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Theoretical physics

B.A.; 4 years full-time; 40 places; 550

What is Theoretical physics?

Theoretical Physics explores the natural world at its most fundamental level, using mathematical theories guided by experimental investigation. For some it is the foundation for an academic career in mathematics or physics. For others it provides the basis for many career options in industry, medicine, law, finance and computing. Trinity provides a course which ranges widely across physics and mathematics. Its graduates are in demand for their technical skills and versatility.

Is this the right course for you?

If you enjoy mathematics and seeing how physical theories can be developed to unlock the secrets of the universe on every scale from the quark to the Big Bang, you will be stimulated by this course. If you want to keep a wide range of options open for the future, you can do this in Theoretical Physics. It consistently attracts a spirited and talented class that makes the most of the Trinity experience.

Why study Theoretical Physics at Trinity?

Trinity is a world renowned university for physics and mathematics with a long tradition of excellence in teaching and research. The course offers a unique mixture of pure and applied mathematics and physics courses taught by faculty with international reputations in their research fields. There are excellent facilities, for example the School of Physics has individual Junior Freshman (first year), Senior Freshman (second year) and Sophister (third and fourth year) labs. Additionally, the School of Physics is affiliated with and has access to state of the art research facilities within CRANN (the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices) and the advanced microscopy lab (AML).

In the School of Mathematics students will be taught by active researchers working in areas of theoretical physics, such as string theory, quantum field theory and general relativity, as well as pure mathematicians. The School of Mathematics provides its own computing network comprising a dozen linux machines acting as servers and about 60 workstations for undergraduates and staff. In addition, the school boasts the finest mathematics research library in Ireland, with over sixteen thousand books and a current subscription to over one hundred journals.

Assessment for courses is through a mixture of homework, laboratory reports, presentations and end-of-year exams.

What will you study?

The course combines much of the mathematics and physics curricula, including several modules specifically designed with the Theoretical Physics programme in mind. The final year includes a project which is carried out working closely with individual faculty members to develop an original piece of research.

First and Second (Freshman) Years

40 credits maths, 20 credits physics


  • Algebra
  • Analysis
  • Mechanics
  • Equations of Mathematical Physics


The teaching of physics is divided into two modules (each of 10 credits) in each of the Freshman years and 5 credit lecture and 10 credit practical/project modules in the Sophister years

Topics in both classical and modern physics are taken:

The Physics of Motion, Thermal Physics, Oscillations and Waves, Optics, Materials, Quantum physics, Nuclear Physics, Electromagnetic interactions, Special Relativity, Chaos and Complexity, Astrophysics.

There are laboratory classes and group study projects

Third (Junior Sophister)

30 credits Maths, 30 credits Physics


  • Classical Field Theory and Electrodynamics
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Statistical Physics


  • Atomic and Nuclear Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics I
  • Condensed Matter Physics II
  • Astrophysics I or Computer Simulation I
  • There is also a laboratory class, and workshops to develop communication skills

Fourth (Senior Sophister) Year

25-35 credits Maths, 25-35 credits Physics (total 60 credits)


  • Quantum Field Theory
  • Differential Geometry
  • General Relativity
  • Partial Differential Equations

Other mathematical modules and a project option are available each year


  • Condensed Matter Theory
  • Electron and Photon Physics
  • High Energy Physics

Optional courses are in:

  • Nanoscience
  • Advanced Topics
  • Interstellar Medium and Cosmology
  • Computer Simulation

In addition you will complete a computational physics project. There are also tutorials to develop your physics problem solving ability.

Study abroad

Theoretical Physics students can spend up to a year, usually the third year, of their studies at a university abroad, either in Europe via Erasmus exchanges or further afield via a considerable number of bilateral agreements between Trinity and universities ranging from the Australian National University to the University of California and New York University in the United States.


Many of our graduates proceed to PhD degrees in leading institutions throughout the world (such as Cambridge University, Harvard, and Imperial College London) in mathematics and experimental physics as well as theoretical physics. Alternatively, as this degree provides graduates with a strong foundation in highly complex problem-solving skills as well as logical and abstract thinking, a world of possibilities beckons. The broad scientific background and skills that the course develops are in great demand by employers in diverse areas, including actuarial science, patent law, journalism, weather forecasting, telecommunications, medical physics, information technology, scientific computing and teaching.

Further information

The Math/Physics Open Day (MPOD) is held in November each year. or: or:

Email: or:

Tel: +353 1 896 1949 / 2019

Twitter: @TCD_physics

Student Profile

Manya Sahni

I chose Theoretical Physics in Trinity because I wanted the best possible understanding I could get in university about the laws that govern our universe. I loved solving problems. If you go through the definitions and practice using the theorems, it all comes together in this magical moment and, suddenly, you find you know how to solve a problem. It is the most challenging and rewarding thing I have done in my life. It is worth all the work I put in to now have an idea of how black holes work. I would like to pursue a masters or a PhD in particle physics or quantum gravity. Theoretical Physics has given me the problem-solving and analytical skills to research these topics.

Ashley Cooke

This course is incredibly interesting and intellectually challenging. The breadth of topics covered is immense; including lasers, thermodynamics, to astrophysics from physics, while examples of mathematics subjects include abstract algebra, complex analysis and advanced topics like quantum field theory. Staff in Trinity work closely with their students and are generally leaders in their chosen specialisation, so an unparalleled standard of teaching is guaranteed. There are many excellent opportunities for a student in this course for research and learning experiences, for example I will be jetting off to California for the summer to study with a world renowned fluid dynamics research group!

Apart from the course, the friendly atmosphere and social scene was another major draw for me. You can get involved in one of the many societies, including some of the oldest and most active in the world, or join a sports club or take up drama and acting, or if you're like me you can get involved in the students union, which is great way to make friends, get involved in student affairs and organise class parties and trips; our class recently visited CERN in Geneva. Choosing Theoretical Physics, and just as importantly, in Trinity was the best decision of my life.

Course Options




4 years full-time

Points Required


Number of Places


CAO code (Central Applications Office code) is


Minimum entry points required are 550
More information on minimum entry points

Admission Requirements

For general admission requirements please click here

Leaving CertificateHB3 In mathematics and physics
Advanced GCE (A-Level)Grade B In mathematics and physics
Other EU examination systemsSee


To apply to this course, click on the relevant Apply Link below

EU Applicants

Read the information about how to apply, then apply directly to CAO.

Mature Student – Supplementary Application Form

Read the information about how to apply as a mature student then select the link below to complete the TCD Supplementary Application Form for mature students.

Theoretical Physics, 4 years full-time Closing Date: 01/FEB/2016

Non-EU Applicants

  • Theoretical Physics, 4 years full-time Closing Date: 30/JUN/2016
  • CAO code (Central Applications Office code) is