School of Physics and Astronomy

MSc: Modules

The modules below are all featured in our MSc Theoretical Physics. Many of them are also available on our other MSc programmes. For details of exactly which modules are on each programme, have a look at the programme structure on each of the programme pages.

Advanced quantum field theory

This module gives a broad exposition of the modern framework for the unification of special relativity and quantum theory - relativistic quantum field theory. We will introduce Lagrangian formulation and canonical quantisation of free fields with spin = 0, ½ and 1. We’ll go on to develop the construction of interacting quantum field theories with special focus on phi^4-theory and quantum electrodynamics.

You will also learn about perturbation theory in terms of Feynman diagrams, with these being developed systematically, along with an introduction to important concepts like regularisation and renormalisation. We’ll apply these tools to the calculation of simple tree-level and one-loop S-matrix elements and cross-sections in phi^4 theory and quantum electroynamics.

Find out more about the module lecturer Dr Sanjaye Ramgoolam

An introduction to strings and branes

The module will cover the basics of string theory including the classical relativistic physics of the string, its quantisation and the resulting spectrum. This will then be extended to examine so called p-branes and the basics of M-theory. This module will allow students to begin the study of string theory and M-theory. As such it provides exposure to sophisticated techniques in theoretical physics that are useful for any theoretical physicist to be aware of.

Find our more about the module lecturer Prof David Berman

Collider Physics

The aim of this course is to prepare students for research at the interface between particle physics theory and experiment. We start by reviewing properties of particle colliders and detectors, before learning the quantum field theory of quarks and gluons (Quantum Chromodynamics), and how to apply this to calculate measurable quantities. This includes a detailed discussion of divergences in the theory, and how these are overcome (renormalisation and factorisation). Next, we look at the theory underlying current software tools for comparing theory with data (i.e. Monte Carlo event generators). Finally, we give a survey of various new physics scenarios, and how one can look for them. 

Find out more about the module lecturer Dr Chris White

Differential geometry in theoretical physics

This aim of this module is to provide you with a number of advanced mathematical tools from differential geometry, essential for research in modern Theoretical Physics, and apply them to certain physical contexts.

We will introduce the notation of differential forms and explore the geometric aspects of gauge theory. In this geometric setting we will interpret gravity as a guage theory. Another interesting aspect of the module are manifolds, which we will study in detail, leading to the definition of fibre bundles. Finally, we will explore the Dirac and 't Hooft-Polyakov monopoles, as well as Yang-Mills and gravitational instantons, and develop their associated understanding in fibre bundle language.

Find out more about the module lecturer Dr Costis Papageorgakis

Functional methods in quantum field theory

This module introduces the path integral description of quantum mechanics and applies it to the study of quantum field theory (QFT).

QFT has become a cornerstone of theoretical physics, with a wide range of applications from particle physics (providing the foundations to the standard model) to the description of condensed matter systems (phase transitions).

The module introduces the notions of renormalisation group and effective actions. As a concrete application, the phi^4 theory is discussed in some detail, including the Fisher-Wilson approach to the derivation of the critical exponents.

Find out more about the module lecturer Dr Rodolfo Russo

Relativistic waves and quantum fields

This module provides an introduction to Relativistic Quantum Field Theory, which unifies two of last century's greatest discoveries in physics: Special Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.

We will derive and study relativistic wave equations for particles of various spins and analyse the physical interpretations of their solutions. After an introduction to classical field theory, we will discuss the role of symmetries in field theory (including the beautiful Noether's theorem) you will learn the fundamental concepts of quantum field theory, including the quantisation of the free Klein-Gordon and Dirac fields and the derivation of the Feynman propagator. Finally we will introduce and derive a systematic procedure to calculate scattering amplitudes using Feynman diagrams. We will also compute some explicit tree-level scattering amplitudes in a number of simple examples.

Find out more about the module lecturer Prof Gabriele Travaglini

Relatvitiy and gravitation

This module offers an explanation of the fundamental principles of General Relativity. This involves the analysis of particles in a given gravitational field and the propagation of electromagnetic waves in a gravitational field. The derivation of Einstein's field equations from basic principles is included. The derivation of the Schwarzchild solution and the analysis of the Kerr solution inform discussion of physical aspects of strong gravitational fields around black holes. The generation, propagation and detection of gravitational waves is mathematically analysed and a discussion of weak general relativistic effects in the Solar System and binary pulsars is included as a discussion of the experimental tests of General Relativity.

Find out more about the module lecturer Dr Tim Clifton

Supersymmetric methods in theoretical physics

This module starts in 0+1 dimensions with supersymmetric quantum mechanics. In particular, we study the Witten index as an important non-perturbative tool to analyse these theories.

The module then moves on to study various representations in N=2 and N=(2,2) supersymmetric quantum mechanics culminating with a discussion of Berry’s phase in these latter systems.

The final part of the module moves on to supersymmetric quantum field theory in 2+1 dimensions and introduces aspects of the Wilsonian renormalization group, moduli spaces, and duality. The main idea of the module is to get non-trivial insight into strongly coupled quantum systems using symmetry as the guiding principle.

Find out more about the module lecturer Dr Matt Buican