assessed?

There are a wide variety of assessment methods. Some modules combine continuous assessment and end-of-semester exam and others are solely based on continuous assessment.

Continuous assessment (exercises and laboratory work) makes up 40% of your marks in year one.

At first the nature and methods of experiments are clearly defined for you, but by your final year you will be capable of tackling more open-ended investigations.

Assessment methods (2017/18 data)

Year 1

Written exams

37%

Practical exams

0%

Coursework

63%

Year 2

Written exams

60%

Practical exams

0%

Coursework

40%

Year 3

Written exams

60%

Practical exams

0%

Coursework

40%

What skills will I practise and develop?

Studying this course will enable you to acquire and develop a range of valuable skills, both discipline specific and based around general employability. You will:

  • Use laboratory classes to demonstrate experimental, analytical and investigative skills
  • Learn how to design experimental equipment, electronic circuitry or computer data acquisition or data reduction algorithms
  • Use precise calculations or order-of-magnitude calculations in appropriate situations
  • Use computer packages and/or write software
  • Conduct independent research using source materials such as textbooks, scientific journals and electronic databases
  • Develop your communication skills, both orally and in writing
  • Enhance your team-working skills and ability to critically appraise your own work and the work of others
  • Develop your ability to undertake independent learning and effectively manage your time

Careers

Career prospects

In 2015/16, 92% of the School’s graduates who were available for work reported they were in employment and/or further study within six months of graduation.

Employers included UK and international universities plus a range of organisations such as Rolls Royce, European Space Agency, National Instruments and Barclays.

Jobs

  • Lecturer
  • Research Scientist
  • Research Development Leader
  • Medical Physicist
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Friday 5 July

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