Physics with Philosophy BSc2024-25 entry
Explore the deep philosophical questions raised by modern physics. You’ll cover most of the same topics as students on our standard physics courses, and choose from a wide range of philosophy topics.
Explore this course:
Explore the deep philosophical questions raised by modern physics, like what does quantum mechanics tell us about reality, and is our universe random, and does it matter?
Run in partnership with the Department of Philosophy, your dual degree in Physics with Philosophy BSc at Sheffield blends topics from across these rich and diverse subjects. You’ll understand motion and religion, electricity and ethics, magnetism, quantum mechanics, art and death.
In your first two years, you’ll do the essential physics that all of our students cover, and choose from a wide range of optional philosophy modules. 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’ll absorb skills that are key to modern physics and valuable in many graduate careers. And our Department of Philosophy staff encourage students to engage with real world issues, meaning what you learn can be applied to make a difference in the community.
Finally, in your third year, you can branch out into lots of different areas and complete your own research project in physics or philosophy – from astrophysics and dark matter, to free will and metaphysics – boosting your analytical, writing and presentation skills.
Why study this course?
- No. 1 physics department in the UK - 100% of our research and impact was rated world-leading or internationally excellent by REF 2021.
- Sociable departments - because you’ll be taught across two departments, you’ll have double the options when it comes to your social life. In philosophy, you could join the philosophy society or be involved in the only UK undergraduate philosophy journal. In physics you might choose to join the Sheffield Space Initiative, and design a Mars rover or launch a rocket.
- Top 100 in the world for philosophy in the QS World Rankings 2023 - learn from world-leading staff, teaching an exceptionally diverse range of modules.
- Follow your ambition - you have the options to complete a research project, industrial group project, Quantum Information Lab, or Physics Education and Outreach project – giving you hands-on experience wherever your career aspirations lie.
- Take on the big issues - work with the Centre for Engaged Philosophy, researching areas of fundamental political and social importance, from criminal justice and social inclusion to climate ethics.
Accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP) for the purpose of fully meeting the educational requirement for Chartered Physicist.
UCAS code: FV35
Core physics modules:
- Fundamentals of Physics
This module introduces the fundamentals of University Physics that are built on in later years of study. This includes the development of data analysis skills, laboratory skills, scientific report writing and communication along with the ability to analyse physics problems and solve them using pen and paper, experiment and computer programming. Key concepts in electromagnetism, classical mechanics, thermal physics, waves and oscillations and quantum mechanics will be studied and used to develop problem solving.50 credits
- Introductory Mathematics for Physicists and Astronomers
This module provides the necessary introductory level 1 mathematics for students taking physics and / or astronomy degrees except those taking theoretical physics degrees.20 credits
Topics will be covered in two equally weighted streams: Stream A: common functions of one variable, differentiation, series expansions, integration and ordinary differential equations. Stream B: basic complex numbers, vector manipulation, properties and applications of matrices.
- Further Mathematics for Physicists and Astronomers
This module provides the necessary additional mathematics for all students taking physics and/or astronomy degrees including those taking theoretical physics degrees. The following topics will be covered: introduce the students to vector calculus; elementary probability theory; ensure that the students have a thorough knowledge of how to apply mathematical tools to physical problems.10 credits
Core Philosophy module:
- 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 readings20 credits
Optional modules - students will take 20 credits from this group
- 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
This module is mainly about death itself . 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
- Mind and World
This module aims to introduce a range of topics from epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of mind. The module aims to outline some philosophical problems and topics from these areas, and in doing so show how these areas connect and thereby show how philosophical thinking can be unified and interconnected across these subjects.20 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.10 credits
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
- Ethics and Society
This module aims to introduce a range of topics from certain overlapping areas of philosophical research relating to normative and practical matters: in particular, dealing with ethical theory, applied ethics, moral theory, moral psychology, and politics. The module aims to outline some major philosophical problems and topics from these areas, while also showing how the underlying concerns of the areas are connected to broad underlying philosophical concerns.20 credits
- Classical and Quantum Physics
This module provides the core level 2 physics content for non-theoretical degrees. It integrates physics content with supporting mathematics and practical work. Transferable skills are covered via different presentation modes for lab work. A further item is employability. The module also contains one or more items of group work. Physics topics covered are classical physics and oscillations, thermal physics, quantum mechanics, properties of matter and electromagnetism. Mathematics topics are Fourier techniques and partial differential equations. Both mathematical topics are applied to a range of the physics covered and are integrated with aspects of the practical work.70 credits
To pass the module the following must all be satisfied:
1. Pass the Portfolio
2. Obtain an average mark over the 4 exams of 40% or greater
3. Submit all lab assignments and obtain an average mark of 40 or greater
Physics options – one from:
- Special Relativity & Subatomic Physics
Special relativity is a key foundation of modern physics, particularly in the contexts of particle physics and astrophysics where E = mc2 and relativistic speeds are crucial concepts. In this module, the fundamental principles of special relativity will be explained, emphasising the energy-momentum four-vector and its applications to particle collisions and decays. Applications to nuclear physics include nuclear mass and binding energy, radioactive decay, nuclear reactions, nuclear fission and fusion. We will also cover the structure of the nucleus (liquid drop model and an introduction to the shell model).10 credits
- Programming in Python
Teaching computer programming is a core aspect to our degree courses and is required by our accreditation body, the Institute of Physics. Python is a widely-available programming language that can be used to design powerful computer programmes suitable for scientific applications. In addition, Python is flexible, robust and is relatively easy to learn compared to other contemporary programming language. Python is also used widely in the computing industry and in research. The aim of this module is to teach the key elements of Python programming to enable students to design programs to perform tasks ranging from computational and numerical physics to data analysis and visualisation.10 credits
- Physics of Materials
This module provides an introduction to the physical properties of materials. Subjects covered include properties of liquids (surface tension, viscosity etc), solids (elastic properties, mechanical properties etc) and soft condensed matter.10 credits
- The Physics of Music
This module will provide an introduction to the physics of music building on physics covered in year 1 and semester 2 of year 2. The module will include the following topics: Recap of oscillations, waves and resonance, the human voice, physics of tuned and untuned percussion, musical pitch and timbre, Fourier analysis, musical scales, physics of stringed instruments, physics of wind instruments, electric instruments (based on electro-magnetic pickups and piezoelectric transducers), synthesizers (analogue and digital), sound recording and reproduction (analogue and digital), myths, legends, folklore and pseudoscience in acoustics.10 credits
- Physics with Labview
The module will teach Labview software, and allow students to experiment with instrumentation and basic electronics. These skills will be useful in further years of study, particularly with regard to the Level 3 and 4 projects. These skills are also useful in future employment in both academic and industrial science and engineering where being able to develop laboratory instrumentation to solve experimental problems will be highly desirable.10 credits
Philosophy options – two from:
- Reference and Truth
This module is an introductory course in the Philosophy of Language. The overall focus of the course will be on the notion of meaning. The first part of the course will attempt to shed light on the notion of meaning by investigating different accounts of the meanings of some types of linguistic expressions, in particular names (for instance 'Nelson Mandela') and definite descriptions (for instance 'the inventor of the zip', 'the first minister of Scotland'). We will then look at an influential approach to understanding what it is for words to have meaning and for people to mean things by their words, one due to Paul Grice. And we will examine the role and understanding of conventions and how someone can say something and yet communicate something very different from its conventional meaning. We will also explore the phenomena of 'implicature' where people can communicate more (or something different from) what they literally say.20 credits
- Philosophy of Mind
This module provides a survey of philosophical theories of the mind, looking at such questions as: How is consciousness possible? Why is it that vibrations in the air around us produce conscious experiences of particular auditory experiences in our minds? Why is it that electromagnetic waves hitting our retinas produce particular visual experiences in our minds? What makes our thoughts represent things in the world? What is it about your thought that cats have whiskers that makes it about cats and whiskers? What is it about your thought that there are stars in the universe too far away for any human to have perceived them that makes it about such stars? What is the relation between thoughts and conscious experiences and brain states? We'll look at a variety of answers to these and related questions and examine some of the most important and influential theories that contemporary philosophers have to offer.20 credits
- Formal Logic
The course will start by introducing some elementary concepts from set theory; along the way, we will consider some fundamental and philosophically interesting results and forms of argumentation. It will then examine the use of 'trees' as a method for proving the validity of arguments formalised in propositional and first-order logic. It will also show how we may prove a range of fundamental results about the use of trees within those logics, using certain ways of assigning meanings to the sentences of the languages which those logics employ.20 credits
How should we live? How should we conduct ourselves? What duties do we owe t9 other people? Are there certain things we should never do in any circumstances? If so what things are they? Do questions like the foregoing have determinate, correct answers? If so can we know what they are? If so, how? These questions and questions like them are the subject matter of ethics. We will be studying and thinking about such questions by engaging with classical and/or contemporary texts.20 credits
- Philosophy of the Arts
This module introduces students to a broad range of issues in the philosophy of art. The first half asks 'What is art?'. It examines three approaches: expression theories, institutional accounts, and the cluster account. This is followed by two critiques focusing on the lack of women in the canon and problems surrounding 'primitive' art. The evolutionary approach to art is discussed , and two borderline cases: craft and pornography. The second half examines four issues: cultural appropriation of art, pictorial representation, aesthetic experience and the everyday, and the nature of artistic creativity.20 credits
- The Rationalists
This module is an introduction to the major works of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Kant. Their work is both fascinating in itself and enormously influential today. The emphasis will be on topics in metaphysics and epistemology, such as whether there is a god, whether you and I are material or immaterial, whether the physical or even the mental world is real or apparent, whether anything could have been otherwise than it is, and what it is possible to know. Readings will be mainly from primary sources. Discussion will focus on philosophical problems rather than on historical context.20 credits
- Political Philosophy
We are citizens in a democratic capitalist society, we vote and choose our representatives and our government, our representatives make laws that we must then follow. We do not only obey the laws only for fear of being punished; we believe that our system of government is just, and that it is just for us to obey the laws. We believe that - by and large - we live in a just society. Do we? What justifies our system of government? Are there alternative possible relations, alternative forms of citizenship; alternative forms of government, alternative ways of organising a society? Is ours the only just one?20 credits
We will look at the history of political philosophy and explore various systems of citizenship, government and economic arrangements. Our main aim will be to understand how these different systems justify or legitimise the existence of government and its authority to make and enforce laws. We will also look at the more general notion of 'justice' that accompanies and grounds these systems of government.
Two side concerns will be:-
1. The relation between a philosopher's view of ethics and her political philosophy.
2. The relation between a philosopher's view of human nature and her political philosophy.
- Topics in Political Philosophy
This module will investigate a broad range of topics and issues in political philosophy and through doing so provide students with a broad understanding of those. It will include both historical and foundational matters and recent state of the art research.20 credits
- Theory of Knowledge
The aim of the course is to provide an introduction to philosophical issues surrounding the knowledge. We will be concerned with the nature and extent of knowledge. How must a believer be related to the world in order to know that something is the case? Can knowledge be analysed in terms of more basic notions? Must our beliefs be structured in a certain way if they are to be knowledge? In considering these questions we will look at various sceptical arguments that suggest that the extent of knowledge is much less than we suppose. And we will look at the various faculties of knowledge: perception, memory, introspection, and testimony.20 credits
Feminists have famously claimed that the personal is political. This module takes up various topics with that methodological idea in mind: the family, cultural critique, language. We examine feminist methodologies - how these topics might be addressed by a feminism that is inclusive of all women - and also turn attention to social structures within which personal choices are made - capitalism, and climate crisis .20 credits
- Ethics: Theoretical and Practical
There are some things we morally ought to do, ways we ought to live. Those of us who are not moral sceptics will agree so far. Indeed, we may even agree extensively about what we ought to do or how we ought to live. But why? Ethicists don't just ask what we ought to do. They also try to work out, as systematically as possible, what explains the demands, obligations and requirements that stem from morality. That is what this module will explore. Is morality all about promoting the well-being of humans and other creatures? Does it stem from the requirements of rationality? Is it aimed at achieving the distinctive kinds of excellence that creatures like us can attain?20 credits
This course is an introduction to metaphysics. It will focus on two general themes: whether we are material things, and the nature of time. Readings will be drawn mainly from recent and contemporary sources.20 credits
- Environmental Justice
This module will introduce students to contemporary philosophical discussions of environmental justice at the global level. Topics to be covered may include: The nature of global environmental injustices; responsibility for global environmental problems; the relationship between global environmental challenges and other historical and contemporary injustices; fair international sharing of the costs of environmental action; the justifiability of environmental activism; the rights of indigenous peoples; fairness in global environmental decision-making; and the politics of ‘geoengineering’ the planet.20 credits
- Religion and the Good Life
What, if anything, does religion have to do with a well-lived life? For example, does living well require obeying God's commands? Does it require atheism? Are the possibilities for a good life enhanced or only diminished if there is a God, or if Karma is true? Does living well take distinctive virtues like faith, mindfulness, or humility as these have been understood within religious traditions? In this module, we will examine recent philosophical work on questions like these while engaging with a variety of religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Daoism, Islam, and Judaism.20 credits
- Problem Solving in Physics
This module is a 'big picture' look at physics problem solving. The module develops techniques for solving unfamiliar problems in physics using mathematical and statistical methods.10 credits
This module is split into two halves: Statistics and data analysis (S1), and Physics Problem Solving (S2).
Statistics covers the basics of Frequentist vs. Baysian approaches and data analysis, and applies them to data analysis tasks from a wide range of physics. It also looks at common statistical mistakes and fallacies and examines how to present data graphically and in writing.
Physics Problem Solving uses weekly problems classes to examine how physics knowledge can be applied to unfamiliar (often 'real world') problems to obtain quick, rough, but sound and useful conclusions/answers (often known as the 'back of the envelope' approach to problem solving). Problems cover the full range of core physics, requiring identification of which aspect of physics is relevant to a particular problem.
Project modules – one from:
- Research project in Physics
The aim of this 20 credit module is to provide an opportunity for students to exercise and develop their skills and ability to undertake independent, albeit closely supervised, research in physics. A very wide selection of projects is provided, often arising from current research in the Department. Many are practical, others are essentially theoretical or interpretative or require the development of and running of computer programmes designed to simulate a variety of physical phenomena. Most projects are collaborative and encourage students to work in pairs. Assessment is based on individual written reports and oral examinations. These provide exercise in presentational skills.20 credits
- Industrial Group Project in Physics
PHY346 provides students with an industrial project where team working, planning, time management; presentation and report writing are integrated with science problem solving. The industrial client poses a problem that a group work on over two semesters to resolve. Interim and final presentations are made to the client and academic supervisors. Project work may use laboratory measurement and computational approaches as well as referencing leading research literature.20 credits
- Quantum Information Laboratory
This predominantly laboratory-based module provides a foundation in quantum optics experiments and associated theory. The quantum nature of light will be studied in core experiments involving single photon generation and detection, measurements of photon statistics and photon interference. Experimental activities will be supported by a series of lectures and problems classes. The link with quantum information research is made through research seminars from university research groups and companies, plus a 'journal club' where key scientific papers are presented and discussed. Transferable skills acquired will prepare students for higher study and employment in industries involving quantum technologies.20 credits
- Physics Education and Outreach
This 20-credit Extended Project unit is intended primarily for students considering a career in teaching, but may also be of interest to those wishing to pursue careers in science communication in general. The first half of the unit will introduce a range of topics including theory of learning and teaching, skills such as video editing, physics in the National Curriculum, and a range of hands-on exercises in science teaching and communication. Students will undertake a range of assignments related to the taught material, which may include lesson observations in schools, making videos or podcasts, radio broadcasts, writing popular articles or creating resources for schools. The second half consists of a 10-credit project: a wide range of schools and outreach-related topics are available.20 credits
Note that admission to this unit is subject to an interview and a DBS check. This is because parts of the unit require students to visit schools and interact with pupils.
Physics options – three from:
- Particle Physics
This Level 3 Physics half module introduces students to the exciting field of modern particle physics. It provides the mathematical tools of relativistic kinematics, enabling them to study interactions and decays and evaluate scattering form factors. Particles are classified as fermions - the constituents of matter (quarks and leptons) - or as bosons, the propagators of field. The four fundamental interactions are outlined. Three are studied in detail: Feynman diagrams are introduced to describe higher order quantum electrodynamics; weak interactions are discussed from beta decay to high energy electroweak unification; strong interactions, binding quarks into hadrons, are presented with the experimental evidence for colour. The role symmetry plays in the allowed particles and their interactions is emphasised.10 credits
- History of Astronomy
The module aims to provide an introduction to the historical development of modern astronomy. After a brief chronological overview and a discussion of the scientific status of astronomy and the philosophy of science in general, the course is divided into a series of thematic topics addressed in roughly chronological order. We will focus on the nature of discovery in astronomy, in particular the interplay between theory and observation, the role of technological advances, and the relationship between astronomy and physics.10 credits
- Atomic and Laser Physics
This module covers the physics of atoms and lasers at an intermediate level. The course begins with the solution of the Schrodinger equation for the hydrogen atom and the atomic wave functions that emerge from it. It then covers atomic selection rules, spectral fine structure and the effects of external fields. The spectra of selected multi-electron atoms are described. The basic operation of the laser is then covered by introducing the concepts of stimulated emission and population inversion. The course concludes with a description of common lasers and their applications.10 credits
- Dark Matter and the Universe
This course aims to provide students with an understanding of Dark Matter in the Universe from both the astrophysics and particle physics viewpoints. This course is split into two halves. The first half of the course is on the astrophysical evidence for Dark Matter, and the second half of the course is on the detection of candidate Dark Matter particles. The main teaching method is the standard 50-minute lecture, which is well suited to the delivery of the factual information in this course. This is backed up by a blackboard site containing copies of the lecture notes, lecture recordings, and non-assessed exercises.10 credits
The syllabus will include the astrophysical evidence for dark matter in the Universe, the search for dark matter candidates, including direct and indirect searches for Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs), the search for supersymmetry at the Large Hadron Collider, and axion searches.
- Solid State Physics
Covering the electronic properties of solids, this module details the classification of solids into conductors, semiconductors and insulators, the free electron model, the origin of electronic band structure, the fundamental electronic properties of conductors and semiconductors, carrier statistics, experimental techniques used to study carriers in a solid, and the classification and physics of the principal types of magnetism.10 credits
- Introduction to Soft Matter and Biological Physics
Soft matter includes materials with properties between those of solids and liquids, for example plastics, gels, soaps, foods, biological cells and tissues. The behaviour of these complex materials depends on elegant physical principles determining the interactions within and between molecules. Using these physical principles we will explore molecules essential to life, such as proteins and DNA, and materials key to technology, such as polymers.We will start by defining what is soft matter by considering states of matter and the relevant length, time and energy scales. Next we will describe the important intramolecular and intermolecular interactions. Statistical mechanics models will enable us to predict bulk properties from molecular parameters. We will introduce experimental measurements and imaging techniques that are used to investigate soft matter and biological systems. We will introduce polymers and key properties of polymers such as viscoelasticity. We will introduce essential biopolymers including DNA and proteins.10 credits
We will provide an introduction to systems of interest, for example polymer materials, colloids, liquid crystals or membranes and discuss their properties and assembly.
- Nuclear Physics
This half-module Level 3 Physics course aims to study the general properties of nuclei, to examine the characteristics of the nuclear force, to introduce the principal models of the nucleus, to discuss radioactivity, to study nuclear reactions, in particular fission and fusion, and to develop problem solving skills in all these areas. The motivation is that nuclear processes play a fundamental role in the physical world, in the origin of the universe, in the creation of the chemical elements, as the energy source of the stars and in the basic constituents of matter - plus the best of all motives - curiosity.10 credits
- Introduction to Cosmology
Cosmology is the science of the whole Universe: its past history, present structure and future evolution. In this module we discuss how our understanding of cosmology has developed over time, and study the observed properties of the universe, particularly the rate of expansion, the chemical composition, and the nature of the cosmic microwave background, can be used to constrain theoretical models and obtain value for the parameters of the now-standard Hot Big Bang cosmological model.10 credits
- Physical Computing
Digital circuits underpin our modern lives, including the acquisition and processing of data for science. In this course we will study the fundamental building blocks of digital processing circuits and computers. We will learn to describe circuits using the language VHDL, and how to program computers using the hardware-oriented high level language C. We will build interesting and useful digital architectures, and apply the skills we have acquired in laboratory exercises.10 credits
Is anybody out there? In this module we explore how we hope to find alien life in the near future and discuss what this might be like and where we should be looking. We critically examine ideas about the frequency of life, advanced life, and technological civilisations in the universe.10 credits
- Mathematical Physics
Linear algebra: matrices and vectors; eigenvalue problems; matrix diagonalisation; vector spaces; transformation of basis; rotation matrices; tensors; Lie groups; Noether's theorem. Complex analysis: analytic functions; contour integration; Cauchy theorem; Taylor and Laurent series; residue theorem; application to evaluating integrals; Kronig-Kramers relations; conformal mapping; application to solving Laplace's equation.10 credits
- Advanced Programming in Python
Python is a widely-available programming language that can be used to design powerful computer programmes suitable for scientific applications. Python is also used widely in the computing industry and in research. This module builds on the basic introduction provided in PHY235/PHY241 by introducing advanced concepts such as defensive programming, classes, program design and optimisation. This teaching will be underpinned with a series of projects which will furnish the students with the ability to design complex Python scripts to address a wide variety of problems including those involving analysis of 'big data with emphasis on presentation of results using advanced visualisation methods.10 credits
- Statistical Physics
Statistical Physics is the derivation of the thermal properties of matter using the under-lying microscopic Hamiltonians. The aims of this course are to introduce the techniques of Statistical Mechanics, and to use them to describe a wide variety of phenomena from physics, chemistry and astronomy.10 credits
- Physics in an Enterprise Culture
This is a seminar and workshop based course where students will create a proposal for a new business. Seminars will cover topics such as innovation, intellectual property, costing and business planning. Workshops will support students to develop ideas and communicate them effectively. This module gives students an opportunity to develop a business proposal, using their physics knowledge as a starting point. The module starts with a series of seminars and workshops designed to help students come up with possible new ideas for products or services that they are interested in developing further. Further seminars formalise how business ideas are tested to ensure that basic assumptions about customers and markets are sensible and also guidance is given in terms of how to estimate the costs and revenues associated with the idea. Finally seminars to support writing the idea into a proposal are given. Evaluation of ideas using peer feedback is a key part of the module and midway through a review panel is organised to give an opportunity for students to formally evaluate other ideas to help them develop their own.10 credits
- Semiconductor Physics and Technology
This module builds on the core solid state physics modules to provide an introduction to semiconductor electronic and opto-electronic devices and modern developments in crystal growth to produce low dimensional semiconductor structures (quantum wells, wires and dots). Band structure engineering, the main physical properties and a number of applications of low dimensional semiconductor structures are covered.10 credits
- Origin of the Chemical Elements
This course looks at the origin, distribution and evolution of the chemical elements, which are created in the early Universe, during the life cycles of stars and in the interstellar medium.The main teaching method is the standard 50-minute lecture, which is well suited to the delivery of the factual information in this course. This is backed up by a blackboard site containing copies of the lecture notes, lecture recordings, and non-assessed exercises. Syllabus includes topics such as: Experimental evidence for elemental abundances; Observational evidence for elemental abundances; Primordial nucleosynthesis; Stellar nucleosynthesis; Neutron capture Supernovae and kilonovae; Cosmic rays.10 credits
Philosophy options –2 or 3 from:
- Ancient Chinese Philosophy
This course will introduce students to ancient Chinese Philosophy through a study of some of it classical texts.20 credits
- Advanced Political Philosophy
This module will investigate a broad range of topics and issues in political philosophy and explore these questions in some detail. It will include both historical and foundational matters and recent state of the art research.20 credits
- Utopia, Reform and Democracy
Humanity faces a recurrent political challenge: the task of steering itself towards a sustainable and just future. A crucial part of this challenge involves developing a vision of change, of an achievable good society: a vision of the harbour we are aiming for as we sail through these troubled waters. But how are those visions to be enacted in the world? What theories of change lay at the heart of various philosophical visions? This module will introduce students to some of the major schools of thought - historical and contemporary - regarding the relationship between social theory and political practice.20 credits
- Topics in Social Philosophy
This module will introduce students to some contemporary issues in social philosophy.20 credits
- Global Justice
What are the demands of justice at the global level? On this module we will examine this question from the perspective of analytic Anglo-American political philosophy. We will start by looking at some debates about the nature of global justice, such as whether justice demands the eradication of global inequalities. We will then turn to various questions of justice that arise at the global level, potentially including: how jurisdiction over territory might be justified; whether states have a right to exclude would-be immigrants; whether reparations are owed for past international injustices such as colonialism; and how to identify responsibilities for combatting global injustice.20 credits
- Philosophical Project 1
A variety of topics will be set. For each topic, a short list of key readings is provided. Having chosen a topic, a short list of key readings is provided. Having chosen a topic, students are expected to master the readings, and the supplement them with at least two other pieces of relevant literature and they have used the available library and web resources to uncover. They then, having agreed a title with a tutor assigned to them for the module, write an extended essay that identifies the central issue (or issues) under discussion, relates the various responses to that issue found in the literature, evaluates those contributions, and goes some way to identifying a satisfactory resolution of the issue.20 credits
- Free Will & Religion
This module focuses on philosophical questions about the relationship between free will and theistic religions. It has often been claimed that adherents of these religions have significant motivations to affirm an incompatibilist conception of free will according to which free will is incompatible with determinism. Incompatibilist conceptions of free will, it has been argued, have benefits for the theist such as enabling them to better account for the existence of moral evil, natural evil, divine hiddenness, and traditional conceptions of hell. Yet, on the other hand, it has been argued that there is a significant tension between theistic religions and incompatibilist conceptions of free will. For example, there are tempting arguments that an incompatibilist conception of free will makes trouble for affirming traditional views about God's omniscience, freedom, and providence. We will engage in a critical examination of these and related arguments.20 credits
Update short/full description: The course will focus on metaphysical themes of perennial interest such as parts and wholes, the nature of people, and the passage of time. Readings will be drawn mainly from recent and contemporary sources. Lectures are shared with PHI225, and students who have taken that module may not take this one.20 credits
- Work Place Learning
This module involves a work placement of 35-70 hours with a local organisation (voluntary or commercial sector). You will experience firsthand the practical challenges and problems facing the organisation. You will learn about the organisation's overall aims, and the various methods and strategies employed to accomplish those aims. You will draw on the concepts and theoretical frameworks studied in your other philosophy modules to identify a philosophical issue relevant to the organisation's work or goals, and to write a piece or pieces of coursework addressing that issue; or you will be able to use the skills and knowledge you have gained in your other philosophy modules to analyse a problem of philosophical interest faced by the organisation or encountered in the course of your employment. You will have two meetings together with other students in the module to discuss your work placement and formulate ideas for your written coursework. You will have a further individual meeting with the module convener or an appropriate supervisor from the Department of Philosophy to discuss the progression of the coursework.20 credits
At the end of the module, you should have:
the ability to apply ideas from your other philosophy modules in rigorously assessing the challenges facing organisations like the one you worked for, and interrogating potential solutions to them
insight into the practical application of theoretical issues in philosophy
practical experience that will make you a strong candidate for jobs in the sector you worked in.
This module introduces students to Phenomenology - a philosophical tradition in continental European philosophy, which is closely related to Existentialism. Phenomenology seeks to understand the human condition. Its starting-point is everyday experience, where this includes both mundane and less ordinary forms of experience such as those typically associated with conditions such as schizophrenia. Whilst Phenomenology encompasses a diverse range of thinkers and ideas, there tends to be a focus on consciousness as embodied, situated in a particular physical, social, and cultural environment, essentially related to other people, and existing in time. (This is in contrast to the disembodied, universal, and isolated notion of the subject that comes largely from the Cartesian tradition.) There is a corresponding emphasis on the world we inhabit as a distinctively human environment that depends in certain ways on us for its character and existence. Some of the central topics addressed by Phenomenology include: embodiment; ageing and death; the lived experience of oppression; human freedom; our relations with and knowledge of, other people; the experience of time; and the nature of the world. In this module, we will discuss a selection of these and related topics, examining them through the work of key figures in the Phenomenological Movement, such as Edmund Husserl, Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Frantz Fanon, and Edith Stein.20 credits
- Philosophy of Psychology
This course provides an in-depth look at a selection of issues in contemporary philosophy of psychology. Philosophy of psychology is concerned with such questions as : What is the structure and organisation of the human mind? Is the mind one big homogenous thing, or is it made up of smaller interacting components? If it has components, what sort are they and how are they interrelated? What aspects of our minds are uniquely, or distinctively human? What is the cognitive basis for such capacities as our capacity for language, rationality, science, mathematics, cultural artefacts, altruism, cooperation, war, morality and art? To what extent are the concepts, rules, biases, and cognitive processes that we possess universal features of all human beings and to what extent are they culturally (or otherwise) variable? Do infants (non-human) animals, and individuals with cognitive deficits have minds, and if so, what are they like? To what extent are these capacities learned as opposed to innately given? How important is evolutionary theory to the study of the mind? What is the Self? What are concepts? Is all thought conceptual? Is all thought conscious? What is consciousness? This course will discuss a selection of these and related issues by looking at the work of philosophers, psychologists, and others working within the cognitive sciences more generally.20 credits
- Philosophical Problems 1
The detailed content of this course will vary from year to year depending upon the member of staff teaching it. For details contact the Department of Philosophy.20 credits
- Philosophical Project 2
A variety of topics will be set. For each topic, a short list of key readings is provided. Having chosen a topic, students are expected to master the readings, and to supplement them with at least two other pieces of relevant literature that they have used the available library and web resources to uncover. They then, having agreed a title with the tutor assigned to them for the module, write an extended essay that identifies the central issue (or issues) under discussion, relates the various responses to that issue found in the literature, evaluates those contributions, and goes some way to identifying a satisfactory resolution of the issues.20 credits
- Philosophy of Law
Law is a pervasive feature of modern societies and governs most aspects of our lives. This module is about some of the philosophical questions raised by life under a legal system. The first part of the module investigates the nature of law. Is law simply a method of social control? For example, the group calling itself Islamic State issued commands over a defined territory and backed up these commands with deadly force. Was that a legal system? Or is law necessarily concerned with justice? Do legal systems contain only rules or do they also contain underlying principles? Is 'international law' really law?20 credits
The second part of the module investigates the relationship between law and individual rights. What kinds of laws should we have? Do we have the moral right to break the law through acts of civil disobedience? What is the justification of punishment? Is there any justification for capital punishment? Are we right to legally differentiate between intended crimes (like murder) and unintended crimes (like manslaughter), or does this involve the unjustified punishment of 'thought crime'? Are we right to legally differentiate between murder and attempted murder, despite the fact that both crimes involve the same intent to kill?
- Pain, Pleasure, and Emotions
Affective states like pain, pleasure, and emotions have a profound bearing on the meaning and quality of our lives. Chronic pain can be completely disabling, while insensitivity to pain can be fatal. Analogously, a life without pleasure looks like a life of boredom, but excessive pleasure seeking can disrupt decision-making. In this module, we will explore recent advances in the study of the affective mind, by considering theoretical work in the philosophy of mind as well as empirical research in affective cognitive science. These are some of the problems that we will explore: Why does pain feel bad? What is the relation between pleasure and happiness? Are emotions cognitive states? Are moral judgments based on emotions? Can we know what other people are feeling?20 credits
- Moral Theory and Moral Psychology
This course examines the relationship of moral theory and moral psychology. We discuss the relationship of science and ethics, examine the nature of self-interest, altruism, sympathy, the will, and moral intuitions, explore psychological arguments for and against familiar moral theories including utilitarianism, virtue ethics, deontology and relativism, and confront the proposal that understanding the origins of moral thought 'debunks' the authority of ethics. In doing so, we will engage with readings from historical philosophers, including Hobbes, Butler, Hume, Smith, Kant, Mill, Nietzsche and Moore, as well as contemporary authors in philosophy and empirical psychology.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.
Learning and assessment
You'll learn through lectures, small group tutorials and seminars, programming classes, practical sessions in the lab and research projects.
You will be assessed through a portfolio of problem sets, lab work and other material, as well as exams, essays, lab reports and presentations.
This tells you the aims and learning outcomes of this course and how these will be achieved and assessed.
With Access Sheffield, you could qualify for additional consideration or an alternative offer - find out if you're eligible.
The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
including Maths and Physics + pass in the practical element of any science A Levels taken
- A Levels + a fourth Level 3 qualification
- ABB, including Maths and Physics + B in a relevant EPQ
- International Baccalaureate
- 34, with 6, 5 (in any order) in Higher Level Maths and Physics
- BTEC Extended Diploma
- Not accepted
- BTEC Diploma
- Not accepted
- Scottish Highers + 2 Advanced Highers
- AABBB + AB in Maths and Physics
- Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels
- B + AA in Maths and Physics
- Access to HE Diploma
- Award of Access to HE Diploma in Science, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 36 at Distinction (all in Maths/Physics units), and 9 at Merit
The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
including Maths and Physics + pass in the practical element of any science A Levels taken
- A Levels + a fourth Level 3 qualification
- ABB, including Maths and Physics + B in a relevant EPQ
- International Baccalaureate
- 33, with 5 in Higher Level Maths and Physics
- BTEC Extended Diploma
- Not accepted
- BTEC Diploma
- Not accepted
- Scottish Highers + 2 Advanced Highers
- ABBBB + AB in Maths and Physics
- Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels
- B + AB in Maths and Physics
- Access to HE Diploma
- Award of Access to HE Diploma in Science, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 30 at Distinction (all in Maths/Physics units), and 15 at Merit
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
If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.
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.
Department of Physics and Astronomy
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.
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 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.
Why choose Sheffield?
The University of Sheffield
Number one in the Russell Group
National Student Survey 2023 (based on aggregate responses)
92 per cent of our research is rated as world-leading or internationally excellent
Research Excellence Framework 2021
Top 50 in the most international universities rankings
Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023
Number one Students' Union in the UK
Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023, 2022, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017
Number one for teaching quality, Students' Union and clubs/societies
StudentCrowd 2023 University Awards
A top 20 university targeted by employers
The Graduate Market in 2023, High Fliers report
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Research Excellence Framework 2021
Department of Philosophy
National Student Survey 2021
National Student Survey 2021
Fees and funding
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.
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.
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.
Placements and study abroad
With our third year Work Place Learning module, you can spend time with an organisation from the Sheffield voluntary or private sector, gaining skills and experience relevant to philosophy in an applied setting. You can also take part in the award-winning Philosophy in the City group, which introduces school children to philosophical ideas they can apply to everyday life. All of these experiences will help you build a compelling CV.
University open days
We host five open days each year, usually in June, July, September, October and November. You can talk to staff and students, tour the campus and see inside the accommodation.
If you’re considering your post-16 options, our interactive subject tasters are for you. There are a wide range of subjects to choose from and you can attend sessions online or on campus.
Offer holder days
If you've received an offer to study with us, we'll invite you to one of our offer holder days, which take place between February and April. These open days have a strong department focus and give you the chance to really explore student life here, even if you've visited us before.
Our weekly guided tours show you what Sheffield has to offer - both on campus and beyond. You can extend your visit with tours of our city, accommodation or sport facilities.
The awarding body for this course is the University of Sheffield.
Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.
Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.