Physics

Reading for a degree in physics at Oxford is an intellectual challenge which does not lead directly to a vocational qualification. Instead the degree distinguishes the physics graduate as a highly numerate and technically competent member of society in a world where numeracy and technological skills are increasingly important. This is evidenced by the broad spectrum of careers chosen by recent Keble physics graduates which includes advanced research in physics and engineering, computing, management, the Foreign Office, Whitehall, teaching, accountancy and geophysical surveying. Certainly no Keble physicist has yet had difficulty in finding employment! Nevertheless, we hope that a decision to read physics at Keble will be motivated principally by a desire to understand the physical universe. You can get an idea of how Physics is organised in Keble by visiting the Keble Physics Website. There you will find links to students and tutors, news of social events and prizes, teaching arrangements in each term, and so on. There are links too to the Handbook describing Course details and to other pages on the Physics Department website. The department publishes a newsletter - in a recent issue there's an account of the course from the perspective of a Keble student.

Advantages of Keble

At Keble the Physics Tutors are particularly interested in students who are prepared to meet the demands of this challenging subject, whatever their background. Through the tutorial teaching system we challenge each student to make the most of his or her individual talents, with many students continuing on to study for a doctorate. This policy has resulted in a broad social intake, a consistent record of First Class Honours in the Final Examination, and the establishment of an academic family affording long-term personal support. For the undergraduate this involves not only personal contact with experienced tutors and young researchers but also an atmosphere of co-operation in which students encourage and help one another. A point that should not be ignored is that the University lecture theatres and practical laboratories all lie within 200 m of the College. The consequent saving of time (and shoe leather), over a three or four year degree course, is not to be ignored!

Course structure

The course is described in detail in the Physics Undergraduate Course Handbook (see above). In the first year, undergraduates study the basic physics of mechanics, optics, electromagnetism and relativity, alongside the mathematics that will be required in subsequent years; students also study relevant experiments in the Practical Laboratory for one day a week. In addition there is a choice of optional courses on quantum theory and astrophysics in the summer term. At the start of Hilary and Trinity term College Examinations are set on the previous term's work and at the end of the summer term there is the first University examination, 'Prelims'. The second and third years contain the core of the course leading up to Parts A and B of 'Finals'; all the main areas of modern physics are covered in depth: electromagnetism, optics, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics in the second year, condensed matter physics, atomic and molecular physics, sub-atomic physics, fluid dynamics, bio-physics, cosmology, special and general relativity in the third year. In addition there is a rich spectrum of Short Options, covering topics from Medical Physics to Energy Studies and Modern Languages. During the course there is an option for students to study Teaching Physics in Schools.

Students who achieve at least a II.i standard at the end of Year Two may opt for the four-year M.Phys with two Major Options chosen from Particle Physics, Condensed Matter Physics, Mathematical Physics, Astrophysics, Atmospheric Physics, Biological Physics, and Laser Science and Quantum Information Processing. A key component of the M.Phys degree is the advanced project, which is generally performed within a research group. This gives students the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in research at the frontiers of physics. Students do not need to choose between the three-year and four-year courses until after the second year.

Typical pattern of teaching

Students are taught physics in four different, but complementary ways. First there are lectures organised by the University Physics Department. At Keble we expect all students to attend these lectures; they form the core of the course and take up approximately 8 to 10 hours each week. Second there are College-based classes and tutorials with students in a given year taken together or in pairs once or twice a week. As far as possible the subject matter of these tutorials is synchronised with the lectures and consists of essays and problems together with open discussion of the underlying physical concepts. In addition, assignments of reading and written work are set for each vacation. The time needed to prepare work for tutorials will vary widely but 20 or more hours per week is typical; an important part of this is working with other students, discussing ideas and solutions, learning from individual mistakes and preparing for the dialogue of the class and tutorial. The latter can include a discussion of personal difficulties that the student may be encountering. Practical work, including physics experiments and problems in programming and computation, forms the third method of instruction. This work is organised by the University Physics Department. Students work in pairs spending about 8 hours each week performing and writing up experiments. Fourth, there is individual study. At evening meetings students give short talks on prepared topics of their choice. The College has a well-stocked library and in addition we operate a book-loan scheme, which ensures that first year students have copies of the principal text books at modest cost.

Qualities sought for entry

We welcome applications from students wherever they may have studied. We look for students who have taken advantage of opportunities to develop their skills and interests in Physics and Maths. UK-based applications should take Physics and at least one Mathematics paper at A-level; those candidates who have the opportunity should take Further Mathematics (Mechanics) although this is not required. Applicants from abroad will be assessed alongside UK students with similar qualifications.

Applicants who perform sufficiently well in the Physics Aptitude Tests are invited to interview, during which we look for students who have the ability and readiness to take up the challenge of this demanding course and are able to express their ideas in a clear and concise manner. Applicants should have a disciplined and receptive mind that will respond to tutorial teaching. Indeed we usually end each interview with a mini-tutorial on a sample problem. Selection for Physics is based on academic merit, strength of motivation and the ability to communicate; on the other hand we are always glad to hear of outside interests and activities. Recent students have excelled at ballroom dancing, swimming, rugby, rowing, athletics, soccer, squash, and music.

For a number of years Physics applications to Keble have been heavy. However thanks to inter-college cooperation many students that we are not able to take have received an offer of a place at another college; consequently students who apply to Keble do not lessen their chance of getting a place at Oxford.

Entry

Up-to-date information on entrance requirements can be found in the university's prospectus. For those taking three or more A2s conditional offers are grades A*AA in specific subjects (with the A* in either physics or maths), except in unusual educational circumstances. Offers to candidates not taking A levels are set at equivalent levels.

Written Work: Candidates should not submit written work

Written Tests: All candidates must take the Physics Aptitude Test, normally at their own school or college, in early November.  Candidates must make sure they are available to take the test at this time.

For further information, see the Physics page of the Oxford Undergraduate Prospectus.

physics

Approximate yearly intake Keble: 8
Department:192
Department Website Department of Physics
Keble College Physics Website

Enquiries

Via the College Office.

Tutors

Prof Dieter Jaksch Tutorial Fellow in Physics

Dr Martin Kiffner Stipendiary Lecturer in Physics

In addition some tutorials are given by Dr Andrew Wells (Physical Climate Science) , Prof. Tony Bell (astronophysical plasmas), Dr John Cobb (neutrino physics), Prof Paul Jeffreys, and by Prof Matthias Tecza (astronomical instruments), and by exceptional doctoral graduate students.