Duncan Mackenzie - Physics with Astrophysics MPhys
If you are fascinated by the ‘how and why’ of the material world, as well as underlying physical concepts of the stars and galaxies, which make up the Universe, a degree in Physics with Astrophysics is for you. Studying at Kent you are taught and inspired by academics making the discoveries that shape our world and play a part in this research yourself.
Our focus is on helping you follow your passion as well as giving you the best possible start to your future. You develop a range of scientific and transferable skills and our four-year Integrated Master's gives you the opportunity to work on a research project and gain a valuable postgraduate qualification which can help give you the edge in the job market.
We have a strong focus on your future career and how to get you there, and to ensure you are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in today's job market, our curriculum changes and adapts. You also benefit from our expert careers advice to give you the best possible start when deciding on your future career.
This programme is fully accredited by Institute of Physics (IOP).
Astrophysics emphasises the underlying physical concepts of the stars and galaxies, which make up the Universe. This provides an understanding of the physical nature of bodies and processes in space and the instruments and techniques used in modern astronomical research.
In your first year, you get to grips with the broad knowledge base on which physical science is built, including electricity and light, mathematics, mechanics, thermodynamics and matter. You also develop your experimental, computational, statistical and analytical skills.
Your second and third years include a broad range of modules such as quantum mechanics, solid state, atomic, nuclear and particle physics, electromagnetism and optics, and mathematical techniques as well as the mulitwavelength universe exoplanets and stars, galaxies and the universe.
The final year of the MPhys programme brings your core knowledge and skills up to an advanced level. This stage concentrates on the in-depth training required for a science-based career, including the practical aspects of the research processes and a major research project in the School's Astrophysics and Planetary Science research group.
Our degrees are not only designed to give the best possible start to your career, they are also flexible so that you do the best degree for you. Up until your second year you are able to move between our programmes, including the opportunity to complete a professional placement to put into practice the skills you learnt and make valuable industry contacts or our three-year BSc. You could also opt to include a year abroad with your integrated Master's courses - giving you the chance to further broaden your horizons.
If you do not have the grades or scientific background for direct entry, you can take the Physics Foundation year. Upon successful completion of this year, you are well placed to move onto any of our Physics, Physics with Astrophysics, or Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics degrees.
You have access to first-class research facilities in new laboratories. These are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, including a full characterisation suite for materials, including:
Our Beacon Observatory provides a fully automised system with both optical telescope and radio telescope capability. It includes a 17" astrograph from Plane Wave Instruments with a 4k x 4k CCD and a BVRIHa filter set, as well as a 90-frames-per-second camera.
As well as a fascinating course with great opportunities to further your career potential, we work hard to give you the best possible wider student experience.
You will be part of an international scientific community of physics and astronomy, chemistry and forensic science, bioscience and medical and sport science students, as well as being able to join a range of student-led societies and groups.
As well as inspiring you to realise your potential, we are here to support this with excellent in-house student support to assist with pastoral issues and careers experts with specialist knowledge as well as Academic advisors and peer mentors to help with your studies.
You are encouraged to participate in conferences and professional events to build up your knowledge of the science community and enhance your professional development.
The University is a member of the South East Physics Network (SEPnet), which offers a competitive programme of summer internships to Stage 2 and 3 undergraduates.
Our department also has links with:
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The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. All applications are assessed on an individual basis but some of our typical requirements are listed below. Students offering qualifications not listed are welcome to contact our Admissions Team for further advice. Please also see our general entry requirements.
BBB including Mathematics or Physics at BB (Use of Mathematics not accepted)
The University welcomes applications from Access to Higher Education Diploma candidates for consideration. A typical offer may require you to obtain a proportion of Level 3 credits in relevant subjects at merit grade or above.
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30 points overall or 14 points at Higher Level including HL Physics at 5 or SL Physics at 6 and either HL Maths/Maths Methods/Maths: Analysis and Approaches at 5 or SL Maths/Maths Methods at 6 (Note Maths Studies/SL Maths: Applications & Interpretations is not acceptable).
The University will consider applicants holding T level qualifications in subjects closely aligned to the course.
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If you need to increase your level of science/mathematics ready for undergraduate study, we offer a Foundation Year programme which can help boost your previous scientific experience.
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Please note that if you do not meet our English language requirements, we offer a number of 'pre-sessional' courses in English for Academic Purposes. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme.
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Duration: 4 years full-time
The course structure below gives a flavour of the modules and provides details of the content of this programme. This listing is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation
This module provides an introduction to astronomy, beginning with our own solar system and extending to objects at the limits of the universe. Straightforward mathematics is used to develop a geometrical optics model for imaging with lenses and mirrors, and this is then used to explore the principles of astronomical telescopes.
This module builds on prior knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, and trigonometry. It will cover key areas of mathematics which are widely used throughout undergraduate university physics. In the first part it will look at functions, series, derivatives and integrals. In the second part it will look at vectors, matrices and complex numbers.
This module builds on the Mathematics I module to develop key mathematical techniques involving multiple independent variables. These include the topics of differential equations, multivariate calculus, non-Cartesian coordinates, and vector calculus that are needed for Physics modules in Stages 2 and 3.
In this module the mathematics of vectors and calculus are used to describe motion, the effects of forces in accordance with Newton's laws, and the relation to momentum and energy. This description is extended to rotational motion, and the force of gravity. In addition, the modern topic of special relativity is introduced.
This module examines key physical phenomena of waves and fields which extend over time and space. The first part presents a mathematical description of oscillations and develops this to a description of wave phenomena. The second part is an introduction to electromagnetism which includes electric and magnetic fields before providing an introduction to the topic of electrical circuits.
This module develops the principles of mechanics to describe mechanical properties of liquids and solids. It also introduces the principles of thermodynamics and uses them to describe properties of gases. The module also introduces the modern description of atoms and molecules based on quantum mechanics.
This module guides students through a series of experiments giving them experience in using laboratory apparatus and equipment. Students will also learn how to accurately record and analyse data in laboratory notebooks and write scientific laboratory reports. The experiments cover subjects found in the Physics degree program and are run parallel with Computing Skills workshops in which students are introduced to the concept of using programming/scripting languages to analyse and report data from their experiments.
This module provides an introduction to quantum mechanics, developing knowledge of wave-functions, the Schrodinger equation, solutions and quantum numbers for important physical properties. Topics include: 2-state systems. Bras and kets. Eigenstates and Eigenvalues; Superposition Principle; Probability Amplitudes; Change of Basis; Operators. The Schrodinger equation. Stationary states. Completeness. Expectation values. Collapse of the wave function. Probability density. Solutions of the Schrodinger equation for simple physical systems with constant potentials: Free particles. Particles in a box. Classically allowed and forbidden regions. Reflection and transmission of particles incident onto a potential barrier. Probability flux. Tunnelling of particles. The simple harmonic oscillator. Atomic vibrations.
This module will build on the general principles of quantum mechanics introduced earlier in the degree and applied them to the description of atoms, starting by the description of the hydrogen atom and covering other topics such as the effect of magnetic fields on an atom or X-ray spectra.
This module looks to introduce a range of important laws and principles relating to the physics of electromagnetism and optics. Students will also learn mathematical techniques to enable the modelling of physical behaviour and apply important theory to a range of electromagnetism and optics scenarios.
This module builds on the brief introduction to astronomy previously taught in earlier stages. Students enhance their knowledge of astrophysics through the study of the theory, formalism and fundamental principles developing a rigorous grounding in observational, computational and theoretical aspects of astrophysics. In particular they study topics such as properties of galaxies and stars and the detection of planets outside the solar system.
Most practicing physicists at some point will be required to perform experiments and take measurements. This module, through a series of experiments, seeks to allow students to become familiar with some more complex apparatus and give them the opportunity to learn the art of accurate recording and analysis of data. This data has to be put in the context of the theoretical background and an estimate of the accuracy made. Keeping of an accurate, intelligible laboratory notebook is most important. Three 3 week experiments are performed. The remaining period is allocated to some additional activities to develop communication skills including communication to a non-specialist audience.
This module introduces and develops a knowledge of numerical approximations to solve problems in physics, building on the programming skills gained in earlier stages. In addition, it complements the analytical methods students are trained to use and extends the range of tools that they can use in later stages of the degree. This module covers for example how to solve linear equations, how to find eigenvalues and numerical integration and differentiation.
The module will provide a firm grounding in mathematical methods: both for solving differential equations and, through the study of special functions and asymptotic analysis, to determine the properties of solutions.
After taking the classes students should be more fluent and adept at solving and discussing general problems in Physics (and its related disciplines of mathematics and engineering).
There is no formal curriculum for this course, which uses and demands only physical and mathematical concepts with which the students at this level are already familiar.
Problems are presented and solutions discussed in topics spanning several topics in the undergraduate physics curriculum (Mechanics and statics, thermodynamics, and optics, etc).
Problems are also discussed that primarily involve the application of formal logic and reasoning, simple probability, statistics, estimation and linear mathematics.
Special Relativity: Limits of Newtonian Mechanics, Inertial frames of reference, the Galilean and Lorentz transformations, time dilation and length contraction, invariant quantities under Lorentz transformation, energy momentum 4-vector.
Maxwell's equations: operators of vector calculus, Gauss law of electrostatics and magnetostatics, Faraday's law and Ampere's law, physical meanings and integral and differential forms, dielectrics, the wave equation and solutions, Poynting vector, the Fresnel relations, transmission and reflection at dielectric boundaries.
Modern Optics: Resonant cavities and the laser, optical modes, Polarisation and Jones vector formulation.
Review of zeroth, first, second laws. Quasistatic processes. Functions of state. Extensive and intensive properties. Exact and inexact differentials. Concept of entropy. Heat capacities. Thermodynamic potentials: internal energy, enthalpy, Helmholtz and Gibbs functions. The Maxwell relations. Concept of chemical potential. Applications to simple systems. Joule free expansion. Joule-Kelvin effect. Equilibrium conditions. Phase equilibria, Clausius-Clapeyron equation. The third law of thermodynamics and its consequences – inaccessibility of the absolute zero.
Statistical Concepts and Statistical Basis of Thermodynamics
Basic statistical concepts. Microscopic and macroscopic descriptions of thermodynamic systems. Statistical basis of Thermodynamics. Boltzmann entropy formula. Temperature and pressure. Statistical properties of molecules in a gas. Basic concepts of probability and probability distributions. Counting the number of ways to place objects in boxes. Distinguishable and indistinguishable objects. Stirling approximation(s). Schottkly defect, Spin 1/2 systems. System of harmonic oscillators. Gibbsian Ensembles. Canonical Ensemble. Gibbs entropy formula. Boltzmann distribution. Partition function. Semi-classical approach. Partition function of a single particle. Partition function of N non-interacting particles. Helmholtz free energy. Pauli paramagnetism. Semi Classical Perfect Gas. Equation of state. Entropy of a monatomic gas, Sackur-Tetrode equation. Density of states. Maxwell velocity distribution. Equipartition of Energy. Heat capacities. Grand Canonical Ensemble.
Classical and Quantum Counting of Microstates. Average occupation numbers: Fermi Dirac and Bose Einstein statistics. The Classical Limit. Black Body radiation and perfect photon gas. Planck's law. Einstein theory of solids. Debye theory of solids.
To provide an introduction to solid state physics. To provide foundations for the further study of materials and condensed matter, and details of solid state electronic and opto-electronic devices.
Interaction potential for atoms and ions. Definitions, crystal types. Miller indices. Reciprocal lattice. Diffraction methods.
Dynamics of Vibrations.
Lattice dynamics, phonon dispersion curves, experimental techniques.
Electrons in k-space: metals.
Free electron theory of metals. Density of states. Fermi-Dirac distribution. Band theory of solids - Bloch's theorem. Distinction between metals and insulators. Electrical conductivity according to classical and quantum theory. Hall effect.
Band structure of ideal semiconductor. Density of states and electronic/hole densities in conduction/valence band. Intrinsic carrier density. Doped semiconductors.
Definitions of dia, para, ferromagnetism. Magnetic moments. General treatment of paramagnetism, Curie's law. Introduction to ferromagnetism.
Aims: To provide, in combination with PH507, a balanced and rigorous course in Astrophysics for B.Sc. Physics with Astrophysics students, while forming a basis of the more extensive M.Phys modules.
Physics of Stars
equations of state for an ideal multiple chemical component star; degenerated stars, Nuclear reactions: PPI, PPII, PPIII chains; CNO cycle, Triple-alpha process; elemental abundances; energy transportation inside a star; derivation of the approximate opacity and energy generation models as function of density, temperature and chemical components; Solar neutrino problem; polytropic models applied to the equations of stars; Lane-Emden equation; Chandrasekhar mass; the Eddington Luminosity and the upper limit of mass; detailed stellar models; Post main sequence evolution of solar mass stars; Red Giants; White Dwarfs; Neutron Stars; Degenerate matter; properties of white dwarfs; Chandrasekhar limit; neutron stars; pulsars; Supernovae
General Relativity and Cosmology
Inadequacy of Newton's Laws of Gravitation, principle of Equivalence, non-Euclidian geometry. Curved surfaces. Schwarzschild solution; Gravitational redshift, the bending of light and gravitational lenses; Einstein Rings, black holes, gravitational waves; Brief survey of the universe; Olbers paradox, Cosmology, principles, FRW Metric, Laws of Motion & Distances, Friedmann equation, Scale Factor, Fluid equation, The Hubble Parameter, Critical Density parameter, Cosmological Constant parameter, Radiation-Matter-Dark Energy phases; The CMB, Temperature Horizons. Monopoles. Flatness problem. Hubble sphere, Inflation, Anisotropies, Polarisation Baryon Acoustic Oscillations, Secondary anisotropies; Baryosynthesis, Nucleosynthesis, Dark Matter observations, Lensing, Bullet Cluster, Dark Matter candidates, Cosmic Distance Ladder, Redshifts Galaxy surveys; Acceleration equation, Deceleration equation, Supernova as standard candles, Dark Energy, Einstein Field equations, Coincidence problem, The Cosmic Dark Ages & AGN Reionisation, High-z galaxies
This module is an introduction to the developments in classical mechanics since the time of Newton. In it, students will learn a variety of methods to formulate complex problems in classical systems and classify different types of dynamics that may occur.
This module will introduce students to basic concepts in nuclear and particle physics, and will provide an understanding of how the principles of quantum mechanics are used to describe matter at sub-atomic length scales. The following concepts will be covered:
* Properties of nuclei: Rutherford scattering. Size, mass and binding energy, stability, spin and parity.
* Nuclear Forces: properties of the deuteron, magnetic dipole moment, spin-dependent forces.
* Nuclear Models: Semi-empirical mass formula M(A, Z), stability, binding energy B(A, Z)/A. Shell model, magic numbers, spin-orbit interaction, shell closure effects.
* Alpha and Beta decay: Energetics and stability, the positron, neutrino and anti-neutrino.
* Nuclear Reactions: Q-value. Fission and fusion reactions, chain reactions and nuclear reactors, nuclear weapons, solar energy and the helium cycle.
* Experimental methods in Nuclear and Particle Physics (Accelerators, detectors, analysis methods, case studies will be given).
* Discovery of elementary particles and the standard model of particles
* Leptons, quarks and vector bosons
* The concept of four different forces and fields in classical and quantum physics; mediation of forces via virtual particles, Feynman Diagrams
* Relativistic Kinematics
* Relativistic Quantum Mechanics and Prediction of Antiparticles
* Symmetries and Conservation Laws
* Hadron flavours, isospin, strangeness and the quark model
* Weak Interactions, W and Z bosons
Students will develop a number of skills related to the investigation and planning of research such as analytical skills, critical thinking and ability to understand and communicate scientific information in graphically. Students will learn how to search and retrieve information from a variety of locations (colloquia, websites, journals, proceedings etc). They will learn how to compile professionally-produced scientific documents such as colloquia reports, posters and applications for funding of future research activities/research job applications. The Group research investigation strengthens these skills, adding experience of working in a team.
You take all compulsory modules and then choose one from a list of optional modules.
To provide an experience of open-ended research work.
To begin to prepare students for postgraduate work towards degrees by research or for careers in R&D in industrial or government/national laboratories.
To deepen knowledge in a specialised field and be able to communicate that knowledge orally and in writing.
All MPhys students undertake a laboratory, theoretical or computationally-based project related to their degree specialism. These projects may also be undertaken by Diploma students. A list of available project areas is made available during Stage 3, but may be augmented/revised at any time up to and including Week 1 of Stage 4. As far as possible, projects will be assigned on the basis of students' preferences – but this is not always possible: however, the project abstracts are regarded as 'flexible' in the sense that significant modification is possible (subject only to mutual consent between student and supervisor). The projects involve a combination of some or all of: literature search and critique, laboratory work, theoretical work, computational physics and data reduction/analysis. The majority of the projects are directly related to the research conducted in the department and are undertaken within the various SPS research teams.
Why use space telescopes; other platforms for non-ground-based astronomical observatories (sounding rockets, balloons, satellites); mission case study; what wavelengths benefit by being in space; measurements astronomers make in space using UV, x-ray and infra-red, and examples of some recent scientific missions.
Exploration of the Solar System:
Mission types from flybys to sample returns: scientific aims and instrumentation: design requirements for a spacecraft-exploration mission; how to study planetary atmospheres and surfaces: properties of and how to explore minor bodies (e.g. asteroids and comets): current and future missions: mission case study; how space agencies liaise with the scientific community; how to perform calculations related to the orbital transfer of spacecraft.
Solar System Formation and Evolution:
The composition of the Sun and planets will be placed in the context of the current understanding of the evolution of the Solar System. Topics include: Solar system formation and evolution; structure of the solar system; physical and orbital evolution of asteroids.
Extra Solar Planets:
The evidence for extra Solar planets will be presented and reviewed. The implications for the development and evolution of Solar Systems will be discussed.
Life in Space:
Introduction to the issue of what life is, where it may exist in the Solar System and how to look for it.
The major properties of the Interstellar Medium (ISM) are described. The course will discuss the characteristics of the gaseous and dust components of the ISM, including their distributions throughout the Galaxy, physical and chemical properties, and their influence the star formation process. The excitation of this interstellar material will be examined for the various physical processes which occur in the ISM, including radiative, collisional and shock excitation. The way in which the interstellar material can collapse under the effects of self-gravity to form stars, and their subsequent interaction with the remaining material will be examined. Finally the end stages of stellar evolution will be studied to understand how planetary nebulae and supernova remnants interact with the surrounding ISM.
Review of FRW metric; source counts; cosmological distance ladder; standard candles/rods.
High-z galaxies: fundamental plane; Tully-Fisher; low surface brightness galaxies; luminosity functions and high-z evolution; the Cosmic Star Formation History
Galaxy clusters: the Butcher-Oemler effect; the morphology-density relation; the SZ effect
AGN and black holes: Beaming and superluminal motion; Unified schemes; Black hole demographics; high-z galaxy and quasar absorption and emission lines.
This module will give students an overarching introduction to quantum information processing (QIP). At the end of the course the students will have a basic understanding of quantum computation, quantum communication, and quantum cryptography; as well as the implications to other fields such as computation, physics, and cybersecurity.
We will take a multi-disciplinary approach that will encourage and require students to engage in topics outside of their core discipline. The module will cover the most essential mathematical background required to understand QIP. This includes: linear algebra, basic elements of quantum theory (quantum states, evolution of closed quantum systems, Born's rule), and basic theory of computing. The module will introduce students to the following theoretical topics: quantum algorithms, quantum cryptography, quantum communication & information. The module will also address experimental quantum computation & cryptography.
Introduction. Magnetism, magnetometry and measuring techniques, Localised magnetic moments, spin and orbital moments, magnetic moments in solids. Paramagnetism. Exchange interactions, direct, indirect and superexchange, Magnetic structures, ferro, ferri, antiferromagnetism. Neutron and X-ray scattering. Spin waves, magnons. Magnetic phase transitions. Superconductivity: Introduction to properties of superconductors, Thermodynamics and electrodynamics of superconductors, Type I and Type II superconductors, the flux lattice Superconducting phase transitions. Microscopic superconductivity, correlations lengths, isotope effect, Cooper pairs, Froehlich Interaction, BCS theory. High Tc superconductors, superfluids, liquid helium.
Quantum mechanics is the theoretical basis of much of modern physics. Building on the introductory quantum theory studied in earlier stages, this module will review some key foundational ideas before developing more advanced topics of quantum mechanics and quantum field theory.
The 2023/24 annual tuition fees for this course are:
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For students continuing on this programme, fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.*
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At Kent we recognise, encourage and reward excellence. We have created the Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence.
The scholarship will be awarded to any applicant who achieves a minimum of A*AA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages.
Teaching is by lectures, practical classes, tutorials and workshops. You have an average of nine one-hour lectures, one or two days of practical or project work and a number of workshops each week. The practical modules include specific study skills in physics and general communication skills. In the MPhys final year, you work with a member of staff on an experimental or computing project.
Assessment is by written examinations at the end of each year and by continuous assessment of practical classes and other written assignments. Your final degree result is made up of a combined mark from the Stage 2/3/4 assessments with a weighting of 20/30/50.
Please note that there are degree thresholds at stages 2 and 3 that you will be required to pass in order to continue onto the next stages.
For a student studying full time, each academic year of the programme will comprise 1200 learning hours which include both direct contact hours and private study hours. The precise breakdown of hours will be subject dependent and will vary according to modules. Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.
Methods of assessment will vary according to subject specialism and individual modules. Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.
The programme aims to:
MPhys students gain a systematic understanding of most fundamental laws and principles of physics and astrophysics, along with their application to a variety of areas in physics and/or astrophysics, some of which are at the forefront of the discipline.
The areas covered include:
You also gain an understanding of the theory and practice of astrophysics, and of those aspects upon which it depends – a knowledge of key physics, the use of electronic data processing and analysis, and modern day mathematical and computational tools.
You gain intellectual skills in how to:
As an MPhys student, you also develop:
You gain subject-specific skills in:
As an MPhys student, you also gain:
You gain transferable skills in:
Of final-year Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics students who completed the National Student Survey 2021, 91% were satisfied with the overall quality of their course.
You graduate with an excellent grounding in scientific knowledge and extensive laboratory experience. In addition, you also develop the key transferable skills sought by employers, such as: excellent communication skills work independently or as part of a team the ability to solve problems and think analytically time management. This means that our graduates are well equipped for careers across a range of fields and have gone on to work for companies such as BAE, Defence Science and Technology, Rolls Royce, Siemens and IBM. You can read some of their stories, and find out about the range of support and extra opportunities available to further your career potential here.
Fully accredited by the Institute of Physics
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