Physics studies how our Universe works, from the smallest atomic nucleus to the largest galaxy. It includes areas such as quantum theory, relativity and particle physics, and lies at the heart of most modern technology - for example the computer and the laser. Our MSci degree is aimed at students who wish to pursue physics to the limits of current knowledge, and have the potential to become research scientists making the next generation of discoveries.
Physics Degree highlights
Physics at Queen's was ranked 3rd in the country for research intensity in the United Kingdom's most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise as published by the Times Higher Education.
- We participate in the IAESTE and Erasmus student exchange programmes, which enable students to obtain work experience in companies and universities throughout the world.
- Accredited by the Institute of Physics for the purpose of exemptions from some professional examinations, which partially fulfils the requirements to obtain the status of Chartered Physicist (CPhys).
- All students in the school have the option to include a year in industry as part of their studies. This is a fantastic opportunity to see mathematics at work in the real world, and to enhance your career prospects at the same time. Possible placements will include companies in the finance and technology sectors, and indeed we maintain strong links with local companies who hire Physics graduates, for example Andor Technology, AquaQ Analytics, Seagate, General Electric, Medical Physics in The NHS.
World Class Facilities
- You will be taught in our new state-of-the-art teaching centre, containing specialist laboratory equipment and computer facilities.
Students also use some of the research facilities in their final year projects, such as a telescope observatory on the roof of the main building, one of the most powerful university lasers in the world, and state-of-the-art nano-fabrication and characterisation facilities.
Internationally Renowned Experts
- All of our faculty staff are research scientists in their own right; in the 2014 REF peer-review exercise, 88% of our research was judged as internationally excellent or world-leading, and QUB Physics was 3rd in the UK for research intensity.
- In the 2020 National Student Survey, Physics Teaching Quality and our Learning Community were both rated in the top 5 of all UK Physics Departments.
All of my lecturers seemed so enthusiastic about what they were teaching us. It was easy to feel the same way. And they were always very approachable. They always seemed really happy if you came to ask a question. In our first year, we also had weekly physics tutorials in small groups of three or four that were also really helpful. I didn’t expect such focused teaching.
My degree has given me a lot of wonderful opportunities. After I left QUB I went to Munich to do a PhD and now I’m in Paris working as a postdoctoral researcher. Everyone I graduated with seems to have done really well.
Dr. Aoife Boyle (MSci Physics with Astrophysics)
Course Content The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study. Stage 1 In their first year students study a core of experimental, theoretical and computational Physics, alongside Applied Mathematics. Physics topics include:
Light and Optics
Solid State Physics
Stage 2 At Stage 2, according to degree selection, modules are taken which reveal the excitement of such areas as:
Atomic and Nuclear Physics
Quantum and Statistical Physics
Optics, Electricity and Magnetism
Physics of the Solid State
Advanced Laboratory work develops the skills of planning, carrying out and analysing experiments and simulations, and provides opportunities for deepening understanding of the wide applicability of physics.
Stage 3 At Stage 3, MSci students also have the opportunity to undertake a Computational project module, which will introduce them to numerical simulations that are fundamental to all areas of physics today.
Physics in Medicine
Nuclear and Particle Physics
Electromagnetism & Optics
Advanced Solid State Physics
Quantum Mechanics and Relativity
Stage 4 At Stage 4, specialist modules are available, broadly reflecting research interests of those teaching in the Department. These modules include:
Medical Radiation Research Methods
The Physics of Nanomaterials
Also in this year, a major project is carried out in association with one of these research areas, with the student working within world-leading research groups. Through this project students gain an intensive insight into modern scientific research.
Students can also undertake projects with an outside organisation or company provided the research is approved by the Director of Education. Examples include the Central Laser Facility in Oxfordshire, England, local engineering firms and the Northern Ireland Regional Cancer Centre. Some projects may result in publications in national and international scientific journals.
People teaching youDr Stuart Sim
Reader, School of Mathematics and Physics
School of Maths and Physics
Dr. Stuart Sim is a Reader in Physics. He is also an internationally recognised astrophysicist with expertise in supernova explosions and their aftermath.
Contact Teaching Times
Large Group Teaching 9 (hours maximum)
9 hours of lectures
Medium Group Teaching 6 (hours maximum)
6 hours of practical classes and computer workshops each week in Level 1, increasing to an average of 8 hours of practical work per week in Level 2.
Personal Study 16 (hours maximum)
14-16 hours studying and revising in your own time each week, including some guided study using handouts, online activities, homeworks etc.
Small Group Teaching/Personal Tutorial 2 (hours maximum)
2 hours of tutorials (or later, project supervision) each week.
Learning and Teaching
At Queen’s, we aim to deliver a high quality learning environment that embeds intellectual curiosity, innovation and best practice in learning, teaching and student support to enable students to achieve their full academic potential. Examples of the opportunities provided for learning on this degree programme are:
- Computer-Based Modules
These provide students with the opportunity to develop technical skills and apply theoretical principles to real-life or practical contexts. For example, one of the Level 1 modules, PHY1003 Computational Modelling in Physics, will introduce students to programming and begin developing those skills in the field of theoretical calculations.
Students will be given instruction on how to programme in Python and Matlab.
- E-Learning technologies
Information associated with lectures and assignments is often communicated via a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) called Canvas. A range of e-learning experiences are also embedded in the degree programme through the use of, for example, interactive support materials and web-based learning activities.
- Laboratory Physics
As physics is an experimentally based subject, all students will undertake experimental physics as part of their degree. Students normally work in assigned pairs in the laboratory, with submitted reports and findings individually assessed. As part of this work students will become proficient in using Excel for analysing data and Word for laboratory reports. In their final year students will undertake a final year project, placed within one of our international research centres in Physics.
These projects are a key part of our MSci program can typically involve training a range of skills including practical laboratory work, computational skills, data analysis, and scientific presentation.
These introduce and explain the foundation information about topics as a starting point for further self-directed private study/reading. The material in the lectures will follow the syllabus issued at the start of the module, and will form the basis of the assessment carried out. As the modules progress and students' knowledge of physics grows, this information becomes more complex. Lectures, which are normally delivered in large groups to all year-group peers, also provide opportunities to ask questions and seek clarification on key issues as well as gain feedback and advice on assessments.
Additional lectures may also be also delivered by invited speakers and scientists from various areas of physics – these lectures generally do not form part of the assessed work, but students are encouraged to attend to widen their knowledge and appreciation of the subject. There may also be lectures from employers of physics graduates. These enable employers to impart their valuable experience to physics students, and allows our physics students to meet and engage with potential future employers.
- Self-directed study
This is an essential part of life as a Queen’s student when important private reading, engagement with e-learning resources, reflection on feedback to date and assignment research and preparation work is carried out.
A significant amount of teaching is carried out in small groups (2–5 students). These sessions are designed to explore, in more depth, the information that has been presented in the lectures, and are normally based on coursework submitted by the students. This provides students with the opportunity to engage closely with academic staff who have specialist knowledge of the topic, to ask questions of them and to assess their own progress and understanding with the support of their peers. During these classes, students will be expected to present their work to academic staff and their peers.
The way in which students are assessed will vary according to the learning objectives of each module. Details of how each module is assessed are shown in the Student Handbook which may be accessed online via the School website. Physics modules are typically assessed by a combination of continuous assessment and a final written unseen examination. Continuous assessment consists of:
- Student Tutorial Questions/ Lecture Assignments
This involves the completion and submission of example problems on a weekly (tutorial) or three-weekly (assignment) basis as answered by individual students. These are submitted by students by an appropriate deadline and assessed, with the mark awarded contributing to the continuous assessment element of the module mark. The mark awarded reflects accuracy and clarity of the submitted answers together with understanding of the subject matter. Consistent with employer feedback, some modules also require students to prepare and make a small group presentation on a pre-assigned topic. Such group activities are also assessed, with the mark awarded contributing to the continuous assessment element of the module mark. To aid such exercises all students in their first year are given instruction and guidance on making successful presentations.
- Laboratory and Computational Skills
All physics students are required to learn and understand the basic concepts of experimental physics. This involves understanding the basics of measurements, accuracy and error analysis; being able to understand and (in later levels) assess different methods of performing experimental measurements; reporting experimental findings and comparing them with prior knowledge of expectations based on physical laws. Assessment takes place through short laboratory reports or presentations, for which instruction is given. Additionally, all students will be given training in software coding using computer languages appropriate for scientific investigations, and this is assessed through worksheets and assignments. MSci students undertake a substantial research project in their final year. This involves developing the skills to develop and lead project work, and to present scientific results both as a formal written report and a talk.
Most modules require the sitting of an unseen examination, to assess individual understanding of physical concepts and the ability to tackle problems in the taught areas of physics.
- Computer Based Assessment
Some modules use online quizzes/tests as part of the module assessment. This tests basic knowledge, understanding and problem solving.
As students progress through their course at Queen’s they will receive general and specific feedback about their work from a variety of sources including lecturers, module coordinators, personal tutors, advisers of study and peers (other students). University students are expected to engage with reflective practice and to use this approach to improve the quality of their work. Feedback may be provided in a variety of forms including:
- Feedback provided via formal written comments and marks relating to work that you, as an individual or as part of a group, have submitted.
- Face to face comment. This may include occasions when you make use of 1-1 discussions with lecturers to help you to address a specific query.
- Online or emailed comment.
- General comments, or question and answer opportunities at the end of a lecture, seminar or tutorial.
- Pre-submission advice regarding the standards you should aim for and common pitfalls to avoid. In some instances, this may be provided in the form of model answers or exemplars which you can review in your own time.
- Feedback and outcomes from experimental classes and computer workshops.
- Comment and guidance provided by staff from specialist support services including Careers, Employability and Skills or the Learning Development Service.
Undergraduate Teaching Centre
Throughout their time with us, students will use the new Mathematics and Physics Teaching Centre. Opened in 2016 with almost £2 million of new equipment, students can use the well-equipped twin computer rooms for both self-study and project work. This includes a small astronomical observatory on the roof of the main building. In the physics laboratories, students will be able to investigate everything from the nature of lasers, to the quantum mechanical properties of the electron, to the dynamic hydrogen chromosphere of the Sun.
- Computer-Based Modules
In addition, to the entrance requirements above, it is essential that you read our guidance below on 'How we choose our students' prior to submitting your UCAS application.
Applications are dealt with centrally by the Admissions and Access Service rather than by the School of Mathematics and Physics. Once your on-line form has been processed by UCAS and forwarded to Queen's, an acknowledgement is normally sent within two weeks of its receipt at the University.
Selection is on the basis of the information provided on your UCAS form. Decisions are made on an ongoing basis and will be notified to you via UCAS.
For entry last year, applicants for programmes in the School of Mathematics and Physics must have had, or been able to achieve, a minimum of five GCSE passes at grade C or better (to include English Language and Mathematics), though this profile may change from year to year depending on the demand for places. The Selector also checks that any specific entry requirements in terms of GCSE and/or A-level subjects can be fulfilled.
Offers are normally made on the basis of three A-levels. The offer for repeat applicants may be one grade higher than for first time applicants. Grades may be held from the previous year.
Applicants offering two A-levels and one BTEC Subsidiary Diploma/National Extended Certificate (or equivalent qualification) will also be considered. Offers will be made in terms of performance in individual BTEC units rather than the overall BTEC grade(s) awarded. Please note that a maximum of one BTEC Subsidiary Diploma/National Extended Certificate (or equivalent) will be counted as part of an applicant’s portfolio of qualifications. The normal GCSE profile will be expected.
Applicants offering other qualifications will also be considered. The same GCSE (or equivalent) profile is usually expected of those applicants offering other qualifications.
The information provided in the personal statement section and the academic reference together with predicted grades are noted but, in the case of degree courses in the School of Mathematics and Physics, these are not the final deciding factors in whether or not a conditional offer can be made. However, they may be reconsidered in a tie break situation in August.
A-level General Studies and A-level Critical Thinking would not normally be considered as part of a three A-level offer and, although they may be excluded where an applicant is taking four A-level subjects, the grade achieved could be taken into account if necessary in August/September.
Applicants are not normally asked to attend for interview.
If you are made an offer then you may be invited to a Faculty/School Visit Day, which is usually held in the second semester. This will allow you the opportunity to visit the University and to find out more about the degree programme of your choice and the facilities on offer. It also gives you a flavour of the academic and social life at Queen's.
If you cannot find the information you need here, please contact the University Admissions and Access Service (email@example.com), giving full details of your qualifications and educational background.
For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.
English Language Requirements
An IELTS score of 6.0 with a minimum of 5.5 in each test component or an equivalent acceptable qualification, details of which are available at: http://go.qub.ac.uk/EnglishLanguageReqs
If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.
- Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
- Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.
International Students - Foundation and International Year One Programmes
INTO Queen's offers a range of academic and English language programmes to help prepare international students for undergraduate study at Queen's University. You will learn from experienced teachers in a dedicated international study centre on campus, and will have full access to the University's world-class facilities.
These programmes are designed for international students who do not meet the required academic and English language requirements for direct entry.
The INTO progression course suited to this programme is:
INTO - English Language Course(QSIS ELEMENT IS EMPTY)
Students are encouraged to apply for summer or extended placements with local companies. Students can take a year's placement as part of the course or take shorter placements in the summer. A specific training module at Stage 2 is compulsory for students taking a placement year. Employers who specifically seek our Physics students for placements include Seagate and General Electric. Some MSci projects are undertaken in collaboration with outside organisations, including local companies, the NHS, and national and international facilities.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, 5 years after graduation, Physics graduates earn 15 per cent more on average than other graduates (IFS 2018), with female graduates the 4th highest earners compared to all other subjects (5th for males).
Physics-related jobs are available in research, development, and general production in many high technology and related industries. These include medicine, biotechnology, electronics, optics, aerospace, computation and nuclear technology. Physics graduates are also sought after for many other jobs, such as business consultancy, finance, business, insurance, taxation and accountancy, where their problem-solving skills and numeracy are highly valued. In Northern Ireland alone in 2015, there were almost 59,000 jobs in physics based industries (Institute of Physics Report 2017).
About half of our students go on to further study after graduation. Some physics graduates take up careers in education, while a number are accepted for a PhD programme in Physics, which can enhance employment prospects or provide a path to a research physicist position. Most of the rest of our graduates move rapidly into full-time employment, most in careers that require a degree.
Employment after the Course
As part of the assessment within our modules, students will have to prepare reports, give presentations and work together within small groups. Students will become experienced in using spreadsheet and word processing software to analyse and communicate their findings. Additionally, basic computer programming is taught to allow computational modelling of physical phenomena, which can then be applied to many non-scientific areas of commerce and industry. The problem-solving and communication skills that are essential to scientific study are also recognised as important attributes for many other careers.
Typical career destinations of graduates include:
• Industrial Physics
• Medical Physics
• Research scientist
• Computer technology
• Forensic accountant
• Nuclear Physics
• Financial analysis
Graduate employers include: BT; Seagate; Allstate; Andor; Civil Service; Randox; AquaQ; First Derivatives; NHS.
What employers say
The Regional Medical Physics Service benefits hugely from the high quality graduates produced by the School of Maths and Physics at Queen’s University Belfast. Since the turn of the century, two thirds of all our Clinical Scientists obtained a Physics degree at Queen’s prior to joining the Service. The vast majority of these degrees were at integrated masters level or higher.
Prof. Alan Hounsell, Head of the Regional Medical Physics Service, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Additional Awards Gained(QSIS ELEMENT IS EMPTY)
Prizes and Awards
Top performing students are eligible for a number of prizes within the School.
Degree plus award for extra-curricular skills
In addition to your degree programme, at Queen's you can have the opportunity to gain wider life, academic and employability skills. For example, placements, voluntary work, clubs, societies, sports and lots more. So not only do you graduate with a degree recognised from a world leading university, you'll have practical national and international experience plus a wider exposure to life overall. We call this Degree Plus. It's what makes studying at Queen's University Belfast special.
Fees and Funding
Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £4,530 Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £4,530 England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £9,250 EU Other 3 £21,400 International £21,400
1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled or pre-settled status, are expected to be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly Student Fees Regulations. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB are expected to be charged the GB fee, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.
2 It is expected that EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI will be eligible for NI tuition fees, in line with the Common Travel Agreement arrangements. The tuition fee set out above is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.
3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.
All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2021-22, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.
NI, GB and ROI fees for 2022 entry will be published soon. International fees for 2022 entry can be viewed here: https://www.qub.ac.uk/International/International-students/International-tuition-fees/
Tuition fee rates are calculated based on a student’s tuition fee status and generally increase annually by inflation. How tuition fees are determined is set out in the Student Finance Framework.
Additional course costs
Depending on the programme of study, there may be extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies.
Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library.
If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. A programme may have up to 6 modules per year, each with a recommended text.
Students should also budget between £30 to £75 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges.
Students undertaking a period of work placement or study abroad, as either a compulsory or optional part of their programme, should be aware that they will have to fund additional travel and living costs.
If a final year includes a major project or dissertation, there may be costs associated with transport, accommodation and/or materials. The amount will depend on the project chosen. There may also be additional costs for printing and binding.
Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen.
There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.
All essential software will be provided by the University, for use on University facilities, however for some software, students may choose to buy a version for home use.
How do I fund my study?
There are different tuition fee and student financial support arrangements for students from Northern Ireland, those from England, Scotland and Wales (Great Britain), and those from the rest of the European Union.
Information on funding options and financial assistance for undergraduate students is available at http://www.qub.ac.uk/Study/Undergraduate/Fees-and-scholarships/.
Each year, we offer a range of scholarships and prizes for new students. Information on scholarships available.
Information on scholarships for international students, is available at http://www.qub.ac.uk/International/International-students/International-scholarships/.
How and when to Apply
How to Apply
Application for admission to full-time undergraduate and sandwich courses at the University should normally be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Full information can be obtained from the UCAS website at: www.ucas.com/students.
When to Apply
UCAS will start processing applications for entry in autumn 2022 from 1 September 2021.
Advisory closing date: 26 January 2022 (18:00). This is the 'equal consideration' deadline for this course.
Applications from UK and EU (Republic of Ireland) students after this date are, in practice, considered by Queen’s for entry to this course throughout the remainder of the application cycle (30 June 2022) subject to the availability of places.
Applications from International and EU (Other) students are normally considered by Queen’s for entry to this course until 30 June 2022. If you apply for 2022 entry after this deadline, you will automatically be entered into Clearing.
Applicants are encouraged to apply as early as is consistent with having made a careful and considered choice of institutions and courses.
The Institution code name for Queen's is QBELF and the institution code is Q75.
Further information on applying to study at Queen's is available at: www.qub.ac.uk/Study/Undergraduate/How-to-apply/
Terms and Conditions
The terms and conditions that apply when you accept an offer of a place at the University on a taught programme of study. Queen's University Belfast Terms and Conditions.
Additional Information for International (non-EU) Students
- Applying through UCAS
Most students make their applications through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) for full-time undergraduate degree programmes at Queen's. The UCAS application deadline for international students is 30 June 2022.
- Applying direct
The Direct Entry Application form is to be used by international applicants who wish to apply directly, and only, to Queen's or who have been asked to provide information in advance of submitting a formal UCAS application. Find out more.
- Applying through agents and partners
The University’s in-country representatives can assist you to submit a UCAS application or a direct application. Please consult the Agent List to find an agent in your country who will help you with your application to Queen’s University.
Fees and Funding
- Applying through UCAS