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 year 1 in which up to 4 students meet weekly with our staff for to cover mathematics and physics topics, and full year weekly discussion tutorials in years 1 and 2, 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 staff 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 offers a 'workshop' style introduction to experimental physics in semester 1, where we explore skills and techniques needed for practical laboratories.  In second semester students work in pairs and explore topics in optics, electronics and mechanics. This gives our students the opportunity to gain the fundamental skills that will allow them to carry out individual experiments in future years. Typically, there are 3 hours of timetabled laboratory work 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 students carry out an extended project. This offers our students the chance to demonstrate their skills, creativity, and critical thinking applied to a physics problem in a research environment over an extended period of time.  This project may be based around industry set problems or current research topics in physics and often allows exposure to research grade facilities based in our research laboratories. 

In the fifth year, our MPhys students continue to work on individual research projects in collaboration with 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 laboratories are also developed.

Year 2: Covers core topics such as optics, photonics, electronics, materials, thermal physics and astrophysics (Physics degree without specialism only).  Practical skills in problem solving, programming and experimental work 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. All students undertake an individual research project. Continuing MPhys students may have the oportunity to continue the project theme into year 5.

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.