Physics BSc (Hons)

About the course

1/

Physics is one of the most fundamental of all sciences, dealing with the underlying nature of the Universe and the behaviour of matter, energy and forces. Advances in Physics have driven modern day society, from the thermal physics that underpinned the Industrial Revolution, to the electromagnetism, quantum physics and relativity that are an integral part of things like GPS, computers and lasers. Physics graduates are in high demand in a number of sectors due to their well-developed analytic, mathematical and transferable skills.

In the School of Physics, Astronomy & Mathematics we aim to teach you these skills in a friendly and professional environment, giving you the opportunity to learn both the fundamentals of Physics and the results of modern cutting-edge research. We are in the top ten of Physics departments in the UK and we are highly regarded for our innovative and successful teaching. Our internationally excellent and world-leading Physics research covers the microphysics of air quality, atmospheric physics, light scattering, quantum optics and mathematical physics.

We take pride in our student-focused approach to teaching Physics. With one of the best student-staff ratios in the country we are able to put our focus on you as an individual and give you the support that you need to reach your full potential as a Physics graduate. Our graduates are in a wide range of careers, from scientific research to teaching and industry.

What our students say

After graduating I secured a position with Bravo Solutions as an eSourcing Analyst. This involves sourcing a procurement solution for clients, then maintaining, training and supporting them through the procurement and supply chain life cycle. This work involves a huge amount of IT skill, presentation skills, client-facing skills, and understanding complex principles, which are all abilities I was
able to develop during my course at the University of Hertfordshire.
Sean Hampson, who graduated with a BSc Hons Physics and is now working for Bravo Solutions as an eSourcing Analyst

Why choose this course?

Our degree lets you study the fundamental theories behind Physics and their application to modern-day research and technology. We will take you from the knowledge that you have gained in your school or college studies right the way to the most up-to-date developments. Throughout the degree we put a lot of emphasis on reinforcing the concepts you cover in lectures with small-group tutorials, laboratory practicals and computer simulations. During your second and third years you begin to specialise in experimental physics or more theoretical and mathematical concepts. You can choose from a range of options in your final year, including Nonlinear Systems, Quantum Computing, Space Dynamics or astrophysics.

You will also carry out a final year investigative project in a cutting-edge area of Physics research. You will be closely supervised and guided by one of our experienced researchers in the Centre for Atmospheric & Instrumentation Research. Previous projects have included designing a calibration system for airborne ice sensors, modelling the behaviour of soliton waves in the oceans, and examining quantum dynamics using topological methods. If you’re continuing on our MPhys programme it’s possible to extend your project into your MPhys year. We also have an innovative strand of industrial projects, supported by the Institute of Physics, that give you direct experience of working in industrial research.

Entry requirements...

320 UCAS points which must include at least grade C in both Physics & Mathematics GCE A2 levels.

A2 level Maths and Physics must give a combined total of at least 200 UCAS points.

BTEC National Diploma in Applied Science at DMM combined with Mathematics A-level at grade C or above.

GCSE English Language and mathematics at grade C or above. 

All students from non-majority English speaking countries require proof of English language proficiency. The following qualifications and grades will be considered 
- GCSE English language grade A-C 
- IELTS 6.0 (with no less than 5.5 in any band)
Other English language tests are accepted. Please contact the International Office for details.

Dr James Collett
For academic queries
Website: J.L.Collett@herts.ac.uk

Dr Mark Thompson
For admissions queries
Website: M.A.Thompson@herts.ac.uk

Study routes

  • Full Time, 3 Years
  • Part Time, 6 Years
  • Sandwich, 4 Years

Locations

  • University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield

What our physics
students say

What our physics<br>students say
"

As part of my studies at the University of Hertfordshire I opted to take a placement year at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory where I had to learn new skills on the job, working to precision, provide excellent customer service and liaising with other members of a multidisciplinary team. Most of the research at the laboratory was geared up towards laser-driven nuclear fusion, and I was able to work on one of the lasers; the Vulcan.

I have just graduated with first class honours in BSc Physics from the University of Hertfordshire and got accepted onto a graduate scheme with Frank Hirth PLC; a UK/US tax advisory firm in London. I keep the science ticking over in the background and plan on returning to it from a career perspective at some point in the future.

-Daniel Johnson, BSc Physics

Careers

Physics is by far one of the most flexible degrees for your future career. A degree in physics will opens doors to a wide variety of careers in industrial or scientific research, financial services, information technology and teaching. Your high levels of numeracy, critical thinking and analytic skills will put you in great demand. Our graduates work for organisations as diverse as Railtrack, EDF, CGG Veritas, and Santander.

Teaching methods

We use a variety of teaching methods during our Physics degrees, ranging from small-group tutorials, to lectures and practical classes. Our typical intake of students is around 50-60 in each year, which means that our class sizes are small enough so that your lecturers will know you by name. We place particular emphasis on transferable skills, employability and project work throughout the degree.

You will meet your personal tutor on a regular basis in small-group tutorials, which are a great way of reinforcing the material that you learn in lectures. We also offer a wide variety of support throughout your degree, from your lecturers, the School’s Maths Centre and peer support from our student proctor scheme.

Work Placement

All of our Physics degree programmes can be taken as a sandwich degree, with a professional placement or study abroad year. We have a dedicated Placements Tutor in our School who, along with the University’s Study Abroad Office and Careers & Placements Service, will help you find and set up your placement. Past students have gone on research and study abroad placements to the US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Switzerland and Singapore. Within the UK our students have worked at IBM, Microsoft, the Rutherford Appleton Labs, the Met Office and the National Physical Laboratory. Many of our graduates go on to work or postgraduate study at their placement hosts.

Professional Accreditations

Our BSc (Hons) degree is fully accredited by the Institute of Physics (IoP). Graduates are eligible to join the IoP as Associate Members.

Structure

Year 1

Core Modules

  • Mathematical Techniques 1 (L1)

    On entry students will have different mathematical knowledge and this module has been designed to standardise their mathematical knowledge. The module will initially review core areas of A-Level Mathematics which will be extended to improve students' knowledge. You will learn the standard mathematical techniques in calculus, matrices and vectors.

  • Contemporary Physics (L1)

    The module introduces students to the fundamental developments in relativistic and quantum physics of the last century. Students will learn about the special relativistic effects. They will trace the development of quantum physics and learn about the structure of matter. They will uncover strange and bizarre phenomena including the twins paradox, the pole and barn paradox, matter waves, quantum tunnelling, particle-wave duality and the quantum superposition principle.

  • Laboratory Physics 1

    The module consists of experimental investigations into various physical phenomena such as classical mechanics, thermodynamics, waves and optics, quantum phenomena (blackbody and photoelectric effect) and atomic spectra. It also introduces the basic techniques of laboratory practice, including data recording, uncertainty estimation, data and uncertainty analysis, maintaining a log book and writing reports.

  • Applications of Computing

    In this module, you will learn how to use a high-level language. You will see how to develop scientific and mathematical models and how they can be implemented in a computational environment. At the end of the module you will be capable of presenting the results of a study using a mathematical computer package.

  • The Physical Universe

    The module will provide students in physics and astrophysics with a quantitative introduction to the Physical Universe. It will provide a broad survey of the universe and the structure of matter. It will show how physics and mathematics are used as theoretical tools to interpret data collected in the laboratory or at the telescope. It will introduce students to practical skills.

  • Small Group Tutorial

    The module will require students to attempt a range of problems, mostly of a mathematical nature, broadly in the students' subject area. Some problems will be associated with other specific taught modules on the programme, while others will have a synoptic role sitting across several modules. The work will challenge students to develop problem solving skills that enable them to approach unfamiliar as well as familiar problems.

Optional

Year 2

Core Modules

  • Mathematical Techniques 2

    You will learn how to integrate functions of two and three variables along plane and space curves and how to evaluate multiple integrals of such functions. You will learn about gradient, divergence and curl. You will be able to obtain Fourier series expansions of functions and perform calculations involving functions of a complex variable.

  • Thermal and Condensed Matter Physics (L2)

    The module introduces the concepts of thermal and statistical physics. These include the concepts of entropy, heat, temperature, and thermal equilibrium. Reversible, irreversible, cyclic and non-cyclic processes are treated. Applications, such as the operation and efficiency of heat engines, are considered. The module also introduces the principles of condensed matter physics. This includes a study of dielectric and magnetic materials, the electronic structure of solids and thermal and electrical conduction. Refer to the teaching for a more detailed description.

  • Optical Physics & Electromagnetism

    The module consists of a study of optical physics and electromagnetism, leading from the early classical studies of optical physics to the development of a modern electromagnetic theory of light. Wider applications and modern developments will also be considered.

  • Quantum Physics

    The module will study the principles of quantum physics and its applications in atomic and nuclear physics. It will build on the quantum physics taught at Level 1, covering operator and eigenvalue formalisms, solutions to Schrodingers equation for atomic and nuclear potentials, conservation rules, selection rules, quantum numbers, Pauli exclusion principle, energy levels, binding energy, mass defect, radioactivity and thermonuclear fusion.

Optional

  • Mathematical Techniques 2

    You will learn how to integrate functions of two and three variables along plane and space curves and how to evaluate multiple integrals of such functions. You will learn about gradient, divergence and curl. You will be able to obtain Fourier series expansions of functions and perform calculations involving functions of a complex variable.

  • Thermal and Condensed Matter Physics (L2)

    The module introduces the concepts of thermal and statistical physics. These include the concepts of entropy, heat, temperature, and thermal equilibrium. Reversible, irreversible, cyclic and non-cyclic processes are treated. Applications, such as the operation and efficiency of heat engines, are considered. The module also introduces the principles of condensed matter physics. This includes a study of dielectric and magnetic materials, the electronic structure of solids and thermal and electrical conduction. Refer to the teaching for a more detailed description.

  • Laboratory Physics 2

    The module consists of experimental investigations into various physical phenomena such as optical polarisation, diffraction, optical effects such as the Zeeman effect, spectroscopy, thermal properties of matter, properties of semiconductors, nuclear decay, and basic crystallography.

  • Professional Skills

    The overall aim of this module is to develop the skills necessary to be able to contribute as a graduate in the world of work. The content includes opportunities to develop further the techniques of effective presentation, both in written reports and in oral presentation. Also, you will learn to develop further the ability to work in a team. You will learn to address circumstances requiring professional judgement.

  • Solar System Physics

    Solar System processes are studied using core physical ideas, practical observations and analytical modelling techniques.

  • Optical Physics & Electromagnetism

    The module consists of a study of optical physics and electromagnetism, leading from the early classical studies of optical physics to the development of a modern electromagnetic theory of light. Wider applications and modern developments will also be considered.

  • Quantum Physics

    The module will study the principles of quantum physics and its applications in atomic and nuclear physics. It will build on the quantum physics taught at Level 1, covering operator and eigenvalue formalisms, solutions to Schrodingers equation for atomic and nuclear potentials, conservation rules, selection rules, quantum numbers, Pauli exclusion principle, energy levels, binding energy, mass defect, radioactivity and thermonuclear fusion.

  • Professional Teaching Skills

    After receiving initial training in writing a CV and job application, you obtain a placement in a school for (approximately) ten half days to work with the class teacher. You develop professional teaching skills and build a relationship with the class teacher. At the end of that period you give a presentation to the class, which is assessed. You keep a diary throughout and write a final report. During the module you will also develop skills in the area of career management. This will be achieved through researching information on post-graduation opportunities, and participation in activities to prepare you for applying for future opportunities. The aim of this part of the module is to raise awareness of employability issues and be confident in putting forward your skills and experiences for future opportunities.

  • Differential Equations

    In this module, we focus on ordinary differential equations. The emphasis is on the development of methods important in applications. Topics include:- Theory and applications of first, second and higher order differential equations, The Laplace transform methods, Systems of linear differential equations.

  • Mechanics

    You will learn about motion and how to determine the way a particle moves, applying both Newtonian and Lagrangian methods.

Year 3

Core Modules

Optional

  • Professional Placement

    Supervised work experience provides students with the opportunity to set their academic studies in a broader context, to gain practical experience in specific technical areas and to strengthen their communication and time-management skills. It greatly assists them in developing as independent learners, so that they are able to gain the maximum benefit from the learning opportunities provided at level 6 of the programme.

  • Year Abroad

    The Year Abroad will provide students with the opportunity to expand, develop and apply the knowledge and skills gained in the first two taught years of the degree within a different organisational and cultural environment in a partner academic institution. The host institution will appoint a Programme Co-ordinator who will oversee the student's programme during the Year Abroad and will liaise with the appointed UH Supervisor.

Year 4

Core Modules

  • Waves and Fluids

    This module develops the basic physics required to understand core topics in wave and fluid physics.

  • Contemporary Quantum Physics

    This module will cover advanced concepts in contemporary quantum physics and discuss some modern applications. Content is a selection of topics from the following, or similar: - The time evolution of quantum systems - Time dependent perturbation theory - Interaction of an atom with an electromagnetic wave - The time-energy uncertainty relation - The quantum states of light - The harmonic oscillator - Quantization of the radiation field - Zero point energy and the Casimir force - Experiments and applications - Interferometry and indistinquishability - Entangled states and quantum correlations - Lasers and Cold atoms

Optional

  • Rocket Performance and Propulsion

    This module will introduce students to flight dynamics of rockets and their propulsion systems. Typical applications under consideration will include satellite launch and insertion into orbit, sounding rockets and potential future applications such as space tourism, together with some aspects of guided weapons.

  • Quantum Computing A

    Quantum information processing continues to be an extremely active research area exploiting fundamental quantum phenomena in new applications from computation, secure data communication and information processing. A major paradigm shift, the area is of significant interest and potential benefit to computer scientists, mathematicians and physicists. This module will be theoretical in nature, exploring concepts and applications from the area of Quantum Information Processing with an emphasis on Quantum Computing. Content will vary according to current research directions.

  • Quantum Computing B

    The content for this module builds upon that presented in Quantum Computing A tackling for example more advanced topics such as Shor's algorithm and Grover's algorithm. The content is theoretical in nature, exploring concepts and applications from the area of Quantum Information Processing with an emphasis on Quantum Computing. Content will vary according to current research directions.

  • Waves and Fluids

    This module develops the basic physics required to understand core topics in wave and fluid physics.

  • Physics of Stars

    This module develops and applies core physics concepts to achieve a systematic, deep understanding of star formation, stellar evolution, stellar atmospheres and their observational basis. Refer to the Module Guide for a more detailed description.

  • Boundary Value Problems

    You will learn how to solve one and two-dimensional boundary-value problems. Refer to the Module Guide for a more detailed description.

  • Project - (Physics)

    Under the guidance of a supervisor, students will undertake a substantial individual project of their choice. The project will be assessed by the following elements: a written project plan, overall project management, a poster presentation, a written sample chapter, the project report and a project viva.

  • Space Dynamics

    Spacecraft dynamics is studied using core physical ideas, case studies and modelling techniques.

  • Computational Physics

    The module will provide students with a range of self contained case studies in computational physics. Each case study will investigate a physical problem, using the computer as an investigative tool. Students will learn how to formulate and model a physical problem and how to analyse and present the results of their investigation. A variety of appropriate computer techniques are used.

  • Contemporary Quantum Physics

    This module will cover advanced concepts in contemporary quantum physics and discuss some modern applications. Content is a selection of topics from the following, or similar: - The time evolution of quantum systems - Time dependent perturbation theory - Interaction of an atom with an electromagnetic wave - The time-energy uncertainty relation - The quantum states of light - The harmonic oscillator - Quantization of the radiation field - Zero point energy and the Casimir force - Experiments and applications - Interferometry and indistinquishability - Entangled states and quantum correlations - Lasers and Cold atoms

  • Investigation in Physics

    Students will choose a topic from a list of typically ten different physics/astrophysics topics offered by school staff (tutors), and will conduct an open-ended investigation into that topic. The students working on each topic will work independently on their investigations with minimal supervision, under the guidance of a tutor. They will be required to produce an original, substantial and professionally presented report typically 25-30 pages in length. Students will be interviewed about their work and will defend it in a question and answer session.

  • Nonlinear Systems

    You will learn how to investigate and evaluate the qualitative behaviour of the solutions of differential equations which relate to problems in a wide variety of application areas. You will recognise that the behaviour of the solution of a differential equation can be drastically altered by the small change of a coefficient. These observations may have important contributions in improving the applications of mathematics in industry, business and the physical sciences. The module provides the student with a deep understanding of differential equations.

Fees & funding

Fees 2014

UK/EU Students

Full time: £9,000 for the 2014 academic year

Part time: If you decide to study this course on a part time basis you will be charged on a modular basis. The cost is £1,125 for each 15-credit module

International Students

Full time: £10,600 for the 2014 academic year

Discounts are available for International students if payment is made in full at registration

View detailed information about tuition fees

Scholarships

Find out more about scholarships for UK/EU and international students

Other financial support

Find out more about other financial support available to UK and EU students

Living costs / accommodation

The University of Hertfordshire offers a great choice of student accommodation, on campus or nearby in the local area, to suit every student budget.

View detailed information about our accommodation

How to apply

2014

Start DateEnd DateLink
29/09/201424/05/2015Apply online (Full Time)
29/09/201431/05/2015Apply online (Part Time)
29/09/201424/05/2015Apply online (Full Time/Sandwich)
29/09/201424/05/2015Apply online (Full Time/Sandwich)

2015

Start DateEnd DateLink
29/09/201524/05/2016Apply online (Full Time)
29/09/201531/05/2016Apply online (Part Time)
29/09/201524/05/2016Apply online (Full Time/Sandwich)
29/09/201524/05/2016Apply online (Full Time/Sandwich)