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Theoretical Physics

F340 BSc (Hons) 3 years


This degree programme focuses on the theoretical and fundamental aspects of physics, and you will take modules leading to a knowledge of quantum theory and general relativity, essential to understanding the fundamental forces of particle physics and gravity. In your final year you have the opportunity to carry out a research project supervised by staff from the Centre for Research in String Theory

Physics is essential to our understanding of how the universe works: from the behaviour of fundamental particles to the movement of the stars and planets. Theory and experiment are vital to developing answers to questions about the universe and the fundamental nature of matter, energy, space and time. Our work covers the full spectrum of scales: particle physics for the smallest particles; nanoscience for creating new small structures; and general relativity for understanding the large scale behaviour of the universe. One theory that physics is lacking, however, is the Grand Unified Theory, and work is on-going to find this one theory that applies to all scales and unifies all the known particles and forces – so there is plenty of work still to be done.

The Theoretical Physics programme builds on a strong foundation of core physics and mathematical methods modules towards an introduction to topical areas of research such as quantum field theory and general relativity. Theoretical Physics single honours can be taken as a three year BSc or four year MSci qualification. In the first and second years, the programmes cover topics extending from classical dynamics to quantum physics and special relativity, which are fundamental to our understanding of how the Universe works.  In the third year, students learn about advanced mathematical techniques, symmetries and curved space-times.  MSci students can then access advanced inter-collegiate courses in their fourth year, including quantum fields and supersymmetry. In their final year, students will have the opportunity to undertake projects in topics at the forefront of theoretical physics research such as string theory, black holes, large extra dimensions and scattering amplitudes.

Why study Theoretical Physics 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 particle physics, astronomy, 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. 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.

Our undergraduate laboratories are equipped with everything required to investigate the physics learned about in lectures. Facilities include spacious general-purpose work stations, two optics rooms and four specialist vibration-free surfaces for sensitive experiments. There is a wide selection of scientific equipment that students use as part of their laboratory sessions including interferometers, oscilloscopes, lasers, muon detectors, spectroscopy equipment and X-ray equipment. Furthermore there is an array of equipment available in research laboratories to students undertaking project work. The teaching laboratories are open access with two members of staff offering technical support and advice during normal working hours.

You will be able to undertake a research project in your final year under the supervision of an academic in the Particle Physics Research Centre (PPRC). PPRC conducts experimental particle physics research at the complimentary so called 'energy frontier' e.g. the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN and the 'intensity frontier' e.g. with neutrino beams. Some members of the PPRC are involved in the ATLAS experiment at the LHC studying top quarks, the Higgs Boson and proton structure and preparing for future upgrades to the parts of the detector we helped build. Other members are working on neutrino oscillations at the T2K experiment in Japan and searching for neutrinoless double beta decay at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) in Canada. We are also preparing for new initiatives such as the SuperB experiment in Italy and future neutrino experiments. We are heavily involved in Grid computing that allows analysis of the huge amounts of data from these experiments.

We will support you in your search for a career. We offer paid summer internships to the most able students which gives students the chance to work alongside academics on research projects.  There are also a wide variety of employer internships available to students through the SEPnet scheme. 

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


Year 1

Compulsory Modules:
  • Scientific Measurement
  • From Newton to Einstein
  • Mathematical Techniques 1
  • Mathematical Techniques 2
  • Electric and Magnetic Fields
  • Quantum Physics
  • Waves and Oscillations


  • Our Universe, OR
  • Introduction to C++ programme

Year 2

Compulsory Modules:

  • Thermal and Kinetic Physics 
  • Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics
  • Condensed Matter A
  • Mathematical Techniques 3
  • Electromagnetic Waves & Optics
  • Physical Dynamics
  • Quantum Mechanics A

Plus one option from

  • Physics Laboratory
  • Physics of Energy and the Environment
  • Complex Variables
  • Stars

Year 3

Compulsory Modules:
  • Synoptic Physics
  • Spacetime and Gravity
  • Quantum Mechanics B
  • Extended Independent Project
  • Statistical Physics

Plus three options from
  • Mathematical Techniques 4
  • Elementary Particle Physics
  • Quantum Mechanics and Symmetry
  • Fluid Dynamics
  • Group Projects for Physicists
  • Radiation Detectors
  • Condensed Matter B
  • Physical Cosmology
  • Statistical Data Analysis
  • Physics of Galaxies 

Entry requirements


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 further information 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

Learning and teaching

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. 

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.

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:

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


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
  • Resident Tutor - Wycombe Abbey School
  • Officer Cadet - The British Army
  • 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. Recent careers events for School of Physics and Astronomy students include talks on doing a PhD, 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, through, for example, our QProjects work experience scheme, our QRecruit internships and temporary work hub, the part time work Experience Works event and QMSU Provide volunteering services. Over 1400 vacancies are available 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 Science Ambassador to E-learning Assistant 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.


Amira Mahmood
Studied: BSc Theoretical Physics 

Currently: Teaching Physics in a secondary school, after completing a PGCE at King’s College, University of London.

Why did you choose Queen Mary?
I chose Queen Mary because of its location and distance from home. The size of the School of Physics was another factor as it has a high staff/student ratio, which allowed the lecturers to get to know the students. This added to the friendly atmosphere which made me feel welcome. Queen Mary also has a wonderful library as well as an established Students’ Union.

What did you gain from your time at Queen Mary?
A good education in the subject that I love as well as making friends I am still in contact with. The support staff and lecturers have an informal open door policy which helped greatly when I needed help with anything. Pete and Ted, the lab technicians, always provided support with experiments, physics problems or time to just have an informal chat. After studying physics for three years you gain an insight in to how wonderful the subject is as well as realising how little you still know at the end. It really does open your eyes to the world around you. I still enjoy the subject immensely and try to enthuse my pupils about physics every day.

What are your career plans in the next five years?
I want to establish myself in teaching by becoming Head of Physics at a school. After a few years I would like to study for a PhD in String Theory or Nanotechnology.


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