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BScAstrophysics

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Overview

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.

On our four-year Astrophysics MSci, you’ll come to understand new concepts and paradigms, developing the deep conceptual framework that will allow an advanced understanding and appreciation of nature. You’ll develop core Physics concepts, including classical physics, quantum phenomena as well as mathematical and experimental skills.

Unlike solid-state physics (as with the Physics MSci) the emphasis will shift to astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology, and in later years you’ll cover topics such as Stellar Astrophysics and Atomic & Nuclear Physics. As you progress through the course, modules in Particle Astrophysics, Planetary Geology and Geophysics, General Relativity & Cosmology and Optics will lead you into research level topics which you’ll cover in greater depth as an MSci student, than on a BSc degree. In your fourth year you can choose from an incomparably wide range of options and expertise, including courses from University College London, King’s College London and Queen Mary, University of London.

We’re a research-intensive department based at our Surrey campus – well away from the light pollution of the big city, which allows our telescopes to provide the best observational astronomy in the University of London. We also have close ties with, and conduct research at major international laboratories such as CERN, ISIS and Diamond, plus collaborations with SEPnet universities and other major institutions around the world.

Our teaching is informed by the most up-to-date research, and you’ll get to work closely with research groups, in laboratories where they work first hand on Physics at the forefront of research.

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.

Astronomy:
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.

Year 3

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 disolcation 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.

Experimental or Theoretical Project:
In this module you will plan and execute an extended experimental or theoretical investigation in physics, electronics or astrophysics. You will work with a member of academic staff, who will provide advice and support. You will produce a wrttien report and give an oral presentation, where you will discuss your findings.

Quantum Theory

Particle Physics

General Relativity and Cosmology

Stellar Astrophysics

Particle Astrophysics

Year 4

Major Project

Research Review

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

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. The experimental, conceptual and observational skills you’ll learn from your final year Major Project will make you an attractive candidate in a range of sectors, including management and finance, as well as scientific, technical, engineering and teaching careers.

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