Physics is an exciting and challenging subject which examines both the origins and the structure of the universe, from subatomic particles to the vast areas of the cosmos. Physics affects every part of our daily lives, from civil, mechanical, motor and aeronautical engineering, to how we have harnessed both nuclear energy to heat and light our environment, and waves to communicate (and to play the guitar!). Without a knowledge of Physics, there would be no x-rays, CT scans or radiotherapy, no aeroplanes, no Formula 1, no smartphones, no satellites and no Internet.
In addition to the four main modules described below, you will learn the scientific skills of planning, implementing, analysis and evaluation through practical work completed in the well-equipped Physics laboratory. These practicals will develop your understanding of the way that science works and leads to a better grasp of the concepts studied. There will be opportunities to assess errors and how accurate your experimental results are so that you can decide on the validity of the results taken and the conclusions which you have made. You will also become familiar with the SI units and standard prefixes used throughout Physics.
During your course you will have opportunities to meet and be mentored by STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Maths) professionals, to attend stimulating lectures and to take advantage of our excellent location to visit highly-relevant local companies and research institutions.
Year 1 course content
Forces and Motion
This is a mathematical unit but still has practical work included. You will study the ideas behind why things move the way they do and the way that materials behave when forces act on them. You will be able to distinguish the characteristics of different types of materials under loads. When engineers design bridges or racing cars, they must be able to predict the outcome when many forces act on an object.
Electrons, Waves and Photons
Working in both groups and individually you will study ideas relating to electricity, waves and quantum physics. You will carry out practical work to test theories and study the results of experiments to explain the behaviour of waves. Whenever possible the physics learnt is related to everyday life, so by the end of this module you should be able to design a temperature sensing circuit, know why sunscreen works and understand how waves are set up on a guitar string.
Year 2 course content
Newtonian World and Astrophysics
The ideas of motion are applied to more involved situations such as circular motion and simple harmonic motion, and you will be able to predict the heights of satellites above planets. You will be able to show how gravitational fields change as you move further away from planets and will study how gravity determines the changes in the universe and be able to explain the origins and fate of the universe.
Particles and Medical Physics
You will gain an understanding of fields; magnetic, electrical and gravitational fields will be compared. The discovery of the smallest subatomic particles will be studied and you will know why the Higgs boson was so important to physics. The world of medicine is used to show how application of physics principles is integral to medical scanners. You will know how Einstein’s theory can be used to predict the output of energy from fusion and fission reactions.
The course is assessed by examination at the end of Year 2.
Physics is a practical subject, and we place a strong emphasis on developing good practical skills. During the two years, you will complete a large amount of practical work, and twelve of these experiments will count towards the practical endorsement.
Is it for me?
You will enjoy and benefit from Physics if you:
- want to explore how the universe works and investigate the practical applications of our current state of knowledge;
- have the ability to relate to theoretical models and to examine issues logically and systematically;
- are confident about working with numbers and diagrams.
Visits include to the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge, to STEM events at Duxford and to the Kalvii Institute of Cosmology in Cambridge. TWI have visited us to teach a specialised Physics class. Students are encouraged to join the Nuffield Bursary scheme to enable them to experience work in a scientific organisation, and to take part in the Headstart Programme.
At least 7 GCSEs at Grade 4 in a range of subjects including English. You need higher tier Mathematics at minimum Grade 6. Science and Additional Science at higher tier must be at least 6,6, and if you have studied the Sciences separately, you will need a Grade 6 in at least two, including Physics. Only Science GCSE courses which have a high proportion of external assessment will normally be considered.