Programme Structure

The MSc comprises a taught component over two semesters, from September to May, plus a research project leading to a Dissertation, over the summer.  The taught component of the programme has two elements. The first consists of two Compulsory Courses and a selection of Standard Courses, which bring all the students to an advanced level in subjects such as statistical physics, general relativity, cosmology, condensed matter physics, quantum field theory and the standard model of particle physics. All these courses are delivered by the School of Physics and Astronomy. The second element allows each student to choose from a wider pool of available courses, including specialist courses in mathematics, informatics, geosciences and high performance computing. 

Both MSc programmes are full-time, 180-point taught Masters programmes, and are fully compliant with the University’s Curriculum Framework and Scottish Qualification Framework. The Dissertation is 60pt (points). Progression to the Dissertation requires 120pt of courses, with an overall average of 50%, and 80 points of courses above 50% (the Diploma is available as exit award on completion of taught courses).

Taught Courses

Taught courses must consist of a total of 120 credit points taken over two semesters (S1 and S2).

In the Theoretical Physics MSc students take:

  • 30 points of Compulsory Courses;
  • A selection of at least 50 points of Standard Courses;
  • 40 points chosen freely from the lists below.

In the Mathematical Physics MSc students take:

  • 30 points of Compulsory Courses;
  • A selection of at least 40 points of Standard Courses;
  • A selection of at least 20 points of Mathematics Courses from the list below;
  • A further 20 points of either Mathematics Courses or Standard Courses;
  • 10 points chosen freely from the lists below.

Compulsory Courses:

  • Problem Solving in Theoretical Physics (10pt, S1)
  • Research Skills for Theoretical Physics (20pt, S2)

Standard Courses:

  • Advanced Statistical Physics (10pt, S1)
  • Relativistic Quantum Field Theory (10pt, S1)
  • Quantum Theory (10pt, S1)
  • Advanced Cosmology (10pt, S2)
  • Classical Electrodynamics (10pt, S2)
  • General Relativity (10pt, S2)
  • Hamiltonian Dynamics (10pt, S2)
  • Computational Astrophysics (10pt, S1)
  • Modern Quantum Field Theory (10pt, S1)
  • Symmetries of Particles and Fields (10pt, S1)
  • Gauge Theories in Particle Physics (20pt, S2)
  • Geometry and Physics of Soft Condensed Matter (10pt, S1)
  • Quantum Condensed Matter Physics (10pt, S2)
  • Electronic Structure Theory (10pt,S2)
  • Radiation and Matter (10pt, S2)

Optional Courses (Physics and Astronomy):

  • Cosmology (10pt, S2)
  • Computational Astrophysics (10pt, S1)
  • Introduction to Condensed Matter (10pt, S1)
  • Solid State Physics (10pt, S2)
  • Soft Condensed Matter Physics (10pt, S2)
  • Statistical Physics (10pt, S1)
Particle Physics
 (10pt, S2)
  • Symmetries of Quantum Mechanics (10pt, S2)
  • High Energy Astrophysics (10pt, S2)
  • Astrophysics (20pt, S2)
  • High Energy Astrophysics (10pt, S2)
  • Nuclear Astrophysics (10pt, S2)
  • Advanced Materials Physics (10pt, S1)
  • ... plus many more ...

Optional Courses (Informatics):

  • Introduction to Quantum Computing (10pt, S1)

Optional Courses (Mathematics):

  • Geometry of General Relativity (10pt, S2)
  • Quantum Information (10pt, S1) (*)
  • Variational Calculus (10pt,S1) (*)
  • Differentiable Manifolds (10pt, S2)
  • Algebraic Geometry (10pt, S1)
  • Geometry (10pt, S1)
  • Applied Dynamical Systems  (10pt, S1)
  • Group Theory (10pt, S2)
  • Simulation  (10pt , S1)
  • Stochastic Models in Biology (10pt, S2)
  • General Topology  (10pt, S1)
  • Algebraic Topology (10pt, S2)
  • Nonlinear Schrodinger Equations (10pt, S2)
  • ... plus many more ...

(*) Quantum Information and Variational Calculus are taught in alternate years. Quantum Information will run in 2017/18, Variational Calculus is scheduled to run in 2018/19; 

High Performance Computing Courses

  • Programming Skills  (10pt , S1)
  • Message-Passing Programming (10pt, S1)
  • Threaded Programming (10pt, S1)
  • Parallel Numerical Algorithms (10pt, S1)
  • Applied Numerical Algorithms (10pt)

Geosciences Courses

  • Atmospheric Dynamics (10pt,  S1)
  • Introduction to 3D Climate Modelling (10pt,  S1)


Following the taught component of the programme, students undertake a 3-month research project, which leads to a dissertation, drawn from the Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics, or from industry. In the latter case, students will have the opportunity to undertake part of their research in a company affiliated to the Higgs Centre.

Industry-based Dissertation Projects

In addition to a wide range of standard academic projects, you may have the opportunity to undertake your dissertation project with a local company.

Dissertation titles

Dissertations completed in academic years 2013/2014 and 2014/15 include:

  • Exploring Dark Energy and Modified Gravity with Effective Field Theories
  • Classical Space-times from the S Matrix
  • Inflationary dynamics
  • Exploring branes in five dimensional gauge theory
  • Higgs and triviality
  • A lattice QCD determination of the strong coupling constant
  • Confining potential and effective string in 3D U(1) gauge theory
  • Small-scale random forcing in magnetohydrodynamic turbulence
  • Schrödinger-Newton "collapse" of the wave function
  • Unitarity cuts, differential equations and the coproduct of Feynman integrals
  • Computational group theory
  • Strange particle production and correlation in Pythia 8 with ALICE
  • Top squark physics at the compact linear collider
  • Testing the spherical evolution model of cosmic voids
  • The Influence of the First Stars on Dark Matter Halos at High Redshift
  • The Host Galaxies of High-Luminosity Obscured Quasars at redshift z~2.5
  • The missing baryons in large-scale structure
  • The statistical physics of genomic looping in interphase DNA-protein compounds
  • Analysis of DNA clustering driven by bridging-induced attraction
  • First principles structure prediction [density functional theory]
  • Genetic algorithms in building design
  • Approximation of a set of retinal image transformations

Nearly 50 different dissertation titles on a wide range of topics in theoretical and mathematical physics are available to our MSc students in academic year 2016/17.

Dissertation presentations, September 2014