Students in a physics laboratory

Theoretical Physics MPhys

Department of Physics and Astronomy

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You are viewing this course for 2021-22 entry.

Key details

Course description

This course emphasises the use of theoretical and mathematical approaches to understanding the laws of physics. You can choose further mathematics modules, and broaden your experience with project work too.

You'll complete a theoretical or computational project in your third year, and independent directed reading on a theoretical topic of your choice.

In your final year, you can study advanced physics topics in more depth and will choose a research project in an area that interests you.

If you want to study physics, but don't meet the entry requirements to go straight into the first year, our Physics with a Foundation Year could be for you. After successfully completing the one-year programme, you'll progress onto the first year of your chosen degree.

Accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP) for the purpose of fully meeting the educational requirement for Chartered Physicist.


The modules listed below are examples from the last academic year. There may be some changes before you start your course. For the very latest module information, check with the department directly.

Choose a year to see modules for a level of study:

Title: Theoretical Physics MPhys course structure
UCAS code: F321
Years: 2021

Core modules:

Fields and Quanta

This module introduces the key concepts of fields and quanta: electric and magnetic fields, the behaviour of electric charges and currents, vectors and densities, potentials, quantum states and their evolution, the probabilistic nature of fundamental physical law, and the breakdown of classical physics. This module will teach you how physics problems relate to these fundamental concepts, and how those concepts are used to construct solutions.

25 credits
Motion and Heat

This module introduces and applies the key concepts of motion and heat: force, equations of motion, phase space, determinism and free will, symmetry and conservation laws, waves and oscillations, coherence and classical frequency-time uncertainty, the laws of thermodynamics, thermal equilibrium, entropy and the arrow of time. You will learn how physics problems relate to these fundamental concepts, and how those concepts are used to construct solutions. You will apply the key concepts to design experiments to test scientific hypotheses. You will develop your data analysis and communication skills and to use different sources of information in your learning. You will work independently and as part of a group, developing a wide variety of study skills that will prepare you for the rest of your degree programme.

25 credits

Optional modules:

Mathematics for Physicists and Astronomers

This module provides the necessary level 1 mathematics for students taking physics and/or astronomy degrees. The following topics will be covered: basic algebra (functions, coordinate systems, algebraic manipulation etc), Taylor and binomial series, common functions of one variable, differentiation and integration techniques, basic complex numbers, first and second order differential equations, vector calculus, properties and applications of matrices and elementary probability theory.

30 credits
Supplementary Mathematics for Theoretical Physicists

This module provides the necessary supplementary mathematics for theoretical physics students taking level 1 mathematics modules. The following topics will be covered: consolidate previous knowledge of vectors; introduce the students to vector concepts and techniques including the theorems of Gauss and Stokes; elementary probability theory; ensure that the students have a thorough knowledge of how to apply mathematical tools to physical problems.

10 credits
Mathematics Core 1

The module explores topics in mathematics which will be used throughout many degree programmes. The module will consider techniques for solving equations, special functions, calculus (differentiation and integration), differential equations, Taylor series, complex numbers and finite and infinite series. The course will use mathematical packages, for example MAPLE, as appropriate to illustrate ideas.

20 credits
Mathematics Core II

The module continues the study of core mathematical topics begun in MAS110, which will be used throughout many degree programmes. The module will discuss 2-dimensional co-ordinate geometry, discussing the theory of matrices geometrically and algebraically, and will define and evaluate derivatives and integrals for functions which depend on more than one variable, with an emphasis on functions of two variables. The course will use mathematical packages, for example MAPLE, as appropriate to illustrate ideas.

20 credits
Introduction to Astrophysics

One of four half-modules forming the Level-1 Astronomy course, PHY104 aims to equip students with a basic understanding of the important physical concepts and techniques involved in astronomy with an emphasis on how fundamental results can be derived from fairly simple observations. The course consists of four sections: (i) Basic Concepts, Fluxes, Temperatures and Magnitudes; (ii) Astronomical Spectroscopy; (iii) Gravitational Astrophysics. Parts (i),(ii) and (iii) each comprise some six lectures. The lectures are supported by problem classes and laboratory work.

10 credits
The Solar System

One of four half-modules forming the Level-1 Astronomy course, PHY106 has five main sections. (i) provides a brief survey of the characteristics, composition and origin of the various planets, their satellites, the asteroids and comets and the motions and interactions of these bodies; (ii) discusses the internal structures of the planets, the Moon and other major bodies; (iii) is concerned with their surfaces and the processes that shape them, impacts, erosion, plate tectonics etc.; (iv) discusses planetary atmospheres and ionospheres, their origins and why they differ from one planet to another; (v) is concerned with planetary magnetism and its origins.

10 credits
Our Evolving Universe

The course provides a general overview of astronomy suitable for those with no previous experience of the subject. The principal topics covered are (1) how we deduce useful physical parameters from observed quantities, (2) the structure and evolution of stars, (3) the structure of the Milky Way, and the classification, structure and evolution of galaxies in general, (4) an introduction to cosmology and (5) extrasolar plantets and an introduction to astrobiology. All topics are treated in a descriptive manner with minimal mathematics.

10 credits
Frontiers of Physics

This pair of 10-credit modules aims to introduce research-inspired material into the level 1 physics curriculum. Each module includes three short courses on research-based topics taught by an academic who is actively involved in the research. The individual courses will be regularly reviewed to ensure that the material is up to date and includes current areas of investigation. The module aims to show that cutting-edge physics research is often underpinned by basic concepts covered in A level and 1st year physics courses.

10 credits
The Physics of Sustainable Energy

The module will cover the physics of sustainable energy. It includes discussions framed by the book `Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air' by D MacKay and will cover current energy requirements and what energy could potentially be provided by the various forms of renewable energy. The course will commence with a discussion of the basic physics of energy, power and work and the conversion of energy from one form to another. We examine in detail the history of global energy useage and how we produce and use energy in the UK. We will then explore the impacts that this energy use has on the biosphere and climate and the public perception of such processes. The course will then focus on the energy contenet of objects and processes we take for granted and will then move on to means by which we can produce energy using renewable technologies, such as wind, wave, solar, biofuels etc. We will also examine nuclear (fusion and fission) energy and will discuss their principles and practical implementation. Finally, we will consider solutions to our energy needs, including transportation, energy conservation, carbon capture and geoengineering.

10 credits
Physics of Living Systems 2

The aim is to introduce biomechanical descriptions of the human body. We look at its structure and its performance as a physical machine. The structural characteristics of human bones and tissue are investigated, together with the mechanical functions of the skeleton and musculature. Simple fluid dynamic characteristics of the body are introduced, including descriptions of blood-flow in the arteries and veins and air-flow in the lungs.

10 credits
Introduction to Electric and Electronic Circuits

This module introduces the concepts and analytical tools for predicting the behaviour of combinations of passive circuit elements, resistance, capacitance and inductance driven by ideal voltage and/or current sources which may be ac or dc sources. The ideas involved are important not only from the point of view of modelling real electronic circuits but also because many complicated processes in biology, medicine and mechanical engineering are themselves modelled by electric circuits. The passive ideas are extended to active electronic components; diodes, transistors and operational amplifiers and the circuits in which these devices are used. Transformers, magnetics and dc motors are also covered.

20 credits

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.

Learning and assessment


You'll learn through lectures, small group tutorials, programming classes, practical sessions in the lab and research projects.

We invest to create the right environment for you. That means outstanding facilities, study spaces and support, including 24/7 online access to our online library service.

Study spaces and computers are available to offer you choice and flexibility for your study. Our five library sites give you access to over 1.3 million books and periodicals. You can access your library account and our rich digital collections from anywhere on or off campus. Other library services include study skills training to improve your grades, and tailored advice from experts in your subject.

Learning support facilities and library opening hours

Entry requirements

With Access Sheffield, you could qualify for additional consideration or an alternative offer - find out if you're eligible

Standard offer
Access Sheffield offer

The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
including Maths and Physics

The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
including Maths and Physics

A Levels + additional qualifications | AAB, including AA in Maths and Physics + A in a relevant EPQ AAB, including AA in Maths and Physics + A in a relevant EPQ

International Baccalaureate | 36, 6 in Higher Level Maths and Physics 34 with 6,5 in Higher Level Maths and Physics

BTEC | Not accepted Not accepted

Scottish Highers + 2 Advanced Highers | AAAAB + AA in Maths and Physics AAABB + AB in Maths and Physics

Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels | A + AA in Maths and Physics B + AA in Maths and Physics

Access to HE Diploma | 60 credits overall in Science with Distinctions in 39 Level 3 credits (all in Mathematics and Physics), and Merits in 6 level 3 credits 60 credits overall in Science with Distinctions in 36 Level 3 credits (all in Mathematics and Physics), and Merits in 9 level 3 credits

Mature students - explore other routes for mature students

English language requirements

You must demonstrate that your English is good enough for you to successfully complete your course. For this course we require: GCSE English Language at grade 4/C; IELTS grade of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component; or an alternative acceptable English language qualification

Equivalent English language qualifications

Visa and immigration requirements

Other requirements
  • Students must have passed the practical element of any science A Level taken

We also accept a range of other UK qualifications and other EU/international qualifications.

If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

Department of Physics and Astronomy

2D materials laboratory

Is time travel possible?

Are there habitable planets in other star systems?

Can we make a quantum computer?

Our courses explore the laws of the universe from subatomic particles to stars and galaxies. You'll join a community of researchers and students looking for answers to some of the biggest questions in the universe.

All our undergraduates get hands-on experience working alongside staff on real research projects. We host numerous general and specialist seminars by physicists from around the world.

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is based in the Hicks Building, which is next door to the Students' Union, and just down the road from the library facilities at the Information Commons and the Diamond. The School of Mathematics and Statistics is also based here.


Our students are trained in newly refurbished teaching laboratories and can access a range of specialist technologies, from the telescopes on our roof to our state-of-the-art Quantum Information Laboratory.

In their final year, MPhys students are based in a specialist research laboratory where scientists are studying technologies such as 2D materials, photovoltaic devices and advanced microscopy tools.

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Why choose Sheffield?

The University of Sheffield

  A Top 100 university 2021
QS World University Rankings

  Top 10% of all UK universities
Research Excellence Framework 2014

  No 1 Students' Union in the UK
Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2019, 2018, 2017

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Top ten in the UK for research output

Research Excellence Framework 2014

Russell Group top five for overall satisfaction

National Student Survey 2019

Graduate careers

Department of Physics and Astronomy

They are making an impact in many areas of society. Some are following careers in aerospace, telecommunications, teaching, defence and energy research. Others are achieving success in computing, accountancy and consultancy.

Organisations employing our graduates include Ernst & Young, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Toshiba, Museum of Science and Industry, Thales and the Home Office. Many of our graduates continue to PhD research and become research scientists in academia or industry.

Heloise Stevance

I had amazing lecturers who later became colleagues and are now my friends

Dr Heloise Stevance MPhys Physics and Astrophysics

Heloise did her undergraduate degree and PhD in astrophysics here in Sheffield, and is now a researcher at the University of Auckland.

Further information


For the first two years, you study in your own time on an Open University distance learning course. Complete this successfully and you can begin the second year of our full-time physics degrees.

For full details of this alternative entry route see our OpenPlus webpage.

MPhys or BSc?

Our BSc courses focus on core knowledge and skills. The MPhys courses have an additional element of research work experience and more opportunity to study topics in greater depth. If you plan to follow a career as a research scientist, an MPhys degree would be most appropriate.

A built-in insurance offer

If you firmly accept as your first choice an offer for our MPhys courses, but your A Level grades are AAB, you're guaranteed a place on the BSc.

Fees and funding


Additional costs

The annual fee for your course includes a number of items in addition to your tuition. If an item or activity is classed as a compulsory element for your course, it will normally be included in your tuition fee. There are also other costs which you may need to consider.

Examples of what’s included and excluded

Funding your study

Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for a bursary, scholarship or loan to help fund your study and enhance your learning experience.

Use our Student Funding Calculator to work out what you’re eligible for.

Additional funding

Department of Physics and Astronomy scholarships

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