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MSc by Research Theoretical Physics / Programme details

Year of entry: 2020

Programme description

Work on theoretical physics is concentrated in four main areas: complex systems, quantum descriptions of matter and its interactions with light, nuclear physics, and particle physics. Brief summaries of these are given below; more information can be found on our research page and on the webpages for each group.

  • Statistical Mechanics and Complex Systems

The group works on applications of statistical mechanics to questions in biology, the social sciences, and medicine. Examples include the stability of eco-systems, the spread of epidemics, pattern formation in developmental biology, topics in evolutionary game theory, the modelling of cancer and problems in medical statistics. The common feature these problems share is that they involve many entities interacting together and producing complex behaviour. Our approach is driven by physics ideas, and we use tools such as stochastic differential equations, path integrals and master equations, Bayesian statistics and maximum likelihood methods, combined with algorithms for fast numerical simulations. Postgraduate projects can focus on applications or on fundamental aspects of models of complex systems. PhD projects often involve collaboration with national and international partners across disciplines.

  • Quantum Theory of Light and Matter

The group working on Quantum Theory of Light and Matter applies a diverse array of tools, including QFT methods and master equations, to a broad range of topics. These include: the study of quantum materials, topological order and superconductivity, theories of quantum transport, strongly-coupled non-equilibrium phenomena, quantum thermodynamics, quantum noise, and open quantum systems. Close connections to experimental groups in the Department and the National Graphene Institute helps with development of these theories.

  • Nuclear Theory

The research interests of the Nuclear Theory Group range from low-energy nuclear structure to the frontier where nuclear and particle physics overlap. We focus on `fundamental' approaches to nuclear physics, linking it to quantum chromodynamics, and have particular expertise in the areas of effective field theory and microscopic many-body theory. Current particular interest include: the responses of nucleons and light nuclei to external fields (being probed with Compton scattering in experiments at Mainz and Duke Universities), and the origins of nuclear forces.

  • Particle Theory

The fundamental properties of matter are studied by the theory members of the Particle Physics Group. The Group has particular expertise in almost all aspects of Collider Physics phenomenology, Quantum Chromodynamics, in the Physics of the Early Universe, in Higgs and Neutrino Physics and in Physics Beyond the Standard Model. Our projects are often focused on aspects of theoretical physics that can be tested in ongoing or future experiments on colliders and non-accelerator physics, and in cosmological and astrophysical observations. The connections between particle physics and cosmology are also being explored in collaboration with members of the Jodrell Bank Observatory for Astrophysics.

You can also download our   Postgraduate Project Booklet  (PDF document, 2.5Mb) which contains details of research projects available within the Department. 

The postgraduate research environment is well funded and world-class as demonstrated by our ranking in REF2014.  Supervision is provided by academic staff, who are leaders in their fields, with independent pastoral back-up. Transferable skills training is available and there are some department teaching opportunities.

Coursework and assessment

A research project is undertaken under the supervision of a staff member throughout the year together with lectures. Full time is spent working on the project unless attending lectures. A dissertation will be submitted at the year-end. We provide a range of skills training which is particularly focussed on the needs of physics research. 

Note: Although the course requires 1 year full time study, students should expect the process of examination of the dissertation may take several months. MSc degrees are usually awarded several months after the end of the programme.

Programme unit details

A range of specialist and more general lecture units in different areas of physics will be available.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: