Physics and Astronomy (Theoretical Physics Specialism)

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The Theoretical Physics Research Group's interests span a diverse spectrum of condensed matter, ultracold-atom, and nonlinear-optical systems on length scales from the microscopic through mesoscopic to the macroscopic. From the theory of quantum critical points and the physics of nanodevices to the phase transitions of vortices in a BoseEinstein condensate, the research has common threads of correlation, disorder and topology.

The effects of quantum mechanics and disorder on the phases of matter form the mainstay of our research. For instance, classical physics fails completely to account for the 'phases' of electrons in a solid. In many materials quantum effects ensure that the electrons remained gaseous down to zero temperature. However, quantum mechanics also saves solid-state physics from being merely the study of the electron gas it provides non-classical phases such as magnetism, superconductivity, etc, where the electron liquid can be highly nontrivial.

Type of Course: Doctoral research

Duration: PhD: 3.5 years full-time; MPhil: 1 year full-time


Disorder plays a distinctive role in condensed matter physics. Strongly disordered systems can form glasses (from window glasses to Coulomb ones to spin ones), whose mechanical, electronic or spin properties differ drastically from those of solids or liquids. Even a weak disorder can completely change electronic and spin transport of low-dimensional materials, leading in some cases to metal-insulator transition. At a mesoscopic scale (between micro- and macro-worlds) the quantum coherence plays a decisive role and a nontrivial interplay of disorder and interaction defines transport and thermodynamic properties of solids.
The recent creation and experimental study of ultracold quantum gases of atoms is providing startling phenomena for theoretical understanding. For example, light being slowed to 10ms^-1, or even stopped, and the creation of molecules at microKelvin temperatures present possibilities for forms of matter that are non-existent under normal conditions. These might be quantum 'condensates' of entities that are mixtures of light and particles and superfluid liquid crystals respectively.

Related links

School of Physics and Astronomy website:


Ensure your qualifications meet our entry requirements for research degrees

To gain admission to a research degree programme (with the exception of the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine (MD)) an applicant must comply with the following entry requirements:

* Attainment of an Honours degree (normally a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree or equivalent) in a relevant subject awarded by an approved university, or
* Attainment of an alternative qualification or qualifications and/or evidence of experience judged by the University as indicative of an applicants potential for research and as satisfactory for the purpose of entry to a research degree programme.

In addition:

* Admission and registration for a research degree programme may be conditional on satisfactory completion of preliminary study, which may include assessment.
* In some cases you will also need to have completed a Masters degree or equivalent qualification in a relevant subject.

Please note

* Entry onto many programmes is highly competitive, therefore we consider the skills, attributes, motivation and potential for success of an individual when deciding whether to make an offer.
* Specific entry requirements are given for each programme. Any academic and professional qualifications or industrial experience you may have are normally taken into account, and in some cases form an integral part of the entrance requirements. If your qualifications are non-standard or different from the entry requirements stated in the online prospectus, please contact the relevant school or department to discuss whether your application would be considered.
* After we have received your application you may, if you live in the UK, be invited for an interview or to visit us to discuss your application.

English Language Requirements

IELTS band: 5.5 TOEFL iBT® test: 80

IMPORTANT NOTE: Since April 2014 the ETS tests (including TOEFL and TOEIC) are no longer accepted for Tier 4 visa applications to the United Kingdom. The university might still accept these tests to admit you to the university, but if you require a Tier 4 visa to enter the UK and begin your degree programme, these tests will not be sufficient to obtain your Visa.

The IELTS test is most widely accepted by universities and is also accepted for Tier 4 visas to the UK- learn more.


Scholarships and studentships We have a number of studentships supported by the UK research councils EPSRC and STFC available each year, including some CASE awards. These studentships cover the costs of tuition fees and provide a subsistence allowance for 3.5 years. They are available to UK nationals with at least an upper second-class Honours degree from a UK university, or equivalent. Preference is usually given to those holding four-year MPhys or MSci degrees.
We offer about half a dozen postgraduate teaching assistantships each year as top-ups to EPSRC and STFC studentships. There are also substantial opportunities for postgraduate demonstrators. EU nationals may be eligible for fees-only awards, which are occasionally supplemented by the School.
International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

See the University of Birmingham Website for more details on fees and funding.

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