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MPhys Hons Theoretical Physics

Mode of Study: Full Time Department: Physics
UCAS Code: F321 Duration/Length: 4 Year(s)
QAA Subject Benchmark: Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics Director of Studies: Dr E McCann
Total Credit Points: 480 Credit Points Year 2: 120
Credit Points Year 3: 120 Credit Points Year 4: 120

Syllabus Rules and Pre-requisites

  • PartI
  • The student must take the following modules:
  • PartII (Year 2)
  • The student must take the following modules:
  • PartII (Year 3)
  • The student must take the following modules:
  • The student must take 1 modules from the following group:
  • PartII (Year 4)
  • The student must take the following modules:
  • The student must take 4 modules from the following group:

Educational Aims: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

  • Lancaster's Theoretical Physics degree is dedicated to the study of nature on all scales, from the quantum world of microscopic matter and nanomaterials to geometry of curved spacetime and the large-scale structure of the cosmos. Our broad range of internationally recognised research activities makes use of the two main pillars of modern theoretical physics: quantum mechanics and relativity, which also underpin the specialist teaching in this degree scheme.

    A degree in theoretical physics equips you with analytical skills that are in high demand in modern society. Applications of the subject range from the very pure to the very practical, and a physics degree opens up a wide range of rewarding careers in scientific research and technological development, as well as in a variety of other professions. Our Theoretical Physics degree is accredited by the Institute of Physics.

    Our Theoretical Physics degree exposes you to advanced topics in quantum theory, electromagnetism, condensed matter, gravitation and cosmology, and elementary particle physics. In year four, students undertake extended open-ended projects, researching a topic of their choice. Our strong research activity allows us to provide a wide range of high-level projects. Recent examples include gravitational waves, quantum computation, physics of graphene, topological superconductors, photonic crystals, geometry and electrodynamics.

    The primary aim of the MPhys Hons Theoretical Physics degree at Lancaster University is to provide a broad but rigorous course of teaching and learning for the graduate intending to make their career in a physics-based or related field.

    The programme leads to professional qualifications and accreditation by the Institute of Physics.

    The degree aims to: 

    offer students a demonstrable understanding of key areas of physical phenomena and of physical principles.

    provide students with the opportunity to study in-depth important areas of theoretical physics that are taught by staff who are research active in those areas.

    offer students a range of different learning environments and forms of assessment.

    enable students to comment on particular aspects of current research from a strong foundation of both theoretical knowledge and practical experience involving the key skills to perform state-of-the-art experiments.

    develop numeracy and analytic skills that can contribute to success in a range of future careers.

    develop students' skills when communicating in different formats, such as written reports and reviews, and oral presentations, and to communicate more effectively in general.

    enhance students' ability to work as part of a group on different kinds of problems.

    improve students' organisation of their time and their ability to work and learn independently.

    allow students to take a range of modules in year four that require greater technical maturity and independent learning than that needed at BSc level.

    enable students to undertake a major open-ended project, which includes planning, research, analysis and presentation.

    maintain a programme of study that leads directly into current research in physics. 

Learning Outcomes: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

  • Graduates will be able to:

    demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the fundamental areas of physics, in line with accreditation requirements of the Institute of Physics. This includes basic themes of physics: classical mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics and quantum physics; related topics including waves and optics, statistical physics, particle physics, atomic and nuclear physics, and relativity; and advanced topics related to areas of strong theoretical physics research activity within the Department.

    demonstrate skills related to experimental measurements including use of appropriate equipment, an appreciation of experimental uncertainty and statistical analysis, interpretation of data and presentation of results.

    plan, execute and report the results of a major open-ended physics-based investigation, including relating conclusions they make to current theories of the physics involved.

    apply underlying physical ideas and concepts to formulate and tackle problems in physics, including open-ended problems.

    use mathematics to describe the physical world and to demonstrate an understanding of mathematical modelling and of the role of approximation.

    compare critically the results of model calculations with those from experiment and observation.

    perform independent investigations including using textbooks and other available literature, search databases and the internet, and interact with colleagues to derive important information.

    communicate effectively including the ability to listen carefully, to read demanding texts, and to present complex information in a clear and concise manner.

    demonstrate analytic skills by paying attention to detail and by their ability to manipulate precise and intricate ideas, to construct logical arguments and to use technical language correctly.

    demonstrate computing and ICT skills in a variety of ways, including their ability to use appropriate software such as programming languages and packages.

    work independently, to use their initiative and to organise themselves to meet deadlines. Graduates will also be able to work as part of a team and be able to interact constructively.

    appreciate that to fabricate, falsify or misrepresent data or to commit plagiarism constitutes unethical scientific behaviour. They should be objective, unbiased and truthful in all aspects of their work and recognise the limits of their knowledge. 

Learning and Teaching Strategies and Methods: Knowledge, Understanding, Skills

  • Knowledge and understanding

    Teaching and learning are based mainly around 5-week lecture modules typically containing 16 lectures and 4 problem seminars. Coursework may be numerical or may involve written description or analysis. In addition further reading is assigned to amplify the lecture material. Answers to worksheets and other related issues are discussed during the weekly seminar. Students can also meet with the lecturer on a one-to-one basis during scheduled office hours. Students take laboratory and IT modules in each of their first two years and in their third year they do individual and group projects intended both to develop technical skills and to illustrate physics arising from lecture modules. In year four, students also undertake extended open-ended projects, researching a topic of their choice.

    Discipline-based skills

    In years 1 and 2, students undertake tutorial-driven laboratories which reinforce basic concepts as presented in lectures. With the assistance of demonstrators, students learn basic practical techniques, gain familiarity with the use of appropriate equipment, and achieve an appreciation of experimental uncertainty and statistical analysis. In the third year they undertake more open-ended laboratories. Basic mathematical skills are an equally important outcome of the degree, acquired through specific mathematics modules together with the weekly routine of worked examples.

    Throughout, emphasis is placed on acquiring the skill of independent learning, the ability to reach the core of a previously unknown topic in physics through personal study of the textbooks and literature.

    Transferable skills

    The skills of reasoning and analysis, although eminently transferable, are intrinsic to a physics degree and are reinforced within every module. Similarly computation underpins modern physics. In computation modules students’ progress from exercises in basic computer fluency, such as word processing, spread sheet technique and use of the internet, to advanced techniques such as use of packages, graphics, and computer modelling. 

    In any degree scheme it is important that written communication is not neglected, and at Lancaster specific guidance is given on writing skills. Much coursework, as well as examinations, requires a descriptive or conceptual development. Other modules, such as the laboratories, are assessed primarily by written report. Oral presentation skills are also taught specifically, and students are required to make such a presentation as part of the assessment process during the degree.

Assessment Strategy and Methods: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

  • Assessment takes place both by examination at the end of each year, as well as after Christmas in the first year, and continuously during the degree.

    In lecture modules, formative assessment of a student's progress is gathered via worksheets that are marked and returned with comments. Such feedback is extremely valuable both for the student and for the lecturer. Answers to worksheets and other related issues are discussed during the weekly seminar.

    Laboratory work is assessed by marking of log books and reports. For projects, a variety of assessment methods may be used including log books, reports, peer assessment, oral and poster presentations and, possibly, viva voce interviews.

    All modules taught during a given year are examined formally in the following summer with the exception of the first mathematics and physics modules of the first year. All examinations, laboratory and project work are moderated by observation of marking trends, sampling and/or unseen double marking.

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