Students at work on an Atomic Force Microscope

Research projects

In third year, you'll complete a research project in an area of physics that interests you. You can either do a Physics Research Project over one semester, or an Extended Project over the whole of your third year. This gives you lots of options, from experimental science to computing, microscopy and science communication. You can even work on a real-world problem set by one of our collaborators in industry.

Third year options

Physics Research Project
If you decide to do the Physics Research Project, the subject is up to you. Students choose from a list of more than 60 project topics, from high energy cosmic rays, to atomic force microscopy, to the physics of scuba diving. You'll be supervised by one of our academic staff, who will help you design your experiments, analyse your results and present your findings.

Extended Project
If you decide to do an Extended Project, there are several types for you to choose from. Students work on these projects throughout their third year.

  • Industrial Group Project: work in a team using your experimental or computational skills to solve a problem for one of our industrial collaborators

  • Quantum Information Laboratory: complete lab-based quantum optics experiments and study the relevant theory as you learn cutting-edge techniques used in the quantum technology industry

  • Physical Computing Laboratory: learn to program single-board computers and programmable logic devices called Field Programmable Gate Arrays, for real-time data acquisition

  • Microscopy and Spectroscopy Laboratory: learn and apply sophisticated techniques such as atomic force microscopy and optical and gamma-ray spectroscopies

  • Physics Education and Outreach: take part in schools and outreach activities – this is a great way to get experience if you're interested in a career in teaching or science communication

Fourth year projects

– MPhys students only

If you do one of our MPhys courses, you'll do a more advanced research project in your fourth year.

You'll be based in one of our research laboratories, working alongside professional scientists and with access to state-of-the-art equipment. You'll get extra training for a career in research and get to choose from a wider range of advanced lecture modules.


Industrial Group Project

This project has really highlighted how studying physics gives you the ability to tackle problems from real life in a number of sectors.


Connor Sheppard, Matthew Rowland and Jordan Foster worked with the Sheffield City Region local government institution. They used their computer programming skills to identify the best sites to create low-skilled jobs and help combat unemployment.

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Quantum Information Laboratory

Cropped version of Max godsland's photo

The main appeal of the project was a chance to learn about some of the more practical aspects of the quantum physics that we had learned about in our degree.

Max Godsland, MPhys Physics  READ MORE

For the Quantum Information Laboratory Extended Project, students complete a series of mini-projects. They range from building single photon sources similar to those used by quantum cryptography companies like Toshiba, to measuring the photon statistics and coherence properties of different light sources.

Students work with research quality lasers, detectors and photon counting modules to build measurement systems to a professional standard. Along the way, they learn how single photons are being used in quantum information processing to revolutionise digital technology.


Physical Computing Laboratory

Cropped version of Sam Morgan's photo

We were each given a board and laptop to take home, meaning we were able (and encouraged) to experiment with the hardware in our own time as much as we liked! While I had mainly worked with high-level programming languages such as Python in the past, this project introduced me to the less abstracted fundamental procedures involved in single-board computers.

The project has encouraged me to look further into digital signal processing as a future academic path, as it was this application which interested me the most, and has furthered my general interest in computing.



Microscopy and Spectroscopy Laboratory

Cropped version of Michael Walker's photo

These projects are super interesting and suitable for future jobs.

In the first semester we were introduced to many different experimental techniques, which was really useful as each one is taught by an expert in the field.

It gives you a great insight into current scientific research and also in industry.



Physics Education and Outreach

Cropped version of Rosie Tilbrook's photo

My partner and I chose to design and run activities for a stall at a local science festival for children. Following this I have been involved with a number of outreach events.

I able understand more about the way in which people learn and I had the chance to spend a day at a high school shadowing one of the teachers.

Rosie Tilbrook, MPhys Physics and AStrophysics  READ MORE


Sheffield Undergraduate
Research Experience

Each year undergraduates can apply to join the Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience scheme. This gives you a bursary to spend around 10 weeks working with one of our department's research groups over summer. You'll be able to get first-hand experience of major research projects and can even lead to your name appearing in an academic journal.

Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience

Cropped version of Adam Threlfall's photo

I wanted research experience and an insight into the world of professional and academic physics.Not only did I gain an insight into neutrinos research, I was a fully-fledged part of the Sheffield Neutrino Research Team for six weeks, which was a fantastic experience.

Adam Threlfall, MPhys Theoretical Physics


Cropped version of Richard mann's photo

'Shadows of Colliding Black Holes' was my project title, and for it I got to simulate the motion of photons in contracting spacetime. With the help of my supervisor, I was given a crash course in the areas of general relativity that I needed to start the project.

Richard Mann, MPhys Theoretical Physics