Physics is the natural science that studies matter and its motion and behavior through space and time and that studies the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, and its main goal is to understand how the universe behaves.
Physics is concerned with the study of the universe from the smallest to the largest scale: it is about unravelling its complexities to discover the way it is and how it works. Discoveries in physics have formed the foundation of countless technological advances and play an important role in many scientific areas. Many techniques used in medical imaging, nanotechnology and quantum computing are derived from physics instrumentation. Even the World Wide Web was a spin-off from the information processing and communications requirements of high-energy particle physics. The contributions of physics to solving global problems such as energy production, environmental protection, global warming and public health are essential and have an enormous impact on our society.
Physics at Oxford is challenging and mathematical with a strong emphasis on fundamental concepts such as optics and relativity. The fourth-year MPhys option courses bring you to the threshold of current research, and can lead to subject specialism. You can also complete the course in three years graduating with a BA. The department is equipped with state-of-the-art lecture facilities and teaching laboratories. Tutorials give students direct and regular access to physicists actively involved in research and provide an opportunity to explore scientific ideas with experts in the field.
Project work/international opportunities
In the third year, those taking the MPhys carry out a short project in the teaching laboratories whilst those on the three-year BA course do a group project investigating a real industrial physics problem. There is further flexibility to undertake computational and experimental projects. A wide choice of fourth-year MPhys projects is available across all six physics sub-departments.
What to expect from a physics degree
Alongside practical work and experimentation, physics degrees will also include lots of theoretical learning and complex mathematics – so make sure that’s something you’re prepared for. Physics students will learn about the history of the profession and the physicists who paved the way for our modern understanding of the world. Often this will be accompanied by introductions to various essential principles and laws, which in turn will be divided into a number of more specialized study modules.
Key physics topics include electricity and magnetism, space and time, thermodynamics, quantum physics, relativity, geophysics, fluid dynamics, astronomy and geology, to name but a few. First year studies will focus on the fundamentals of classic and modern physics, plus a whole lot of mathematic formulae. As you progress through your physics degree you will move on to more complex mathematics, as well as more complex modern theorems such as quantum and relativity.