Undergraduate study - 2020 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2019/2020

MChemPhys 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.
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 Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics (IoP). The MChemPhys degree satisfies the academic requirements for Membership of both the RSC and the IoP (MRSC, MIsnstP) and the respective Chartered designations (CChem, CPhys).
Final award: MChemPhys (Honours)
Programme title: Chemical Physics
UCAS code: F333
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s):

Chemistry, Physics

Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Dr S. Daff
Date of production/revision: October 2016

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 spanning the whole of the final year working at the cutting edge of the subject. Students may choose to undertake their projects either within a research group in Edinburgh, within the Chemistry or Physics departments of one of our partner universities overseas, or in an industrial or research institute laboratory in the UK or overseas.  A high proportion of our graduates progress to a higher degree, typically a PhD. Chemical physics graduates also find careers in petrochemical, pharmaceutical and nuclear industries, and in other key technology sectors; they also utilise their acute numerical, problem-solving 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 MChemPhys degree programme covers topics in all branches of the discipline from their fundamentals to the most advanced understanding and application. In the early years, there is a commitment to providing a solid foundation in the core subjects of chemistry, mathematics and physics. The additional year of study (compared to the corresponding BSc degree) provides the student with a more intense exposure to advanced knowledge, with a greater emphasis on methods of research and independent, critical thought. Greater leadership and organisational skills are fostered by extensive group-based learning and open-ended projects. In the final year, direct experience of research is engendered by an in-depth individual research project with a choice of location and context.

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 effective preparation for professional employment or doctoral studies in the physical sciences.
  • 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 physical sciences, leading from the fundamentals of chemistry, mathematics and physics, in the first two years, to the limits of existing knowledge in selected topics by the final year.
  • To provide students with an in-depth understanding of specialised areas of chemistry and physics and a critical awareness of advances at the boundaries between these disciplines.
  • To provide experience of the practical skills appropriate at each level of the curriculum together with a thorough knowledge of safe laboratory practice and the ability to plan and carry out experiments safely and independently, and to interpret and assess the significance of outcomes.
  • To develop transferable skills that maximise students??? prospects for future employment, including - writing, oral presentation, team-working, numerical and logical problem-solving, information technology skills, financial planning and time-management.
  • To provide students with the ability to adapt and apply methodology to the solution of unfamiliar types of problems.
  • To develop mature and determined attitudes, including the capacity for self-organisation and time management, via independent project work.
  • To develop self-confidence in students??? ability to apply their knowledge and skills in a professional research environment.

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 MChemPhys degree in Chemical Physics the graduate is exposed to two internationally-renowned research schools and undertakes an extended period of independent research. 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 take ownership of their learning and research experience by exercising rational enquiry, phrasing pertinent research aims and challenging scientific convention.
  • The capacity to plan, design and execute practical investigations, from the problem-recognition stage through to the evaluation and appraisal of results and findings (including the ability to select appropriate techniques and procedures).
  • Skills in the capture, interpretation and evaluation of chemical and physical 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.), showing not only a critical assessment of the existing research literature, but also an appreciation for contextualising their own research findings.

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

The knowledge and understanding gained during the MChemPhys 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 and creative 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 independent, well-considered and evidence-based conclusions, drawing on their own knowledge and experience.
  • Harness sophisticated 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 and individual research investigations, presentation skills and report writing, a graduate of the MChemPhys 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, storage and analysis, in order to illustrate their arguments most effectively.
  • Creates experimental reports, scientific posters and dissertations in accordance with current conventions.
  • Collaborates effectively, with an appreciation for both leadership and teamwork, to test and enhance their own knowledge and understanding.
  • 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 MChemPhys 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 in-depth understanding and sound analysis.
  • Engage effectively with the vibrant and multi-national research and teaching environment to enhance their academic experience and to appreciate their own contribution in this setting.
  • Develop an appreciation of not only the wider social, ethical and environmental responsibilities of a working chemist, but also the commercial and cultural benefits of scientific ventures.
  • Show creativity and flexibility in responding to their environments, by either initiating or managing change.

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

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

  • A deep 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 and advanced instrumentation such as that used for measuring chemical and physical properties of matter.
  • The ability to conduct risk assessments concerning the use of chemical substances and laboratory procedures.

Programme structure and features

Acquisition of knowledge and understanding is achieved mainly through lectures, laboratory classes, tutorials/workshops 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 four years of the course and through a substantial research project in the final year conducted either in an academic or industrial context.

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 MChemPhys (Honours) in Years 4/5 requires an average Year 3 mark at Grade C (50%) or higher. A student who fails to satisfy this criterion, but who achieves an average Year 3 mark at Grade D (40%) or higher, may progress to the final year of BSc (Honours) in Chemical Physics. In either case, students must also achieve an average of Grade D (40%) or higher in the Year 3 written courses in order to qualify for progression to Year 4.

Year 4: A range of advanced level lecture courses covering appropriate branches of chemistry and physics together with a research training course that builds the key skills for pursuing the final year research project.

Year 5: During Year 5 students undertake a research project of 120 credits spanning the full academic year.  They have the choice between three different locations/contexts for the project: (i) in Edinburgh under the supervision of an academic staff member in the Schools of Chemistry or Physics; (ii) overseas under the supervision of an academic staff member at one of a wide range of partner universities around the world; (iii) in industry or a government research institute, either in the UK or overseas. In each case the project includes a detailed literature survey and extended final report.

Chemical Physics (MChemPhys), F333

  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 Severable 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

Chemical Physics 4P (10,20), Introduction to Condensed Matter Physics (10,10), Lasers and Applications (11,10), Quantum Physics (10,10), Soft Condensed Matter Physics (10,10), Statistical Physics (11,10), Properties and Reactions of Matter (11,20), Advanced Topics in Chemical Physics (11, 20)

AND EITHER

Solid State Physics (10,10)

OR

Biological Physics (11,10)
  5

Chemistry/Chemical Physics Research Project (11, 120)

OR

Chemistry/ Chemical Physics International Research Project (11,120)

OR

Chemistry/ Chemical Physics Industrial Research Project (11,120)

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

Year 5

  • Extended final year research project in an academic (Edinburgh or overseas) or industrial (UK or overseas) setting
  • Chemical Physics research literature searching, reviewing and interpretation
  • Extended report writing
  • Oral presentation
  • Feedback sessions
  • Careers talks
  • Skills sessions
  • One to one meetings with personal tutors

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 is focused on seven research themes: Astronomy & Space Physics, Condensed Matter and Materials Physics, Energy, Nuclear & Plasma Physics, Particle Physics, Photonics, Physics and 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 149510
Year 242580
Year 341590
Year 432680
Year 532680

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

  • Written exercises
  • Oral presentations
  • Literature survey
  • Literature pr??cis
  • Practical work
  • Written examinations

Year 5

  • Research Project
  • Personal Attributes
  • Experimental Work
  • Project Report
  • Oral presentations
  • Project reports
  • Placement reports
  • Oral examination of placement report
  • Placement supervisor assessment

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 1701515
Year 2601030
Year 373027
Year 463334
Year 502080

Career opportunities

Chemical Physics 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. Many graduates choose further study, leading to an MSc, PhD or teaching qualification. The course also prepares students for a variety of other careers, including areas such as management, finance or IT.

Other items

Teaching of the MChemPhys degree 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 research environment. The high quality of research activity in the EaStCHEM research school and the School of Physics and Astronomy (both rated in the top 4 in the UK in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework) enables us to offer project work at the cutting edge of the subject. Excellent IT facilities for undergraduates are provided throughout the university.

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 in the School of Chemistry who each look after the interests of a group of students. Each student is attached to a particular PT, normally for the whole duration of their degree, and will see him/her on a regular basis for advice about their course and as a first point of contact in relation to any problems which may arise.