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Astrophysics

F526 BSc (Hons) 3 years

Overview

There are lots of questions about the origin and evolution of the universe that we do not have answers to yet. However, astrophysics can help us to investigate our surroundings by applying our knowledge of physics and mathematics to the observations of stars, galaxies and planets. This allows us to investigate how old we think the universe is, how and why it is expanding, how the planets formed and if there is potential for life on other planets. In this degree programme you will study the methods and techniques used by astronomers to determine distances to other stars and galaxies and their composition. This will help develop an understanding of the role played by dark matter and dark energy in the large-scale structure of the universe and its accelerating expansion. In doing so you will develop necessary mathematical and analytical skills to quantitatively assess data.

Understanding the origin and evolution of the Universe is one of the most exciting and challenging problems in modern science. Although our knowledge and understanding of the cosmos is incomplete, astrophysics can help us understand our surroundings by applying our knowledge of physics and mathematics to observations of stars, galaxies and planets. This allows us to investigate how old we think the Universe is, how and why it is expanding, how galaxies, stars and planets are formed, and if there is potential for life on other planets.

Why study Astrophysics at Queen Mary?

In the National Student Survey 2014, 94 per cent of our students were satisfied with the course and their experience at Queen Mary.  You will learn in a research-rich environment benefiting from the work done by our world-leading researchers as they incorporate their work into their teaching. Our areas of research strength are broad, and include astronomy, particle physics, condensed matter and materials physics and theoretical physics, allowing you to gain a degree with a wide knowledge of physics or the opportunity to specialise in a particular area. All our degrees are accredited by the Institute of Physics.

You will learn in modern teaching facilities. Our undergraduate laboratories are equipped with everything required to investigate the physics learned about in lectures. Facilities include 46 spacious general-purpose work stations, two optics rooms with 11 work stations and four specialist vibration-free surfaces for sensitive experiments. The laboratories are open access with two members of staff offering technical support during normal working hours.  The School of Physics and Astronomy is currently installing telescope facilities for observational astronomy research projects. 

You will undertake a research project supervised by academics in the Astronomy Unit. The Astronomy Unit exists to further world-class research in Astronomy and Astrophysics at Queen Mary.  With over 15 staff the Astronomy Unit is one of the larger astronomy groups in the UK.Major research programmes undertaken by the Astronomy Unit include involvement with the NASA-ESA Cassini mission to Saturn, the VISTA telescope in Chile, and projects in cosmology, extrasolar planets, and solar physics.

A variety of options to study abroad are open to you and you can apply to spend a semester or one full year abroad. We have links with universities around the world, including Europe, America and Asia.

We will support you in your search for a career. Working alongside the Careers team and the Institute of Physics, we provide careers information and advice, including support in CV writing and interview skills. We also organise careers events on campus, inviting prospective employers to explain what they look for in graduate employees and recent graduates to describe their experiences of the world of work. For more information, see www.ph.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/careers

Structure

Year 1

Compulsory modules:

  • Our Universe
  • Scientific Measurement
  • From Newton to Einstein
  • Mathematical Techniques 1
  • Mathematical Techniques 2
  • Electric and Magnetic Fields
  • Quantum Physics
  • Waves and Oscillations

Year 2

Compulsory modules:

  • Thermal and Kinetic Physics
  • Electromagnetic Waves and Optics
  • Quantum Mechanics A
  • Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics
  • Stars
  • Planetary Systems
  • Condensed Matter B

One option from other modules including:

  • Physical Dynamics
  • Physics Laboratory
  • Introduction to C++ Programming
  • Physics of Energy and the Environment

Year 3

Compulsory modules:

  • Physics Review Project
  • Statistical Physics
  • Physical Cosmology
  • Spacetime and Gravity
  • Physics of Galaxies
  • Synoptic Physics

Three options from other modules including:

  • Mathematical Techniques 3
  • Quantum Mechanics B
  • Fluid Dynamics
  • Elementary Particle Physics
  • Statistical Data Analysis
  • Radiation Detectors
  • Condensed Matter B
  • Mathematical Techniques 4
  • Quantum Mechanics and Symmetry
  • Group Projects for Physicists

Entry requirements

A/AS-levels

Typical tariff or grades required:AAB-ABB (340-320 points). Applicants should aim to achieve grades A and B at A-level in Physics and Mathematics.

Additional requirements and excluded subjects: GCSEs - grade A in Physics and Mathematics.

Vocational or applied A-levels

The College accepts a wide range of qualifications such as; Access and Foundation programmes, vocational awards, Irish Leaving Certificate, Scottish Highers and other Baccalaureates. Please visit our further information page below.

Further information on our entry requirements

International Baccalaureate

Acceptability: Acceptable on its own and combined with other qualifications.

Subjects and grades required: BSc programmes: 30-34 points overall with 6 in both Higher Level Physics and Higher Level Mathematics. MSci programmes: 34 points overall with 6 in both HL Physics and HL Mathematics.

European Baccalaureate

Acceptability: Acceptable on its own and combined with other qualifications.

Subjects and grades required: 80 % overall 7 in Maths and Physics.

Further info

For information on these activities and to find out more on studying astrophysics at Queen Mary, please visit http://ph.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/astrophysics

For further information you can also call the Enquiries Hotline (UK callers only) on Freephone
0800 376 1800. International students should contact the Admissions Office:

Admission is based on academic merit and on the proven ability of the applicant to achieve success on their chosen programme of study. Every application to Queen Mary is considered on its individual merits with personal statement and reference taken into consideration.

Information for applicants from outside the United Kingdom, including English language qualifications:
Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 5511
email: admissions@qmul.ac.uk
www.qmul.ac.uk/international

Learning and teaching

In your first year you will have approximately 18 hours of direct contact hours per week.  This will consist of a combination of lectures, tutorials and laboratory sessions.  Most modules have three hours a week of lectures and at least one hour a week of tutorials.  Laboratory sessions are usually longer and taught for 15-20 hours per week in blocks of three hours.   

Lectures consist of a member of academic staff delivering a formal lecture on a given topic.  Tutorials (also known as exercise classes) are designed to support the lectures and provide students with an opportunity to work through examples and problems.  The

Laboratory sessions are used to develop your experimental skills and also support report writing and error estimation (both important skills for physicists).

In your final year you will undertake a research project that will involve working closely with a member of academic staff on a specified research topic.  This could include laboratory or technical work (such as building a muon detector) or could focus on mathematical theoretical models.

Independent study:
At university you will also be expected to undertake a large amount of independent study.  In Physics we expect students to undertake at least 2 hours of independent study for each hour of teaching in your first year.  In later years you will be expected to do a lot more, especially for the final year projects. Your individual study time could be spent preparing for, or following up on formal study sessions; reading; assessing data from experiments; completing lab reports; and revising for examinations. 

The direction of your individual study will be guided by the formal study and laboratory sessions you attend, along with your reading and assignments.  However, we expect you to demonstrate an active role in your own learning by reading widely and expanding your own knowledge, understanding and critical ability.  Independent study will foster in you the ability to identify your own learning needs and determine which areas you need to focus on to become proficient in your subject area.  This is an important transferable skill and will help to prepare you for the transition to working life.

Assessment:
Modules are assessed depending on the nature of the work being carried out. For example, if the module involves practical work only, the assessment will be based on laboratory reports alone. For the non-practical modules you will have various combinations of assessment including weekly coursework, termly assignments and an end-of-year examination. For further information regarding assessment for specific modules, see: www.ph.qmul.ac.uk

Fees and finance

Tuition fees

Fees are charged at a Home/EU rate for UK and EU nationals, and an overseas rate for International students - find out more about how your tuition fee status is assessed.

You can either take out a Tuition Fee Loan (see Funding section below) to pay your fees or, if you are paying them yourself, you can pay in instalments.

Tuition fees for a year abroad or placement year on a full time undergraduate course will be a proportion of the full fee for the year in which you commence your time abroad or placement.

For information on field trip and other course related costs which are not included in your tuition fee, please contact the relevant Department/School.

See more general information about fees.

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 7676
email: fees@qmul.ac.uk

Funding

Queen Mary has a substantial package of scholarships and bursaries which will benefit around 50 per cent of our undergraduate student body.

Scholarships and Bursaries available at Queen Mary for Home/EU Students

There are a number of scholarships and bursaries available each year for home students. Visit our Bursaries and Scholarships page for more information.

Visit our Advice and Counselling website for more information about financial support.

Scholarships available at Queen Mary for International Students

There are a number of Scholarships available each year for International Students including bursaries and scholarships in a range of subject areas.

Find out more about international scholarships.

Some International students may also be eligible for a fee reduction.

Loans and Grants available to help with tuition fees and living costs

Student Finance England administers all grant and loans for your studies if you normally live in England.

If you live in WalesScotland or Northern Ireland you have an equivalent Student Finance department for your region.

Through Student Finance England, you can apply for (figures relate to programmes starting from September 2016):

  • A Tuition Fee Loan of up to £9,000 to pay all or part of your fees
  • A Maintenance Loan of up to £10,702 to help pay your living costs like rent, food and travel
  • Extra grants if you have a disability or you have children or an adult dependant
  • You might get a grant to cover some travel expenses if you normally live in England but study away from home. If you’re a medical or dental student you might also qualify for help with the costs of attending clinical placements in the UK.

Visit Student Finance Information to find out more about:

  • How to apply for student finance
  • What eligibility rules apply, including if you already have a degree or previous higher education study
  • What the income thresholds are and how much you might personally get for each element of Student Finance
  • What to do if you have problems getting your Student Finance

Other financial help on offer at Queen Mary

We offer one to one specialist support on all financial and welfare issues through our Advice and Counselling Service, which you can access as soon as you have applied for a place at Queen Mary.

Our Advice and Counselling Service also has lots of Student Advice Guides on all aspects of finance including:

  • Additional sources of funding
  • Planning your budget and cutting costs
  • Part-time and vacation work
  • Money for lone parents

For more information visit the Advice and Counselling service website, or call +44 (0)20 7882 8717.

Graduate Employment

Graduates from Queen Mary’s School of Physics and Astronomy go on to work in a wide variety of careers. Some apply their degree knowledge directly, entering careers such as lecturer or science communicator, whilst others transfer skills gained during study into areas such as finance, IT or the army.

The national 2012 destination survey confirmed that 67% of graduates from the School of Physics and Astronomy were in employment and/or study six months after graduation, with 83% already working/studying at graduate level. The School’s graduates have a strong earning power, with a median salary of £26,666.

The broad range of skills gained through this course, coupled with multiple opportunities for extra- curricular activities and work experience, has enabled students to move into careers such as:

  • Software Engineer - Avande
  • Interest Rates Structurer - Morgan Stanley
  • Researcher - VUB
  • Science Communicator - Royal Observatory
  • Campaign Analyst - Financial Times
  • Information Systems Officer - Kent County Council
  • Maths Lecturer - King’s College London
  • Project Manager - Whitemore High School

Throughout the course, students have access to an annual QM Careers and Enterprise Centre programme, to prepare them for internships and graduate level work. This includes employer led workshops on job applications and interviews as well as over 70 employer events to facilitate networks and help students to explore their options. Recent careers events for School of Physics and Astronomy students include support with internship applications and a job hunting workshop.

Opportunities for work experience are substantial given Queen Mary’s location between Canary Wharf, the City and the Olympic Village. Students are encouraged to build their work experience throughout their period of study. Opportunities can be found through QProjects, a local work experience scheme, QRecruit, which advertises internships and temporary work, Experience Works, a part time work fair, and volunteering with QMSU Provide. There are also over 1400 vacancies to browse on the QM JobOnline vacancy site.

Queen Mary’s extensive campus also provides over 1200 on-campus job and volunteer opportunities ranging from E-learning Assistant to Gym Instructor and from Society President to Student Mentor.

Read more about our careers programmes and range of work experience opportunities on the QM Careers and Enterprise Centre pages.>

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