username5927673
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#1
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What are the best unis for Physics? and what do they specialize in? to clarify; I've heard UCL/Glasgow is good for certain Astrophysics modules, so what are each of the unis good for? what is the difference between Theoretical Physics and normal Physics? what is the difference between Physics with Astrophysics, Astrophysics, Astronomy and Physics with Astronomy? is it better to do any of those as I'm interested in Astro?
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username5927673
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artful_lounger
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So, basically, pretty much the vast majority of physics degrees will have the same "core" structure - this is basically the skeleton of a physics undergraduate course. The various variations on that (e.g. astrophysics, physics with astrophysics, theoretical physics) will then just make certain option modules core modules, and thus having slightly fewer optional credits to fill.

Most of the time you can take those modules on the "base" physics course as well. There are sometimes slight variations where for example, theoretical physics courses might replace some of the experimental/practical modules with "theoretical physics" modules (mostly these will just be further mathematical methods). Sometimes there might be specific opportunities only open to students on certain variations (e.g. at Southampton the ability to swap to the flagship astrophysics course and spend the final year doing research at the Harvard Smithsonian Observatory is only available for those on the Physics with Astronomy course I believe; I'm not sure if the Tenerife field trip is open to those taking the second year astronomy module or just on the main degree either).

In terms of graduate study in physics (astro or otherwise) it doesn't hugely matter which "flavour" of physics degree you choose. If you're interested in some particular area though, by all means go for that one! It matters even less if you're going to leave physics after undergrad to go into a grad scheme, so it's really up to you So look at the course and the options available - you will probably find that most unis offering degrees in both physics and astrophysics/astronomy/physics with astrophysics/astronomy will have the same options available on the "base" course as on those specialised ones.

I'm not that familiar with Glasgow, I am aware UCL has strengths in planetary science though, which is sort of on the astro side (although also incorporates some elements of earth sciences for example).
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
In terms of graduate study in physics (astro or otherwise) it doesn't hugely matter which "flavour" of physics degree you choose. If you're interested in some particular area though, by all means go for that one! It matters even less if you're going to leave physics after undergrad to go into a grad scheme, so it's really up to you So look at the course and the options available - you will probably find that most unis offering degrees in both physics and astrophysics/astronomy/physics with astrophysics/astronomy will have the same options available on the "base" course as on those specialised ones.

I'm not that familiar with Glasgow, I am aware UCL has strengths in planetary science though, which is sort of on the astro side (although also incorporates some elements of earth sciences for example).
Will doing astrophysics affect my chances of doing a non astro but physics post grad? will it limit my options for non astro related post grads? what other unis are good for planetary science? what unis would you say are the best for physics?
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by Aruhi0)
Will doing astrophysics affect my chances of doing a non astro but physics post grad? will it limit my options for non astro related post grads? what other unis are good for planetary science? what unis would you say are the best for physics?
Not likely, as you'll still cover all the core physics content. It will come at the opportunity cost of having done optional modules in other areas of physics which might've been useful background for those other areas, but will probably not be specifically expected at least for masters courses (for a PhD they might want to see you have SOME work in that specific area, although it would suffice to have dissertation work in that area I imagine).

I'm actually not really sure what other unis have strengths in planetary science areas; probably those with strong earth sciences departments. I think Cambridge has some research in the area although I think it tends to fall under their earth science department rather than in physics or astrophysics.

The strongest ones in general are probably those you would expect I imagine; Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, Edinburgh. There are lots of other good options though, UCL for example (which also has the benefit of the intercollegiate MPhys modules so in your fourth year you can borrow modules from KCL/RHUL/QMUL); QMUL certainly used to have a number of notable high energy physicists although I think a few moved on. Southampton's flagship course programme enabling the top performing students to do a year of research at CERN or the Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory is quite attractive as a prospect. Manchester has a long history of strength in the area and of course was the "origin" such as it is of graphene research. There are lots of other good departments depending on your interests though.
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
Not likely, as you'll still cover all the core physics content. It will come at the opportunity cost of having done optional modules in other areas of physics which might've been useful background for those other areas, but will probably not be specifically expected at least for masters courses (for a PhD they might want to see you have SOME work in that specific area, although it would suffice to have dissertation work in that area I imagine).

I'm actually not really sure what other unis have strengths in planetary science areas; probably those with strong earth sciences departments. I think Cambridge has some research in the area although I think it tends to fall under their earth science department rather than in physics or astrophysics.

The strongest ones in general are probably those you would expect I imagine; Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, Edinburgh. There are lots of other good options though, UCL for example (which also has the benefit of the intercollegiate MPhys modules so in your fourth year you can borrow modules from KCL/RHUL/QMUL); QMUL certainly used to have a number of notable high energy physicists although I think a few moved on. Southampton's flagship course programme enabling the top performing students to do a year of research at CERN or the Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory is quite attractive as a prospect. Manchester has a long history of strength in the area and of course was the "origin" such as it is of graphene research. There are lots of other good departments depending on your interests though.
So it won't limit my options for masters? Is Cambridge NatSci more restrictive or more limiting than Oxford physics? will Cambridge focus less on the physics part? Are St Andrews, Newcastle, Sheffield, Bristol, Warwick, Glasgow good for physics?

Sorry for asking so many questions but thank you very much for your help
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by Aruhi0)
So it won't limit my options for masters? Is Cambridge NatSci more restrictive or more limiting than Oxford physics? will Cambridge focus less on the physics part? Are St Andrews, Newcastle, Sheffield, Bristol, Warwick, Glasgow good for physics?

Sorry for asking so many questions but thank you very much for your help
No it shouldn't make a difference for a masters. Cambridge NatSci physics will cover all the core material as Oxford physics (and any other physics course), but you'll also do some extra papers (i.e. modules) in first year in other areas of science (although some of that content you may encounter on other physics courses depending on which options you take at Cambridge e.g. some of the materials science topics). Cambridge manages to fit in the entirety of a single honours course in any of those subject areas for NatSci, despite the additional breadth, by having lectures on Saturday mornings and overall a somewhat intense course (even by Cambridge standards).

I think Bristol is pretty well regarded for physics; I know they have some strengths in the philosophy of physics, which while strictly speaking is in the philosophy department, not infrequently goes hand in hand with theoretical physics research strengths (albeit not necessarily - LSE also has strengths in this area without a physics department at all!). Warwick is also reasonable, but physics there doesn't stand out in the same way maths does. I'm not as familiar with the other unis for physics in general but they're all broadly well regarded, and since physics degrees tend to largely cover the same content I imagine they're all decent options as well.

Outside of what you mentioned, physics is one of the better departments at Exeter, and they used to have some strengths in exoplanet research (not sure if that's still ongoing). We also built a student use radio telescope in Cornwall while I was there, which I think remains part of the Space Society there Surrey also has strengths in nuclear technologies and related physics. Birmingham is quite strong for physics and has the option to "intercalate" for 1 year in the CS department, doing a full year of CS courses, which would be very useful background for astrophysics research since so much of it is computational.
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JMarchant80
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#8
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
So, basically, pretty much the vast majority of physics degrees will have the same "core" structure - this is basically the skeleton of a physics undergraduate course. The various variations on that (e.g. astrophysics, physics with astrophysics, theoretical physics) will then just make certain option modules core modules, and thus having slightly fewer optional credits to fill.

Most of the time you can take those modules on the "base" physics course as well. There are sometimes slight variations where for example, theoretical physics courses might replace some of the experimental/practical modules with "theoretical physics" modules (mostly these will just be further mathematical methods). Sometimes there might be specific opportunities only open to students on certain variations (e.g. at Southampton the ability to swap to the flagship astrophysics course and spend the final year doing research at the Harvard Smithsonian Observatory is only available for those on the Physics with Astronomy course I believe; I'm not sure if the Tenerife field trip is open to those taking the second year astronomy module or just on the main degree either).

In terms of graduate study in physics (astro or otherwise) it doesn't hugely matter which "flavour" of physics degree you choose. If you're interested in some particular area though, by all means go for that one! It matters even less if you're going to leave physics after undergrad to go into a grad scheme, so it's really up to you So look at the course and the options available - you will probably find that most unis offering degrees in both physics and astrophysics/astronomy/physics with astrophysics/astronomy will have the same options available on the "base" course as on those specialised ones.

I'm not that familiar with Glasgow, I am aware UCL has strengths in planetary science though, which is sort of on the astro side (although also incorporates some elements of earth sciences for example).
(Original post by artful_lounger)
No it shouldn't make a difference for a masters. Cambridge NatSci physics will cover all the core material as Oxford physics (and any other physics course), but you'll also do some extra papers (i.e. modules) in first year in other areas of science (although some of that content you may encounter on other physics courses depending on which options you take at Cambridge e.g. some of the materials science topics). Cambridge manages to fit in the entirety of a single honours course in any of those subject areas for NatSci, despite the additional breadth, by having lectures on Saturday mornings and overall a somewhat intense course (even by Cambridge standards).

I think Bristol is pretty well regarded for physics; I know they have some strengths in the philosophy of physics, which while strictly speaking is in the philosophy department, not infrequently goes hand in hand with theoretical physics research strengths (albeit not necessarily - LSE also has strengths in this area without a physics department at all!). Warwick is also reasonable, but physics there doesn't stand out in the same way maths does. I'm not as familiar with the other unis for physics in general but they're all broadly well regarded, and since physics degrees tend to largely cover the same content I imagine they're all decent options as well.

Outside of what you mentioned, physics is one of the better departments at Exeter, and they used to have some strengths in exoplanet research (not sure if that's still ongoing). We also built a student use radio telescope in Cornwall while I was there, which I think remains part of the Space Society there Surrey also has strengths in nuclear technologies and related physics. Birmingham is quite strong for physics and has the option to "intercalate" for 1 year in the CS department, doing a full year of CS courses, which would be very useful background for astrophysics research since so much of it is computational.
Would you know anything about Sussex Uni and physics please?
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University of Surrey Student Rep
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#9
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(Original post by username5927673)
What are the best unis for Physics? and what do they specialize in? to clarify; I've heard UCL/Glasgow is good for certain Astrophysics modules, so what are each of the unis good for? what is the difference between Theoretical Physics and normal Physics? what is the difference between Physics with Astrophysics, Astrophysics, Astronomy and Physics with Astronomy? is it better to do any of those as I'm interested in Astro?
Hi there,

To introduce myself – I’m Joao. In my final year studying BSc Economics at Surrey University, I am working as a Campus Ambassador for JP Morgan. I recently finished my one-year industrial placement as an Economist for the British Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). I also had the opportunity to work as a Private Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Biosecurity. You'll study core topics on our BSc and MPhys, such as particle, nuclear and atomic physics, and optional modules. You can switch between most of our specialist physics courses during your first year. Two unique aspects of both courses are:

Our award-winning Professional Training placements: Within the BSc, the option to take a paid Professional Training placement in the industry gives you invaluable hands-on experience to enhance your employability. On our MPhys, you’ll take a year-long, master-level integrated research placement. This can be in one of our world-leading research groups or at our international partner institutions.

Our focus on undergraduate research and innovation: All undergraduates have the opportunity to apply for 8-10 week paid summer placements in our research groups and those of our South East Physics Network partners. We offer in-house “research and innovation” and “enterprise” grants that students can apply for to fund a research placement, attend a conference or develop a new business idea. We deliver on jobs, too. We were named the University of the Year for Graduate Employment in The Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide for 2022.

If you have any questions about Surrey or uni life in general, then please ask as I am here to help you out
Joao (Economics)
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