Physics

What is physics?

One of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, physics is a natural science and is the study of matter and energy and their properties. The aim of physics is to understand how the Universe behaves and uses experiments, mathematical analysis and observation to try and answer some of life’s big questions, such as:

  • How did the Universe begin?
  • Why does time have a direction?

From the study of energy, forces, waves and mechanics to the structure of atoms and the physical Universe, physics is so vast that there are a number of branches that you could specialise in.

Some of the fields of physics are:

  • Cosmology - the study of the Universe’s origin, evolution and eventual fate.
  • Nuclear physics - the study of atomic nuclei and other forms of nuclear matter.
  • Particle physics - the study of the nature of particles that make up matter and radiation.
  • Quantum mechanics - the study of a fundamental theory that describes the behavior of electrons, protons and other particles that make up the Universe.

Why study physics?

There are a variety of reasons to study physics at undergraduate level:

Without physics we would not have any of the life-saving technology we take for granted; X-rays, MRI scanners and radiation therapy. Equipment that saves lives every year only exists today because of physics. There are also opportunities to be involved in even bigger, more advanced technological projects, such as space science, with nearly all aspects reliant on physics.

Although physics has a reputation for being difficult, one of the values of studying physics is that it is often challenging, but in return it is extremely rewarding. You will face new questions and obstructions that will often require you to figure out an answer or solution and more often than not, you will be attempting to prove your own theories and hypotheses.

Physics centres around understanding the world. You will learn about matter and energy, study planets and galaxies and discover the workings and limitations of nature’s laws. You will see the Universe in a different light, understanding how it behaves and discovering hidden laws that explain the motion and behaviour of matter.

Why study physics at Durham University?

With one of the leading physics and astronomy departments in the UK, Durham University is the perfect place to study BSc (Hons) Physics.

During your time at the University you will benefit from a large research department that is one of the leading Physics and Astronomy departments in the UK (joint 1st in Research Excellence Framework 2014).   

You will have the advantage of learning through research-led teaching, which encourages you to make the connection between what you learn in class and what it translates to in the real world.

During the three-year degree, you will learn the foundations of physics, with practical and theoretical modules and will be able to choose from a wide range of topics and specialisms as the course progresses.

You will be able to take advantage of the modern, well-equipped Department of Physics building. It features excellent facilities and state-of-the-art technology for you to use throughout your degree, including four modern computer-controlled telescopes.

2nd in the UK

for Physics in The Guardian University league table 2019

4th in the UK

for Physics and Astronomy in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019

Key skills – from studying physics

Studying physics will give you a variety of transferable skills that will help you succeed in physics and many other career paths:

  • Analytics
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Organisational
  • IT and numeracy
  • Research

What physics degree can I study at Durham University?

If you are looking to follow a physics path after a foundation year, BSc (Hons) Physics provides an ideal route to a variety of careers and opportunities. This three-year degree focuses on the foundations of physics and lets you choose specific modules from a variety of areas, such as Introduction to Astronomy.

Degree preparation at the International Study Centre

International students looking to study a physics degree at Durham University can prepare themselves with our International Foundation Year in Science and Engineering. It will give the academic, English and study skills needed to succeed while studying a physics degree.

You will study a range of modules that include core modules covering academic English skills and core foundation maths and chemistry. You will also study designated modules that relate to your chosen physics degree.

Physics career opportunities

With a physics degree from Durham University you will have a number of career and further education options available to you. Whether you want to continue your education with a Masters degree or follow a research role, you will have plenty of opportunities.

  • Research scientist
  • Nanoscientist
  • Medical physicist
  • Environmental scientist
  • Lab technician
  • Laser engineer
  • Technical specialist
  • Metallurgist
  • Geophysicist