Skip to main content

Physics MSci

Search Royal Holloway

Physics MSci

MSci
  • UCAS code F303
  • Option 4 years full time
  • Year of entry 2021

The course

Our students often say their enthusiasm to study Physics stems from wanting to learn more about the Higgs particle, dark matter, nanotechnology or just a wide-ranging curiosity about how things really work. Whatever your reasons, our Physics department aims to inform and excite you in the study of Physics, the most fundamental of the sciences.

As one of the most respected centres for Physics teaching and research in the UK, you will join a vibrant environment, where you can pursue your studies and plan your future career.

On our four-year MSci course, we’ll cover the core material that a graduate physicist would be expected to know, including quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, statistical physics and thermodynamics, Einstein’s relativistic physics and the study of the fundamental structure of matter and the universe.  You’ll also develop the mathematical, experimental and conceptual knowledge and skills to a more advanced level.

Your fourth year is intercollegiate, which means you can pick choices from other University of London colleges – modules can include Quantum Computation, Nanoscale Physics and others. You’ll also develop experimental, conceptual and observational skills from your final year Major Project, which will make you an attractive candidate in a range of sectors, including management and finance, as well as scientific, technical, engineering and teaching careers. 

We’re based at the heart of the campus, where you’ll have access to laboratories, technical help, academic staff and, on the roof of the department, our astronomical dome. In Egham Surrey, we’re well away from the light pollution of the big city so our telescopes can give you the best observational astronomy in the University of London. Beyond the specialist equipment, we also have video-conferencing facilities that allow people to take part in seminars and lectures at other institutions. 

  • Research is expanding in new and exciting directions, plus strategic partnerships such as CERN and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), SNOLAB and with industry, and there are impressive research facilities in the Physics labs with dedicated technical help.
  • We put a real emphasis on small group teaching – a close-knit, friendly and supportive environment with high staff-student ratio and an open door policy.
  • We enjoy a strong track record of high student satisfaction in the annual National Student Survey.
  • We’ve been awarded IOP Juno Champion and Athena SWAN silver awards for best practice in equality, promoting women in science and welcoming large cohorts of female students
  • This course is fully accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP)

Our flexible degree programmes enable you to apply to take a Placement Year, which can be spent studying abroad, working or carrying out voluntary work. You can even do all three if you want to (minimum of three months each)! To recognise the importance of this additional skills development and university experience, your Placement Year will be formally recognised on your degree certificate and will contribute to your overall result. Please note conditions may apply if your degree already includes an integrated year out, please contact the Careers & Employability Service for more information. Find out more

  • A wide range of fourth-year options taught across the University of London physics consortium, providing access to world-leading experts.
  • Extended research project embedded within a research group, working directly with your personal academic supervisor.
  • Final year builds on the core physics content allowing you to gain specialist knowledge in your chosen area of interest.

Core Modules

Year 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.

  • 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 eigenvalue 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how to apply the techniques 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 rigid bodies. You will also examine the various techniques of physical analysis to solve problems, such as force diagrams and conservation principles.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of thermal 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.

  • 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 photons. You will also consider the quantum theory of solids, including energy bands and the Bloch theorem, as well as exploring fermiology, intrinsic and extrinsic semiconductors, and magnetism.

  • This module will consolidate the core laboratory components from other modules to create a coherent, stand-alone course designed to build your lab experience with more specialist support, enabling you to engage better with course material.

Year 3
  • Advanced Skills
  • Quantum Theory
Year 4
  • Major Project
  • Research Review

Optional Modules

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

Year 1
  • All modules are core
Year 2
  • All modules are core
Year 3
  • Advanced Classical Physics
  • Further Mathematical Methods
  • Nonlinear Systems and Chaos
  • C++ and Object Oriented Programming
  • Signal Recovery and Handling
  • Quantum Theory
  • Particle Physics
  • Metals and Semiconductors
  • Superconductivity and Magnetism
  • Frontiers of Metrology
  • General Relativity and Cosmology
  • Stellar Astrophysics
  • Particle Astrophysics
  • Planetary Geology and Geophysics
  • Particle Detectors and Accelerators
  • In this module you will develop an understanding of astronomy, and observations of different wavelengths. You will look at the merits and limitations of earth and space-based telescopes, and consider key concepts, including coordinate systems, timekeeping systems, brightness measurement, distance, colour, temperature and spectrum. You will also examine the contents of the solar system, including the planets and their moons, rings, asteroids, comets, dust and the solar wind.

  • Energy and Climate Science
  • Atomic Physics
Year 4
  • Lie Groups and Lie Algebras
  • Statistical Mechanics
  • Phase Transitions
  • Advanced Quantum Theory
  • Relativistic Waves and Quantum Fields
  • Advanced Quantum Field Theory
  • Functional Methods in Quantum Field Theory
  • Formation and Evolution of Stellar Clusters
  • Advanced Physical Cosmology
  • Atom and Photon Physics
  • Advanced Photonics
  • Quantum Computation and Communication
  • Quantum Electronics of Nanostructures
  • Molecular Physics
  • Particle Physics
  • Particle Accelerator Physics
  • Order and Excitations in Condensed Matter
  • Theoretical Treatments of Nano-systems
  • Physics at the Nanoscale
  • Electronic Structure Methods
  • Computer Simulation in Condensed Matter
  • Superfluids, Condensates and Superconductors
  • Standard Model Physics and Beyond
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance
  • Statistical Data Analysis
  • String Theory and Branes
  • Supersymmetry
  • Stellar Structure and Evolution
  • Cosmology
  • Relativity and Gravitation
  • General Relativity and Cosmology
  • Astroparticle Cosmology
  • Electromagnetic Radiation in Astrophysics
  • Planetary Atmospheres
  • Solar Physics
  • Solar System
  • The Galaxy
  • Astrophysical Plasmas
  • Space Plasma and Magnetospheric Physics
  • Extrasolar Planets and Astrophysical Discs
  • Environmental Remote Sensing
  • Molecular Biophysics
  • Theory of Complex Networks
  • Equilibrium Analysis of Complex Systems
  • Dynamical Analysis of Complex Systems
  • Mathematical Biology
  • Elements of Statistical Learning

As teachers, we want to introduce, explain, challenge and excite students on the course. 

A year’s worth of study is normally broken down into eight modules, each of a nominal 150 hours of study. Physics combines experimental work with conceptual thinking and mathematical analysis, each demanding its own teaching and assessment techniques. So these modules can take a variety of forms, including small group tutorials, problem classes, lectures, laboratory and computing assignments, teamwork, and one-to-one teaching in our laboratories.

For lecture course units, you’ll normally be assessed by a two-hour examination at the end of the year. Coursework and in-class tests also contribute to the assessment of many course units. Experimental work is generally assessed by written reports or oral presentation. You have to pass a minimum of six of the eight course units, with a minimum score of 40 per cent each year.

You’ll be taught the most up-to-date and exciting physics by internationally recognised experts in their fields – all who are still involved in research and bring their working knowledge to the course. Our teaching consistently scores high satisfaction ratings in the annual National Student Survey.

Our close-knit, small-group teaching structure helps create a friendly environment, with an open-door policy, so students feel comfortable coming to us for advice and support.

9th in the UK for student experience

Source: Times Good University Guide, 2020

92% overall student satisfaction

Source: NSS, 2019

97% of our Physics graduates are in work or further study within six months of graduating

Source: DLHE, 2018

Explore Royal Holloway

All undergraduates starting with us in 2020 onwards have the opportunity to take a Placement Year, which will add even more value to your studies.

There are lots of exciting ways to get involved at Royal Holloway. Discover new interests and enjoy existing ones

Heading to university is exciting. Finding the right place to live will get you off to a good start

Whether you need support with your health or practical advice on budgeting or finding part-time work, we can help

Discover more about our 21 departments and schools

Find out why Royal Holloway is in the top 25% of UK universities for research rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’

They say the two most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why

Discover world-class research at Royal Holloway

Discover more about who we are today, and our vision for the future

Royal Holloway began as two pioneering colleges for the education of women in the 19th century, and their spirit lives on today

We’ve played a role in thousands of careers, some of them particularly remarkable

Find about our decision-making processes and the people who lead and manage Royal Holloway today