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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)
  • Quantum Field Theory (20pt, S1)
  • Quantum Theory (10pt, S1)
  • Advanced Cosmology (10pt, S2)
  • Computational Astrophysics (10pt, S1)
  • Classical Electrodynamics (10pt, S2)
  • General Relativity (10pt, S2)
  • Hamiltonian Dynamics (10pt, S2)
  • Computational Astrophysics (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)
  • Electronic Structure Theory (10pt, S2)
  • Radiation Processes in Astrophysics (20pt, S2)

Optional Courses (Physics and Astronomy):

  • Cosmology (10pt, S2)
  • 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)
  • Astrophysics (20pt, S2)
  • Nuclear Astrophysics (10pt, S2)
  • Advanced Materials Physics (10pt, S1)
  • Data Analysis and Machine Learning (20pt,S1)
  • ... plus many more ...

Optional Courses (Informatics):

  • Introduction to Quantum Computing (10pt, S1)
  • Categories and Quantum Informatics (10pt, S2)

Optional Courses (Mathematics):

  • Geometry of General Relativity (10pt, S2)
  • Topics in Mathematical Physics A&B [String Theory in 2022/23] (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. Variational Calculus ran in 2022/23; Quantum Information is due to run in 2023/24.

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.

Dissertation titles

Dissertations completed in previous academic years include:

  • Exploring Dark Energy and Modified Gravity with Effective Field Theories
  • Sequestering in dark energy and modified gravity scenarios
  • The Einstein-Higgs beta function
  • Squaring relations between Yang-Mills theory and general relativity
  • Scattering amplitudes in Lee-Wick theory
  • Diagram generation for colour-kinematics duality
  • The quantum nature of self-dual Yang-Mills theory
  • Classical Space-times from the S Matrix
  • Supersymmetric field theory in Nappi-Witten Superspace
  • N=1 Supergravity in 4 dimensions
  • Inflationary dynamics
  • Coupling perturbations in warm inflation
  • Exploring branes in five dimensional gauge theory
  • Higgs and triviality
  • A lattice QCD determination of the strong coupling constant
  • Fitting hadron masses in lattice QCD
  • Confining potential and effective string in 3D U(1) gauge theory
  • Hybrid Monte Carlo simulations of lattice field theory with a variable step size
  • Dynamical critical exponent for Kramers/second-order-Langevin Monte Carlo
  • Transition to turbulence in fluid mechanics
  • Small-scale random forcing in magnetohydrodynamic turbulence
  • Study on the onset of dynamo action
  • Schr√∂dinger-Newton "collapse" of the wave function
  • Unitarity cuts, differential equations and the coproduct of Feynman integrals
  • New jet predictions at the LHC
  • Colliding partons at the LHC
  • QCD predictions in search for new physics in dijet events
  • Fundamentals of conformal invariance
  • Logic and quantum theory
  • Deriving complex amplitudes and special relativity from consistency
  • Quantum Hamiltonian reduction of D_q(GL_3)
  • Computational group theory
  • Applications of the blow-up technique in control theory
  • Strange particle production and correlation in Pythia 8 with ALICE
  • Top squark physics at the compact linear collider
  • Relativistic corrections in simulations of cosmological structure formation
  • 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
  • Pattern formation and clustering in autophoretic colloids
  • Control of epidemics on a network via individual-level behavioural changes
  • Statistical physics in machine learning
  • Helicon waves in U6 Fe
  • First principles structure prediction [density functional theory]
  • One-sided device-independent certification of random numbers
  • Potential impact of regional aerosol emissions on northern hemisphere climate
  • Genetic algorithms in building design
  • Approximation of a set of retinal image transformations

More than 60 different dissertation titles on a wide range of topics in theoretical and mathematical physics are on offer to our current MSc students in academic year 2022/23.

Some of the MSc students and staff celebrate after the Dissertation presentations. Higgs Centre seminar room, August 2019
Some of the MSc students and staff celebrate after the Dissertation presentations. Higgs Centre seminar room, August 2019.