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


Quantum Information Laboratory

Chris O'Rourke at work in the Quantum Information Laboratory

We aligned all these optics from scratch. It’s like any hard work though. You spend ages trying to get what you want, and when it finally works it’s a fantastic sense of achievement.

Chris O'Rourke, MPhys Physics

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.

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.

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 the summer break.

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

Nigel Gibbions

Nigel Gibbions, pictured with his supervisor Dr Vitaly Kudryavtset, worked on a $100m search for dark matter – read Nigel's story