Undergraduate study - 2020 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2019/2020

BSc (Hons) in Chemical Physics

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution: The University of Edinburgh
Programme accredited by: The BSc degree is accredited by the Institute of Physics and is ‘recognised’ by the Royal Society of Chemistry. The degree satisfies the academic requirements for Associate Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (AMRSC).
Final award: BSc (Honours)
Programme title: Chemical Physics (BSc Hons)
UCAS code: F334
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Chemistry, Physics
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Dr S Daff
Date of production/revision: March 2014

External summary

Chemical Physics is the keystone interdisciplinary subject that lies at the apex of two major fields of physical science. Its range and compass are broad, from the fundamental physics of individual atoms and molecules through to soft and hard condensed matter physics, dealing with a spectrum of matter from the molecules of life through to the latest technological materials. A chemical physicist in the 21st century is armed with the tools to make significant contributions to a sustainable, secure and healthy future for the coming generations through the development of efficient renewable energy sources, smart materials and devices, and targeted medicinal therapies.

A Chemical Physics degree at Edinburgh provides the intellectual framework for understanding the properties of matter from fundamentals to the frontiers of current research. It also focuses strongly on the wide range of analytical and experimental skills necessary to practice the subject and provides insight into research via final-year research projects in research groups working at the cutting edge of the subject. Chemical physics graduates find careers in academia, petrochemical, pharmaceutical and nuclear industries, and in other key technology sectors; they also utilise their acute numerical and analytical skills in sectors such as IT, finance, marketing, or advertising. All the degrees include training, practice, and feedback in communication skills, team working, and exposure to the latest technology of scientific information retrieval and organisation.

Educational aims of programme

The BSc degree programme covers topics in all branches of the discipline from their fundamentals to the frontiers of modern knowledge in chemical physics. In the early years, there is a commitment to providing a solid foundation in the core subjects of chemistry, mathematics and physics. Throughout the programme, emphasis is placed on providing a broad and varied syllabus that not only reflects the multi-faceted nature of this science but also prepares students for future careers in industry, teaching or research. In the final year, direct experience of research is engendered by an in-depth individual research assignment. Alternatively, a final-year science education project and placement may be undertaken.

The aims of the degree programme are:

  • To kindle in students a sense of enthusiasm for chemical physics in all its aspects.
  • To provide students with a skills base from which they can proceed to graduate employment or to further study.
  • To produce well-rounded graduates with a thorough overall theoretical and practical understanding of chemical physics, and with a sense of moral and social responsibility in relation to its potential impact on society and the environment.
  • To instil an understanding and knowledge of chemical physics, leading from the fundamentals, in the first two years, to the limits of existing knowledge in selected topics by the final year.
  • To provide experience of the practical skills appropriate at each level of the curriculum together with a thorough knowledge of “safe laboratory practice” and an appreciation of the crucial importance of safety in experimental work.
  • To develop transferable skills that maximise students’ prospects for future employment, including writing and oral presentation skills, information technology skills, team-working, and numerical and logical problem-solving.
  • To develop mature and determined attitudes, including the capacity for self-organisation and time management, via independent project work.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

  • Knowledge and understanding of the method of design, execution and analysis of experimental and theoretical investigations in physical science.
  • The characteristics of the different states of matter and the theories used to describe them.
  • Quantum mechanics and its application to the description of the structure and properties of atoms and molecules.
  • Classical and statistical thermodynamics including applications to physical systems.
  • Electromagnetism, optics and the physics of diffraction.
  • Theories of chemical structure and bonding; the kinetics of chemical change.
  • The chemistry and physics of materials, including soft and hard condensed matter physics; relationships between bulk properties and the properties of individual atoms and molecules, including macromolecules.
  • The principles and techniques used in chemical analysis and the characterisation of chemical compounds, including structural characterisation by spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography.
  • Numerical and computational analysis.
  • An awareness of major issues currently at the frontiers of chemistry and physics research and development.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

By engaging with and completing the BSc degree in Chemical Physics, the graduate is exposed to two internationally-renowned research schools and undertakes an individual research project within a dynamic research group. In so doing, they develop:

  • The capability to apply the knowledge and understanding gained throughout the curriculum to the solution of qualitative and quantitative problems of a familiar and unfamiliar nature, both in science and in a wider context.
  • The ability to implement their scientific training to exercise rational enquiry and to compose pertinent research aims.
  • The capacity to execute practical investigations and evaluate and appraise results and findings (including the ability to select appropriate analytical techniques and procedures).
  • Skills in the synthesis, interpretation and evaluation of chemical information and data in terms of their significance and in their theoretical context.
  • The ability to conduct comprehensive literature reviews (using online journals, archives, etc) in order to contextualise their own research findings.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

The knowledge and understanding gained during the BSc degree, along with the emphasis that is placed on practical laboratory-based learning, results in a graduate that can demonstrate the ability to:

  • Adopt a flexible approach to reflect on different aspects of this broad science and the knowledge and skills that underpin all of them.
  • Understand and analyse critically different sets of data to reach well-considered, evidence-based conclusions, drawing on their own knowledge and experience.
  • Harness numerical, computational and experimental skills, which can be applied to problem-solving exercises relating to qualitative and quantitative information.
  • Display the confidence to work independently, taking responsibility for self-learning and committing to continual professional and personal development.
  • Transfer the knowledge and skills gained during their studies of chemical physics to other fields of science and beyond.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

By engaging and participating in the wide-ranging programme of study that includes small-group research investigations, presentation skills and report writing, a graduate of the BSc degree:

  • Is able to communicate effectively, demonstrating knowledge and understanding of essential concepts and theories, in writing and orally, to fellow students, researchers and academic staff..
  • Develops IT skills such as word-processing and structure drawing, data-logging and storage, in order to illustrate their arguments most effectively.
  • Creates experimental reports, scientific posters and dissertations in accordance with current conventions.
  • Demonstrates mature team-working skills, in order to produce well-balanced and well-substantiated solutions to scientific problems.
  • Seeks and values constructive feedback to further personal and professional development.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

In addition to the knowledge and understanding of the immediate degree discipline, the range of transferable skills developed during a BSc degree allows a graduate to:

  • Take responsibility for their own learning and prioritise effectively to complete tasks efficiently and safely.
  • Have the confidence to draw conclusions based on their knowledge and sound analysis.
  • Engage effectively with the vibrant and multi-national research environment to enhance their academic experience.
  • Develop an appreciation of the social, ethical and environmental implications of scientific research.
  • Show flexibility in responding to their environments by adapting appropriately to change.

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

A core learning outcome of the BSc degree is to train a skilled and confident practical chemical physicist. As such, a graduate is able to demonstrate:

  • An appreciation for the safe handling of materials, taking into account their physical and chemical properties, including any specific hazards associated with their use.
  • The conduct of standard laboratory procedures involved in experimental work.
  • Skills in the monitoring, by observation and measurement, of chemical and physical properties, events or changes, and the systematic and reliable recording and documentation thereof.
  • The operation of standard instrumentation such as that used for measuring chemical and physical properties of matter.

Programme structure and features

Acquisition of knowledge and understanding is achieved mainly through lectures, laboratory classes and project work. Lectures are assessed via formal 'unseen' examinations. In all courses understanding is reinforced by small group tutorials and/or by problem solving workshops. Written communication, report writing and IT skills are developed via laboratory reports, posters, essays and project reports. Oral presentation skills are acquired via formal presentations. Practical skills and an awareness of the safety aspects of laboratory work and risk-assessment are developed progressively over the first three years of the course and through a research project in the final year.

The figures in parenthesis following the course names in the outline degree programme below are the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) credit level and credit points. Further information can be found at http://www.scqf.org.uk/. Normally courses totalling 120 credits are studied in each year with the level progressing year by year.

Year 1/2:

Students undertake core courses in Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics. Students with appropriate qualifications may enter directly into Year 2.

Year 3:

Progression to BSc (Honours) in Year 4 requires an average Year 3 mark at Grade D (40%) or higher, including an average at Grade D (40%) or higher in the Year 3 written courses.

Year 4:

In the final year of the BSc Honours degree in Chemical Physics there

are four core lecture courses and the project and transferable skills courses.

Chemical Physics (BSc), F334

  Year Courses (credit points)
Entry point 1 1

Chemistry 1A (8,20), Chemistry1B (8,20), Physics 1A: Foundations(8,20),

Physics 1B: The Stuff of the Universe (8,20), Maths for Physics 1 (8,20),

Maths for Physics 2 (8,20)

Entry point 2 2

Chemistry 2 (8,40), Physics of Fields and Matter (8,20), Dynamics and Vector Calculus (8,20), Modern Physics (8,10) Linear Algebra and Several Variable Calculus (8,10), Practical Physics (8,20)

OR

Chemistry 2 (8,40), Physics of Fields and Matter (8,20), Dynamics and Vector Calculus (8,20), Classical and Modern Physics (8,20), Algebra and Calculus (8,20).

Note this set of options is for Direct Entry Chemical Physics students only.

  3 Chemical Physics 3S1 and 3S2 (9,40), CP3 Physical chemistry Laboratory (9,10), Fourier analysis (9,10), Statistical Mechanics (9,10), Electromagnetism (9,20), Quantum Mechanics (9,20), Computer Modelling (9,10)
  4 Properties and Reactions of Matter (10,20), Physics Skills (BSc) (10,10), Introduction to Condensed Matter (10,10), Team Review Project (10,10), Physical Techniques in Action (10,20), Atomic and Molecular Physics (10,10),  BSc ChemPhys Research Project/Transferable Skills Course (10,40)*.  [*Note: The Science Education Placement (10,40) course may be taken instead (subject to availability and selection by interview)]

 

Teaching and learning methods and strategies

Teaching and Learning strategies employed at the University of Edinburgh consist of a variety of different methods appropriate to the programme aims. The graduate attributes listed above are met through a teaching and learning framework (detailed below) which is appropriate to the level and content of the course.

Teaching and Learning Activities

In Year 1

  • Lectures
  • Laboratories
  • Tutorials
  • Seminars
  • Problem based learning activities
  • Peer group learning
  • Examples Classes
  • Feedback sessions
  • Careers talks
  • Skills sessions
  • One to one meetings with

    personal tutors/supervisors

In Year 2

  • Lectures
  • Laboratories
  • Tutorials
  • Seminars
  • Problem based learning activities
  • Peer group learning
  • Examples Classes
  • Feedback sessions
  • Careers talks
  • Skills sessions
  • One to one meetings with

    personal tutors/supervisors

In Year 3

  • Lectures
  • Laboratories
  • Tutorials
  • Seminars
  • Problem based learning activities
  • Peer group learning
  • Examples Classes
  • Feedback sessions
  • Careers talks
  • Skills sessions
  • One to one meetings with personal tutors/supervisors

Year 4

  • Lectures
  • Laboratories
  • Tutorials
  • Seminars
  • Problem based learning activities
  • Peer group learning
  • Examples Classes
  • Feedback sessions
  • Careers talks
  • Skills sessions
  • One to one meetings with personal tutors/supervisors

Facilities

The School of Chemistry

and the School of Physics and Astronomy are equipped with a wide range of state of the art facilities and instrumentation.

The Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews have formed EaStCHEM, the leading Chemistry research school in Scotland, and the largest in the UK. EaStCHEM researchers produced 75% of all world-leading outputs (4* maximum ranking) in Scotland. This level of excellence continues as indicated by recent awards for our researchers. EaStCHEM is also part of ScotCHEM, which strengthens links between the major Schools of Chemistry in Scottish Universities.

SUPA is a pooling of physics research and post-graduate education in 8 Scottish universities: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot Watt, St Andrews, Strathclyde and West of Scotland. SUPA, supported by the Scottish Funding Council, is focused on seven research themes: Astronomy & Space Physics, Condensed Matter & Materials Physics, Energy, Nuclear & Plasma Physics, Particle Physics, Photonics, Physics & Life Sciences

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. Some programmes also offer work placements.

At Edinburgh we use a range of teaching and learning methods including lectures, tutorials, practical laboratory sessions, technical workshops and studio critiques.

The typical workload for a student on this programme is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

The typical workload for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearTime in scheduled teaching (%)Time in independant study (%)Time on placement (%)
Year 150500
Year 242580
Year 341590
Year 436640

Assessment methods and strategies

Courses can be assessed by a diverse range of methods and often takes the form of formative work which provides the student with on-going feedback as well as summative assessment which is submitted for credit. 

In Year 1

  • Class tests
  • Online assignments
  • Laboratory reports
  • Multiple-choice tests
  • Written examinations

In Year 2

  • Class tests
  • Laboratory reports
  • Continual assessment
  • Essays
  • Written examinations

In Year 3

  • Class tests
  • Online assignments
  • Laboratory reports
  • Multiple-choice tests
  • Abstracting exercise
  • Problem-based learning
  • Oral presentations
  • Poster presentations
  • Written examinations

Year 4

  • Research Methods Exercise
  • Written exercises
  • Oral presentations
  • Literature survey
  • Literature précis
  • Personal attributes
  • Practical work
  • Reflective log
  • Project reports
  • Placement reports
  • Oral examination of placement report
  • Placement supervisor assessment
  • Written examinations

Assessment method balance

You will be assessed through a variety of methods. These might include written or practical exams or coursework such as essays, projects, group work or presentations.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearAssessment by written exams (%)Assessment by practical exams (%)Assessment by coursework (%)
Year 1681517
Year 2601030
Year 373027
Year 452345

Career opportunities

Chemistry graduates from the University of Edinburgh are highly regarded by local and international employers. Many graduates move into careers in the oil, chemical or pharmaceutical industries, in sales and marketing or research and development roles. Some graduates choose further study, leading to an MSc, PhD or teaching qualification. The course also prepares you for a variety of other careers, including areas such as management, finance or IT.

Other items

Teaching of the BSc degree in Chemical Physics is carried out jointly in the School of Chemistry and the School of Physics and Astronomy. Teaching in both Schools is carried out in a highly active and broad research environment. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise (RAE2008) the EaStCHEM research school of Chemistry was rated in the top 4 out of 32 Chemistry departments, and the School of Physics and Astronomy ranked in the top 6 out of 42 Physics departments in the UK.

The high quality of teaching within the School of Chemistry has been recognised by the University student body: in 2011 the School was the recipient of the EUSA Teaching Award for Best Department. Students in the School of Physics and Astronomy recorded an overall satisfaction level of 94% in the 2011 National Student Survey. Both Schools conduct a full annual review of Quality Assurance, and the procedures ensure the highest standards of teaching in the University.

Advice and support, both academic and in all areas of student life, is available via Personal Tutors. The latter are staff members who each look after the interests of a group of students. Each student is assigned to a

Personal Tutor, normally for the whole duration of their course, and will meet with the student on a regular basis to offer advice about their course and as a first point of contact in relation to any problems which may arise.