Undergraduate study - 2023 entry
Open to the world

BSc Computational Physics

UCAS code: F343

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Physics and Astronomy

College: Science and Engineering

Accreditation
Study abroad

Introducing BSc Computational Physics

The close relationship between physics and high performance computing worldwide is embodied in the Computational Physics degree course.

Most theoretical problems are now sufficiently complex that they cannot be solved by mathematics alone.

As experimentation becomes increasingly difficult and expensive, computer simulation has become established as the most practical way to understand complex phenomena such as:

  • turbulence
  • nuclear reactors and weapons
  • climate change

These are the areas where computational physicists already dominate. In the future, based on current recruitment patterns, the methods of Computational Physics will also come to dominate other areas such as:

  • financial markets
  • genomics
  • disease control

This physics-based programme is for students interested in computing, modelling and simulation. You will study:

  • programming
  • algorithms
  • problem-solving methodologies

You will receive a thorough education in Physics and the associated Mathematics, together with the ability to write computer programs to simulate natural systems.

The degree includes substantial practical experience, including the opportunity to use the University's world-class computing systems.

Accreditation

Accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP).

Year 1

You will study compulsory courses in physics, mathematics and computing.

Physics 1A presents the pillars of physics upon which subsequent material is based. This will develop your problem solving and study skills. The course is innovative in its use of technology and offers an interactive learning experience.

Physics 1B introduces you to a wide range of physics topics and how these impact our understanding of the universe, including:

  • waves
  • introductory quantum mechanics
  • nuclear and particle physics

This also includes an introduction to university laboratory work.

You will study Mathematics for Physics 1 and 2, which include mathematical and problem-solving skills in the context of algebra and calculus - with an increasing emphasis on physical applications.

Informatics courses will cover computation and logic, and functional programming.

Year 2

You will study modern physics and physics of fields and matter.

Supporting mathematics courses will cover:

  • algebra
  • calculus
  • dynamics and vector calculus

You will also be introduced to practical physics, including:

  • programming
  • data analysis
  • experimental techniques

You will also study a course in computer simulation.

If you enter the programme in Year 2 you will also take additional introductory courses in classical physics and mathematics.

You will have the freedom to choose one or two courses from other academic areas.

Year 3

You will study:

  • thermodynamics
  • statistical mechanics
  • electromagnetism
  • optics
  • quantum mechanics

We also offer:

  • a supporting mathematics course covering Fourier analysis, probability and statistics
  • a computing course on numerical algorithms
  • an introductory course to research methods

You will also undertake a quantum computing project.

Year 4

In this year there are a number of final compulsory courses covering:

  • relativity
  • nuclear and particle physics
  • condensed matter physics
  • quantum physics
  • statistical physics

You will have the opportunity to take a selection of specialist courses in computing and high-performance computing from the School of Informatics. You will also take part in project work.

Our facilities

In Year 1, teaching is based in the University's Central Area and in further years at the University's King's Buildings campus. The King's Buildings campus is around 15 minutes from central Edinburgh via bus.

During your first three years, you will use the School of Physics and Astronomy undergraduate laboratories, and the University's libraries and computer facilities. From Year 2 you will also have access to the Computational Physics Laboratory.

Take a virtual tour

You can take a closer look at the School of Physics and Astronomy and explore our facilities and campus on the University's Virtual Visit site.

Take a virtual tour of the School of Physics and Astronomy

Study abroad

You will have the opportunity to study abroad through international exchange programmes.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

You will be taught by specialists in the field through a combination of:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • practicals

These will fully exploit the latest teaching technology and help to develop your problem-solving skills.

From Year 3 you will also complete group projects and undertake research projects under the supervision of one of the School’s academic or research staff members.

How will I be supported?

You will be fully supported throughout your time in the School of Physics and Astronomy. There are two peer support schemes that enable new students to call on more experienced students:

  • The Physics Peer Mentoring Scheme pairs trained mentors (honours students) with pre-honours students to help them work on whatever area of study they would like to improve.
  • The Maths Buddies Scheme runs weekly study sessions focusing on support for maths questions and problems.

In addition, the School of Physics and Astronomy has year representatives for every year of each of our programmes, acting as a link between students and staff. The role of the representative is to ensure that students' views on academic matters are heard.

In the intermediate and advanced years, you will find you are a member of a relatively small and close-knit group of students.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment includes a combination of:

  • regular hand-ins
  • in-class assessments
  • online tests
  • end of semester examinations

Practical and computing courses have laboratory write-ups and checkpoint assessments.

Other courses are assessed by:

  • presentations
  • peer assessing each other’s work
  • writing critical reviews of scientific literature

Exams take place in December and May.

A wide range of employers recognise that physics graduates have advanced problem-solving skills and the ability to think logically and critically about complex situations.

The fact that they also have a high level of mathematical ability, IT proficiency and communication skills provides graduates with opportunities in a diverse range of careers.

Where our graduates work

Our recent graduates have gone on into employment with a wide variety of organisations, including:

  • Google
  • the European Space Agency
  • the BBC
  • IBM

Physicists are sought after by many sectors, including:

  • engineering
  • manufacturing
  • energy
  • finance
  • medicine
  • the space industries

Further opportunities for study

A number of our graduates undertake further study, including:

  • PhD research
  • a masters degree in a science or engineering subject
  • a postgraduate diploma in education

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: AAAAA - AAAB (achievement by end of S5 preferred). BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: AAA - ABB.
  • IB: 37 points with 666 at HL - 32 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: AABB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 32 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: Mathematics at A and Physics at B. Higher Applications of Mathematics is not accepted in place of Higher Mathematics. Advanced Higher Mathematics is recommended. National 5s: English at C.
  • A Levels: Mathematics at A and Physics at B. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: Mathematics (Analysis and approaches only) at 6 and Physics at 5. SL: English at 5.

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

Academic Technology Approval Scheme

If you are not an EU, EEA or Swiss national, you may need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme clearance certificate in order to study this programme.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme

For direct entry to second year the standard requirements must be exceeded, including the following:

  • SQA Advanced Highers: AAA to include Mathematics and Physics.
  • A Levels: A*AA in one set of exams to include Mathematics at A* and Physics.
  • IB: 38 points with 666 at HL to include Mathematics (Analysis and approaches only) and Physics at 6.
Other entry pathways

Entry to many degrees in Science & Engineering is possible via other qualifications (eg HNC/D, Access, SWAP).

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

SQA, GCSE and IB

For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • SQA Standard Grade at 3
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 54 in each component.

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

English language qualifications must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the degree you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

English language requirements

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for BSc Computational Physics

Additional costs

You should expect to purchase the necessary textbooks for some compulsory and option components of your programme.

Funding

For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding

More information

How to apply

School: Physics and Astronomy

College: Science and Engineering