Students in the observatory

Research Projects

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Projects in Physics

Throughout your degree you will have the opportunity to undertake exciting research projects, solving a real problem on a topic of your choice whilst being supervised by expert researchers.

Throughout your course, you will complete a succession of projects, commencing with a computer project in Year Two and progressing to open-ended research projects of increasing complexity in the following years.

This includes a group project on a current research topic in Year Three, and an extensive individually supervised research project in the final year of the MPhys/MSci programmes. The topics are closely connected to our broad portfolio of world-leading research and provide you with an opportunity to make an active contribution to actual, current research. These projects also help you to develop a range of transferable skills such as team working, time and project management, and written and oral communication skills, all of which are highly valued by employers.

Research in the Physics Department is structured into four groups. Each major research group has a team of research-active staff at the forefront of their respective fields. We place great importance on bringing this research into our undergraduate teaching, and into our schools and public engagement programme.

Third Year Group Projects

As part of our research-led teaching, students in their third year undertake group project work. We offer six different group project modules, spanning the research areas of the department. These all involve an open-ended investigation of a problem related to a student’s degree specialism and optional pathway. The problem may be defined either by stating the broad requirements of a solution within certain constraints or by posing an open-ended question related to a physical phenomenon. Projects vary from year-to-year and depend on the research interests of the module leaders that year.

The group project modules are:

  • Particle Physics Group Project (PHYS353): student groups have access to the array of particle detectors in our particle physics laboratory as well as precision datasets from international observatories like CERN. Examples of recent projects include observations of cosmic-ray particles from outer space, measurements of trace gamma radiation from a range of rock samples, and studies of exotic baryons detected by bubble chambers.
  • Industrial Group Projects (PHYS355): student teams work on a ‘real’ problem posed by a company or other external organisation. Recent examples include building a demonstration of a community solar panel scheme, comparing simulations of radio signal strength to real-world results, investigating conformal LED coatings for high-specification applications, and the analysis of conductive nonwovens for resistive heating of wind turbine blades.
  • Cosmology Group Project (PHYS364): a recent example involved investigating the use of cosmological constants and dark energy to solve the Age of the Universe problem.
  • Theory and Theoretical Physics with Mathematics Group Project (PHYS379): examples of recent projects include cellular automata for modelling the spread of Covid-19, machine learning, simulating quantum computers, chaos and topology.
  • Astrophysics Group Project (PHYS369): student groups work on projects based on state-of-the-art astrophysics and space physics data collected with telescopes and space missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope and Cassini-Huygens mission Recent projects have explored galaxy evolution, active galactic nuclei, moon-planet interactions, and planetary aurorae.
  • Quantum Technology Group Project (PHYS382): in this newly introduced module, student teams will use benchtop experiments and simulations to investigate quantum phenomena with direct technological applications. Example topics include exploring the dynamics of electron spins and conducting experiments into quantum optics.

MPhys Projects

If you are a four-year MPhys or MSci student you will undertake a major project in your final year, with expert guidance from a member of staff who will act as your project supervisor. Project topics can be experimental, numerical or theoretical and should be relevant to your chosen degree theme, optional pathway, and interests.

Insight into Research

These projects will allow you to study a particular aspect of physics in depth. They will provide insight into and first-hand experience of physics research and provide excellent training for those who want to pursue a research career in academia or industry.

Transferable Skills

Working on a project will also help you to further develop transferable skills highly valued by employers - such as independent study and thought, planning, time management, communication skills and experimental, numerical or theoretical research techniques. Each student will write up the results of their project individually in a final report. They will then present their work to their fellow students and staff members at The Physics at Lancaster Annual Conference and Exhibition gaining invaluable experience in written and oral communication skills.

A Choice of Topics

We offer a broad range of project topics based on our world-class research expertise. Students usually choose a project topic proposed by one of our expert staff, but you can also suggest your own, subject to there being a suitable project supervisor specialised in the field. Projects are usually related to the current research interests of the project supervisor and often uncover new results, occasionally leading to a publication in a scientific journal. Some projects are conducted in collaboration with industry or other external agencies.

Enjoyable and Rewarding

It is not surprising that graduates often describe project work as the most useful, enjoyable, and rewarding part of their degree course, and that many stay on to study for a doctorate in the same field as their project.

The Physics at Lancaster Annual Conference and Exhibition (The PLACE)

Third and fourth year students gain invaluable experience in presentation skills at The Physics at Lancaster Annual Conference and Exhibition (The PLACE). The PLACE is a relaxed and fun event held near the end of summer term with the audience composed of academic staff and fellow students. In addition to presenting your work, you'll have a chance to interact with industry exhibitors. Each third-year student presents a talk based on their group project work. Fourth-year students present a talk and poster on their MPhys/MSci research.