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Student Research in the Department of Physics

Research Skills in the Curriculum

The Physics and Mathematics & Physics courses will develop your research skills including communication, computing, data analysis, laboratory and team-working skills.

In their first and second years, students develop computational skills in the first year Python-based Programming Workshop. The optional second year module on Computational Physics covers data handling and algorithms. Physics students develop their practical skills in the first year Laboratory and learn how to handle experimental uncertainty ("error bars") correctly. The second year laboratory is part of a Skills module, which also develops literature-searching and communication skills through a team-based research and presentation exercise.

In their third and fourth years, students learn research and presentation skills in their final year project. A Communicating Science module is taken by all BSc students, while MPhys students complete a Physics Group Project which requires groups of students to review a current research topic. MPhys and MMathPhys students work in the laboratory on more advanced experiments, which are tackled in groups of three and written up as if they were research papers in a scientific journal. Optional Scientific Computing and High Performance Computing modules develop students' understanding of good software development in the context of physics research.

The final year project

As a BSc or MPhys/MMathPhys student, you undertake a year-long research project in your final year which allows you to develop your ideas in a particular field and develop research skills in physics. It is often seen by students as the most challenging and satisfying part of the course.

You work, normally in pairs, on your project which may be experimental, computational or theoretical (or a combination of these). With your supervisor, you establish a project plan which is reviewed frequently. Over the Christmas vacation you write an interim report which will be marked by your supervisor, who will return it to you with feedback. After a further term's work you write a final report, which will be assessed by two independent members of academic staff. MPhys and MMathPhys students present a poster describing the project an open poster session, which mimics what happens at scientific conferences.

Typically projects are hosted within one of the department’s research groups where you work alongside postgraduate students and other full-time researchers. You may also interact with specialists from other disciplines or from industry. Final year projects include "real" research where your supervisor will not know the outcome. They give a flavour of aspects of working in a Physics research group, from project planning and execution to presentation of results in poster and report formats.

Extra-curricular research opportunities

The Physics Department has long been an enthusiastic supporter of the URSS scheme, with more than 20 projects typically running in a given year (examples below). We support students looking for external research projects and placements, e.g. in industry or at universities near the family home. Other support is available for summer research projects, e.g. through the Energy and Materials Global Research Priorities.

URSS Projects (2017)

  • The mechanisms of spd-1(oj5) suppression by zen-4(xa36) in C. elegans
  • Efficient quantum electronic transport simulations utilizing multi-scale methods
  • Approximations in non-adaptive random quantum circuits
  • Modelling panspermia in the TRAPPIST-1 System
  • Computational modelling of magnetostrictive materials Ab-Initio
  • Transmission electron microscope image simulation
  • Optimising the GOTO data analysis
  • Assessment of dosimetric benefits by "robust planned" radiotherapy treatments
  • Determining the importance of CO2 loss through the skin in metabolic measurements
  • Computational modelling of ion cyclotron emission spectra from energetic ion populations in nuclear fusion plasmas
  • Effect of confinement on transition to collective motion
  • Solving the impossible: the unique triple star KIC 2856960
  • Exploring the possibilityof using measurements in "in Phase" and "out of Phase" MRI images to quantify fat in the liver
  • Geometrical frustration in SrDy₂0₄ and the BaDy₂0
  • Analytical tools for 3D gravitational scattering
  • Electrical characterisation of silicon carbide semi-conductor devices
  • Lattice-switching with molecular dynamics
  • Enabling electronic structure measurements of 2D materials
  • Generalisations of the Frenkel-Kontorova model
  • Electron diffraction simulation and iterative parameter refinement
  • Collective bursts of a marine picoeukaryote: a novel defence strategy?
  • Feasibility of search for hadronic W decays at LHCb experiment
  • Diffusion optimised Monte Carlo
  • Web based campus energy and environment data interface tool
  • Effective electrical management of Terahertz Photoconductive Emitters
  • Liquid crystal sensors for high resolution ultrasound imaging
  • The origin of X-rays in the galaxy
  • Feasibillity to measure Xi_b polarisation at LHCb experiment

Examples of final year research projects

  • Mining the variable sky with GOTO prototype data
    Supervisor: Danny Steeghs Astronomy & Astrophysics
  • Exoplanet atmospheres at high spectral resolution
    Supervisor: Matteo Brogi Astronomy & Astrophysics
  • X-ray irradiation and evaporation of exoplanets
    Supervisor: Peter Wheatley Astronomy & Astrophysics
  • Orbital Period Changes of Binary Stars
    Supervisor: Thomas Marsh Astronomy & Astrophysics
  • Characterisation of magnetically confined plasma fluctuations using multi-point measurements
    Supervisor: Bogdan Hnat Fusion, Space & Astrophysics
  • Transverse loop oscillations in the solar corona
    Supervisor: Erwin Verwichte Fusion, Space & Astrophysics
  • Top-tagged W Boson Decays to Beauty and Charm
    Supervisor: Paul Harrison Elementary Particle Physics
  • Search for ttbb production at LHC
    Supervisor: Bill Murray Elementary Particle Physics
  • Improving understanding of baryon-meson interaction with LHCb data
    Supervisor: Michal Kreps Elementary Particle Physics
  • Scattering of Muons in the MICE Experiment
    Supervisor: Steven Boyd Elementary Particle Physics
  • Search for new B meson decay modes with the CERN LHCb experiment
    Supervisor: Timothy Gershon Elementary Particle Physics
  • Search for the rare decay B --> pi mu mu
    Supervisor: Tom Blake Elementary Particle Physics
  • SuperNEMO Data Analysis: Isotope source foil study
    Supervisor: Yorck Ramachers Elementary Particle Physics
  • Monitoring Transiting Exoplanets with the LCO network of automated 0.4m telescopes
    Supervisor: Daniel Bayliss Astronomy & Astrophysics
  • The graveyard for geostationary satellite
    Supervisor: Don Pollacco Astronomy & Astrophysics
  • Robotic Observations and modelling of a galactic cluster and exoplanetary transit from La Palma
    Supervisor: Don Pollacco Astronomy & Astrophysics
  • Spin qubit experiments in diamond
    Supervisor: Gavin Morley Condensed Matter
  • Probing Atomic-Level Structure by Solid-State NMR
    Supervisor: Steven Brown Condensed Matter
  • Multinuclear Solid State NMR of Doped Diamagnetic and Paramagnetic Perovskite Systems Employed as Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Cathode Materials
    Supervisor: John Hanna Condensed Matter
  • Ultrafast charge motion in novel photovoltaics
    Supervisor: James Lloyd-Hughes Condensed Matter
  • Extreme Nanowires: Synthesis and Properties
    Supervisor: Jeremy Sloan Condensed Matter
  • Probing quantum capacitance in 2D materials
    Supervisor: Neil Wilson Condensed Matter
  • Microscopic and macroscopic symmetry of ferroelectric oxides
    Supervisor: Richard Beanland Condensed Matter
  • Electron microscopy of functional oxide nanomaterials
    Supervisor: Ana Sanchez-Fuentes Condensed Matter
  • Observation of the Quantum Hall effect in a semiconductor material
    Supervisor: Maksym Myronov Condensed Matter
  • Growth and Characterisation of Doped PbTiO3 Perovskite Thin films
    Supervisor: Marin Alexe Condensed Matter
  • Dynamic magneto-electric coupling in multiferroic devices
    Supervisor: Marin Alexe Condensed Matter
  • Two–band Boride Superconductors
    Supervisor: Martin Lees Condensed Matter
  • Low-temperature magnetic properties of the geometrically frustrated SrTb2O4
    Supervisor: Oleg Petrenko Condensed Matter
  • Flexural Ultrasonic Transducers
    Supervisor: Steven Dixon Condensed Matter Experiment
  • Intelligent inspection of defects in structures
    Supervisor: Rachel Edwards Condensed Matter
  • Ultrasonic measurements with low signal-to-noise ratio
    Supervisor: Rachel Edwards Condensed Matter
  • Chemotaxis of the marine pico-eukaryote M. pusilla
    Supervisor: Marco Polin Condensed Matter
  • Bacterial motility on smooth and rough surfaces
    Supervisor: Vasily Kantsler Condensed Matter
  • Microswimming at variable viscous load.
    Supervisor: Vasily Kantsler Condensed Matter
  • Terahertz imaging for non-invasive skin characterisation
    Supervisor: Emma Macpherson Medical Physics
  • Evaluating the robustness to patient position uncertainties for prostate cancer radiotherapy treatment planning techniques
    Supervisor: Jon Duffy Medical Physics
  • The Application of Machine Learning Techniques to the Reconstruction of Neutrino Interactions
    Supervisor: Gary Barker Elementary Particle Physics
  • Accelerated multicanonical sampling
    Supervisor: David Quigley Theoretical Physics
  • A Novel Machine-Learning Approach to Theoretical Spectroscopy
    Supervisor: Nicholas Hine Theoretical Physics
  • Critical Casimir forces at the Anderson transition
    Supervisor: Rudo Roemer Theoretical Physics
  • Charge Screening in Dense, Partially Ionised Plasmas
    Supervisor: Dirk Gericke Fusion, Space & Astrophysics
  • The edge of chaos in tokamaks.
    Supervisor: Ben McMillan Fusion, Space & Astrophysics
  • Space Weather Modelling
    Supervisor: Tony Arber Fusion, Space & Astrophysics
  • Quasi-periodic wave trains in the corona of the Sun
    Supervisor: Valery Nakariakov Fusion, Space & Astrophysics
  • New functional materials through “computer experiments”
    Supervisor: Gavin Bell Condensed Matter
  • Modelling SIMS profiles from buried delta layers
    Supervisor: Thomas Hase Condensed Matter
  • Dynamics of Entangled Polymers
    Supervisor: Robin Ball Theoretical Physics
  • Diffusion of Macromolecules
    Supervisor: Robin Ball Theoretical Physics
  • Active Liquid Crystals
    Supervisor: Gareth Alexander Theoretical Physics
  • Theoretical modelling of solid state cooling with caloric materials
    Supervisor: Julie Staunton Theoretical Physics
  • Active materials
    Supervisor: Matthew Turner Theoretical Physics
  • Antiferromagnetic Modulations in Dipolar Ferromagnets
    Supervisor: Nicholas d'Ambrumenil Theoretical Physics
  • Programming a quantum computer
    Supervisor: Animesh Datta Theoretical Physics
  • Circumbinary disk imaging with JWST
    Supervisor: Grant Kennedy Astronomy & Astrophysics