We provide a friendly and informal atmosphere to support your studies. The smaller laboratory, tutorial, and class sizes (particularly in the later years of study) allow a high degree of interaction between students and staff.

Highly engaging environment

To help with your transition to University we run multiple group tutorials in the early years to offer you an excellent introduction to University study.  This includes small group tutorials in years 1 and 2 in which up to 4 students meet weekly with our staff for to cover mathematics and physics topics, and full year weekly discussion tutorials, that discusses topical material in physics, core skills for physicists and novel problems.

In addition to this, each student has a personal tutor who gives general advice and guidance throughout their studies at Heriot-Watt.

Lectures – what to expect

Each of our courses typically has 2-4 sessions per week (50 minute duration) in which the lecturers will spend their time explaining the course content, discussing topics, and working through sample problems.  Lectures are supported by complete on-line learning resources, which may include computer models and simulations, library and internet links, podcasts, past examination papers, and tutorial materials.  Tutorial sessions, arranged with assistance from our research staff and PhD students, offer the chance to ask questions and discuss topics in more detail.

Experimental Laboratories – what to expect

Experience in experimental physics is an important part of any Physics degree, and our teaching laboratories are specifically designed to train you in experimental techniques as well as supporting the concepts covered in the lectures.

Our first year laboratory covers topics in optics, electronics and mechanics. Working in pairs this laboratory gives the opportunity to gain the fundamental skills that will allow you to carry out individual experiments in future years. Typically there are 3 hours of lab timetabled per week.

The second and third year teaching laboratories allow you to develop your skills individually using more advanced experiments. Experiments include studies into radioactivity, dynamics, solar-cell efficiency, aerodynamics, interferometry, optical fibres, and electronics. Computer modelling and computer interfaced experiments form a part of many experiments. Typically 3 to 6 hours are spent per week in the laboratory, with additional time required to produce written reports, posters, and presentations.

Our fourth year MPhys students carry out more complex experiments in our ‘advanced laboratory’. This offers a range of experiments based around industry and research grade equipment offering you the opportunity to use the type of equipment that can be found in research labs. After this they continue to work in group research projects based on technical challenges initiated by our industrial collaborators.

In the fifth year, experimental labs in our MPhys degree are replaced with a 15-week research project where each student works in one of the department’s world-leading research groups.

Course structure

Year 1: The first year covers fundamentals of Physics - including mechanics, optics, waves, quantum physics and electrostatics. This is supported by core courses in mathematics and electronics.  Practical skills in computer and experimental labs are also developed.

Year 2: Covers core topics such as optics, photonics, electronics, materials, and thermal physics.  Practical skills in programming, experimental work and communication skills are also developed.

Year 3: Key topics include electromagnetism, relativity, quantum theory and solid state physics.  Practical experimental skills are developed in preparation for project work in Years 4 and 5.

Year 4: In addition to further physics topics there is an emphasis on project work. Graduating BSc (Honours) students undertake an individual research project, whereas continuing MPhys students are involved in group projects.

Year 5: (MPhys only) advanced physics topics, including quantum theory, biophotonics and relativity are considered along with an in-depth individual research project on one of our research groups.