Students in the observatory

Research Projects

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 research. You will also develop a range of transferable skills such as team working, time and project management and communication skills, all of which are highly valued by employers.

Research in the Physics Department is structured into four divisions. Each division 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.

Examples of recent projects

Particle physics

Studies of cosmic rays, construction of low-cost radiation detectors and investigating the role of quantum mechanics in nuclear decays.

Industrial projects

Student teams worked with external organisations to investigate re-condensing gas-based anaesthetics to reduce waste, testing high-tech plastic films to improve the shelf-life of food and characterising technical non-woven fabrics for magnetic shielding.

Cosmology group project

Using cosmological constants and dark energy to solve the Age of the Universe problem.

Theory and theoretical physics with mathematics group project

Modelling the properties of electrons in crystal lattices (e.g. graphene), dynamics of vortices in superfluids and studies of particles obeying fractional statistics.

Third Year Group Projects

Students in their third year do more specialised group work in some of the research areas of the department, such as Theory, Space and Planetary Physics, Cosmology, and Particle Physics.

As part of our research-led teaching, students in their third year undertake group work in some of the research areas of the department. These all involved an open-ended investigation of a problem related to their degree specialism. 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): recent project examples include gamma spectroscopy, investigating the consequences of quantum mechanics in nuclear decay, cosmic rays, and weak interactions.
  • Industrial Group Projects (PHYS355): student teams work on a ‘real’ problem posed by a company or other external organisation. Recent examples include re-condensing gas-based anaesthetics to reduce waste and environmental damage, testing high-tech plastic films to improve the shelf-life of food, characterising technical non-woven fabrics for magnetic shielding and further development of a pump with no moving parts.
  • 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 modelling the properties of electrons in crystal lattices (graphene, topological insulators, Kitaev lattice), dynamics of vortices in superfluids and/or superconductors, and particles obeying fractional statistics.

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 or theoretical and should be relevant to your chosen degree theme.

Insight into Research

These projects will allow you to study a particular aspect of physics in depth. They will provide insight into 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 develop transferable skills highly valued by employers - such as independent study and thought, planning, time management, communication skills and experimental or theoretical research techniques.

A Choice of Topics

We offer a broad range of project topics based on our world-class research expertise. Students usually choose a set project topic, 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.

Project Report and The PLACE

You can work singly or in pairs on a project. Each student writes up the results of their project in an individual final report and presents their work to fellow students and staff members at The Physics at Lancaster Annual Conference and Exhibition (The PLACE) at the end of the summer term.

Since it comes after final exams, The PLACE is relaxed and fun, offering you a chance to develop presentation and communication skills in a friendly atmosphere. To help with this, the teaching of research communication skills, including professional poster design, is included in the fourth year project module.

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.

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