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Theoretical physics

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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 College 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.

Course overview

The course combines much of the mathematics and physics curricula, including several modules specifically designed with the Theoretical physics programme in mind. In the Freshman (first and second) years students take 40 credits in maths and 20 credits in physics (from a total of 60 credits). In the Sophister (third and fourth) years students take, on average, 30 credits in maths and 30 credits in physics. There are approximately 24 hours of lectures, tutorials and laboratory classes per week.

Course content

Cosmology, astrophysics, chaos, relativity and quantum mechanics are some of the exciting topics that you will study. In the practical classes you will study the latest ideas in magnetism, superconductivity, laser technology and semiconductors.

A total of 60 ECTS credits is to be taken in each year.

Junior and Senior Freshman (1st and 2nd years)

40 credits maths,
20 credits physics

Maths

  • Algebra
  • Analysis
  • Mechanics
  • Equations of mathematical physics

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

Junior Sophister (3rd year)

30 credits maths,
30 credits physics

Maths

  • Classical field theory and electrodynamics
  • Quantum mechanics
  • Statistical physics

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

Senior Sophister (4th year)

25-35 credits maths,
25-35 credits physics
(total 60 credits)

Maths

  • Quantum field theory
  • Differential geometry
  • General relativity
  • Partial differential equations

Other mathematical modules and a project option are available each year

Physics

  • 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

Assessment

Continuous assessment and end-of-year examinations make up the assessment process.

Career opportunities

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, 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 patent law, journalism, weather forecasting, telecommunications, medical physics, information technology, scientific computing and teaching.

Did you know?

  • Trinity College Dublin is ranked in the world’s top 100 universities for Mathematics and for Physics (2012 QS rankings).

Further information

www.maths.tcd.ie or www.physics.tcd.ie

Tel: +353 1 896 1949 / 2019

Specific Entry Requirements

Leaving CertificateHB3 In mathematics and physics
Advanced GCE (A-Level)Grade B In mathematics and physics
Other EU examination systems
See www.tcd.ie/Admissions/undergraduate/requirements/matriculation/other/

Student Profile

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.

This course is funded by the Irish government under the National Development Plan 2007-2013 and aided by the European Social Fund (ESF) under the Human Capital Investment Operational Programme 2007-2013.

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