Students with the University of Sheffield's rooftop telescopes

Physics with Philosophy MPhys

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Department of Philosophy

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You are viewing this course for 2022-23 entry.

Key details

Course description

This course is great preparation for a career in research, whether you want to focus on the fundamental questions that physics raises about the nature of existence, or refine your logical thinking abilities to help solve problems in industry. You’ll cover most of the same topics as students on our standard Physics courses, and choose modules from the university’s Department of Philosophy that range from religion, ethics and politics, to feminism, art and death, to major thinkers such as Plato, Kant and Hegel.

In your first two years, you’ll do the essential physics that all of our students cover: heat, motion, electricity, magnetism and quantum mechanics. You will also be able to choose from a wide range of optional philosophy modules, which range from religion, ethics and politics, to feminism, the arts and death.

In practical classes, you’ll run experiments using the equipment in our modern laboratories to help you understand how important theories apply to the real world. In optional programming classes you can learn skills that are key to modern physics and valuable in many graduate careers, from data science to computer game design.

In the third year, you can branch out into lots of different areas and complete your own research project in physics or philosophy. Physics options include topics like astrophysics, dark matter and nuclear physics. Philosophy options include free will, phenomenology and metaphysics.

A variety of optional physics modules are also available in your fourth year, when you’ll be working on a major research project. You’ll choose a research topic in physics and work closely with a member of academic staff who is an expert in the area you want to explore. The project takes up around half of your final year and can lead to a publication in a scientific journal.

Dual and combined honours degrees

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

Modules

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: Physics with Philosophy MPhys course structure
UCAS code: F3V5
Years: 2021

Core 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
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:

Matters of Life and Death

This course will look at the value of life and the wrongness of killing. We will look at various issues of important practical concern, such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, war, as well as the case of allowing people to die from need whom we could have saved. We will look at how best to understand the principles that guide, and ought to guide, our judgements about what to do when confronted with these issues. Students will gain a better understanding of how to think about these issues, and in particular will be introduced to the benefit of thinking about them philosophically.

20 credits
Mind, Brain and Personal Identity

What is it to have a mind? Is your mind a physical thing, such as your brain? Or is it a non-physical soul? Do human beings have free will¿the ability to freely choose their own actions¿and, if so, how? What makes you the same person you were when you were a young child? Do non-human animals have minds? Could computers or robots have artificially created minds? If animals or computers had minds would they have souls? Could they have free will? This course examines these issues and some historical and contemporary attempts to understand them.

20 credits
Self and Society

This course introduces students to central questions in political philosophy: Do we need a state, and if so, must we obey its laws? When, why and how may states punish citizen for failing to obey the law? What is freedom, and when are we free? Is equality a moral value, and if so, what are its implications for how governments ought to act? What is justice, and how does it relate to freedom, equality, and punishment? Should states be organised democratically, and what does it mean to live in a democracy? The course encourages students to think carefully and clearly about the relationship they have, as citizens, to each other and the state, and to develop their analytical and critical skills in the process. Readings will include influential, historical and contemporary discussions of the state, equality, freedom, justice, and democracy.

20 credits
Writing Philosophy

Philosophical writing is a skill that you, the student, must hone early on in order to succeed in your degree. It is also a transferable skill that will serve you in your post-academic career. Philosophical writing combines the general virtues of clarity, organisation, focus and style found in other academic writing with particular philosophical virtues, namely, the ability to expose the implicit assumptions of analysed texts and to make explicit the logical structure of one's own and other people's arguments. A precondition of philosophical writing is a unique form of textual analysis that pays particular attention to its argumentative structure. In this module you will learn and practice philosophical writing. You will learn how to read in preparation for philosophical writing, learn how to plan an essay, learn how to rework your drafts and learn how to use feedback constructively. You will write five drafts and five essays and will have one on on tutorial on each essay you write. The lectures in the course will be split between lectures of the art of writing and lectures on philosophical topics in the domain of fact and value. Essay topics will be based on the topical lectures and their associated readings

20 credits
Death

This module is mainly about death itself [whereas PHI125 is mainly about killing}. What is death? What happens to us when we die? Could there be an afterlife? Would it be a good thing if there were? What is it about death that we dislike so much, or that makes it bad? Is it rational, or even possible to fear death? What is the right attitude towards our own death? Do we have moral duties towards the dead? The course will clarify these questions and attempt to answer them. Readings will be taken from both historical and contemporary sources.

10 credits
Elementary Logic

The course will provide students with knowledge of the fundamental parts of formal logic. It will also teach them a range of associated formal techniques with which they can then analyse and assess arguments. In particular, they will learn the languages of propositional and first-order logic, and they will learn how to use those languages in providing formal representations of everyday claims. They will also learn how to use truth-tables and truth-trees.

10 credits
History of Ethics

How should we live? What is the right thing to do? This module offers a critical introduction to the history of western ethical thought, examining some of the key ideas of Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Wollstonecraft, Douglass, Bentham, Mill, Taylor Mill, Nietzsche, Rawls and Gilligan. It provides a textual introduction to some of the main types of ethical theory: the ethics of flourishing and virtue; rights-based approaches; utilitarianism; contractualism. We explore the close interconnections between ethics and other branches of philosophy (e.g. metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics), as well as the connections between ethics and other disciplines (e.g. psychology; anthropology).

10 credits
History of Philosophical Ideas

The history of philosophy is made up of a series of debates between competing philosophical traditions and schools: for example, idealists argue with realists, rationalists with empiricists. And at different times, distinctive philosophical movements have dominated the discussion, such as pragmatism, existentialism, phenomenology, analytic philosophy, and critical theory. This module will introduce you to some of these central movements and traditions in the history of philosophy from Plato onwards, and the key philosophical concepts and issues that they have brought in to western thought.

10 credits
Philosophy of Religion

This course will pose and try to answer philosophical questions about religion. These include questions about the nature of religion. For instance does being religious necessarily involve believing in the existence of a God or Gods? And is religious faith compatible with adherence to the scientific method? Other questions that the course will cover include questions about the theistic notion of God. Does the idea of an all-powerful being make sense? Is an all-knowing God compatible with human freedom? And is an all-powerful, all-knowing and perfectly good creator of the universe compatible with the existence of evil? Further questions concern God and morality. Is it true that if there is no God, then there is no right and wrong? The course will examine philosophical arguments for the existence of God, and question whether these arguments are sound.

10 credits
Philosophy of Science

Science plays an important role in modern society. We trust science on a day to day basis as we navigate our worlds. What is about science that makes it so trustworthy? Why is science a good guide for understanding the world? The aim of this half-module is to introduce some of the philosophical issues that arise in science and through reflecting on science. Most of the questions considered concern the epistemology of scientific knowledge and methodology: what are scientific theories, what counts as evidence for these theories, what is the relationship between observation and theory, is there a scientific method, what distinguishes science from other ways of understanding the world, and how does the social structure of science help or hinder science in studying the world. This module aims to introduce these questions as philosophical issues in their own right and within in the context of the history of the philosophy of science.

10 credits
Philosophy of Sex

Sex is one of the most basic human motivators, of fundamental importance in many people's lives, and a topic of enormous moral, religious, and political contention. No surprise, then, that it turns out to be of great philosophical interest. We will discuss moral issues related to sex' asking when we might be right to judge a particular sex act to be morally problematic; and what political significance (if any) sex has. We will also discuss metaphysical issues, such as the surprisingly difficult questions of what exactly sex is and what a sexual orientation is. Throughout our study, we will draw both on philosophical sources and on up-to-date contemporary information.

10 credits
Reason and Argument

Arguments are everywhere - in our newspapers, on our television screens and radios, in books and academic papers, on blogs and other websites. We argue with our friends, families, teachers and taxi drivers. These arguments are often important; they help us to decide what to do, what to believe, whom to vote for, what car to buy, what career path to follow, or where we should attend university (and what we should study). The ability to recognise, evaluate and produce arguments is therefore immeasurably valuable in every aspect of life.

This course will teach you how to recognise an argument, how to understand it, how to evaluate and criticise it, and how to produce your own. Students in this module will learn how to extract an argument from a complex text, how to uncover hidden assumptions, and how to recognise and critique bad reasoning

10 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

Learning

You'll learn through lectures, small group tutorials and seminars, 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

Assessment

You will be assessed through a portfolio of problem sets, lab work and other material, as well as exams, essays, lab reports and presentations.

Programme specification

This tells you the aims and learning outcomes of this course and how these will be achieved and assessed.

Find programme specification for this course

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:
AAA
including Maths and Physics

The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
AAB
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, with 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 | Access to HE Diploma in science: 60 credits overall with 45 credits at Level 3, including 39 credits at Distinction (all in Maths and Physics units), and 6 credits at Merit Access to HE Diploma in science: 60 credits overall with 45 credits at Level 3, including 36 credits at Distinction (all in Maths and Physics units) and 9 credits at Merit

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

Scientists in the Department of Physics and Astronomy are working on topics such as how to build a quantum computer, the search for dark matter and ways to combat antimicrobial resistance. They run experiments on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, and help to map the universe using the Hubble Space Telescope. They’ll guide you through the key topics in physics and give you a huge range of optional modules to choose from. 

The department is based in the Hicks Building, which has recently refurbished undergraduate teaching laboratories with all the equipment you need for your physics and astronomy training, as well as classrooms, lecture theatres, computer rooms and social spaces for our students.

There are also telescopes and a solar technology testbed on the roof, state-of-the-art laboratories for building super-resolution microscopes and analysing 2D materials, and the UK’s first Quantum Information Laboratory, where students can study the fundamental science behind the next technological revolution. It’s right next door to the Students' Union, and just down the road from the 24/7 library facilities at the Information Commons and the Diamond.

Facilities

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

Department of Philosophy

We pride ourselves on the diversity of our modules and the high quality of our teaching. Our staff are among the best in the world at what they do. They're active researchers so your lectures and seminars are informed, relevant and exciting. We'll teach you how to think carefully, analytically and creatively.

Our staff and students use philosophy to engage with real world issues. You will be able to use what you learn to make a difference in the community, through projects like Philosophy in the City, an innovative and award-winning programme that enables students to teach philosophy in schools, homeless shelters and centres for the elderly.

Our students run a thriving Philosophy Society and the only UK undergraduate philosophy journal. Our Centre for Engaged Philosophy pursues research into questions of fundamental political and social importance, from criminal justice and social inclusion to climate ethics, all topics that are covered in our teaching.

Philosophy changes our perspective on the world, and equips and motivates us to make a difference.

The Department of Philosophy is based at 45 Victoria Street at the heart of the University campus. We're close to the Diamond and the Information Commons, as well as Jessop West, which houses our fellow Arts & Humanities departments of History, English and Languages & Cultures.

Department of Philosophy

Why choose Sheffield?

The University of Sheffield

  A top 100 university 2022
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 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017


Department of Physics and Astronomy

Top ten in the UK for research output

Research Excellence Framework 2014


Department of Philosophy

96% overall student satisfaction

National Student Survey 2019

3rd in the Russell Group for student satisfaction

National Student Survey 2019


Graduate careers

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Our physics students develop numerical, problem solving and data analysis skills that are useful in many graduate jobs, including computer programming, software engineering, data science, and research and development into new products and services. Their expertise can be applied to many of the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, from developing renewable energy technologies and improving medical treatments to creating quantum telecommunications systems and exploring outer space.

Students who want to work as a physics researcher often do a PhD, which can lead to a career at a top university or a major international research facility such as CERN.

The University of Sheffield is part of the White Rose Industrial Physics Academy. This partnership of university physics departments and technical industries can set up collaborations between our students and industrial partners through internships, year in industry placements, final year projects and careers activities. WRIPA also organises the UK’s largest physics recruitment fair, where our students can meet potential employers.

Department of Philosophy

Studying philosophy will develop your ability to analyse and state a case clearly, evaluate arguments and be precise in your thinking. These skills will put you in a strong position when it comes to finding employment or going on to further study.

Our graduates work in teaching, law, social work, computing, the civil service, journalism, paid charity work, business, insurance and accountancy. Many also go on to study philosophy at postgraduate level.

Alex Barrows

The most fundamental skill I gained from my degree is how to approach an unfamiliar problem

Dr Alex Barrows MPhys Physics

After his undergraduate degree, which included an internship at BP, Alex did a PhD in our department and is now a research analyst in the photovoltaic industry.

Further information

OpenPlus entry with the Open University

On the OpenPlus scheme, instead of doing our standard first year, you study physics in your own time with the Open University, allowing you to combine work with your studies. Complete this successfully, and you can transfer directly onto the second year of one this degree programme.

Find out more on our OpenPlus webpage

Fees and funding

Fees

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

The University of Sheffield’s Experience Sheffield Scholarships includes a number of scholarships that are guaranteed to go to students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Department of Physics and Astronomy scholarships

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At various times in the year we run online taster sessions to help Year 12 students experience what it is like to study at the University of Sheffield.

Upcoming taster sessions

Applicant days

If you've received an offer to study with us, we'll invite you to one of our applicant days, which take place between November and April. These applicant days have a strong department focus and give you the chance to really explore student life here, even if you've visited us before.

Campus tours

Campus tours run regularly throughout the year, at 1pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Book your place on a campus tour

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    2022-2023