FRONTIERS IN PHYSICS - 2025/6

Module code: PHY3066

Module Overview

This module introduces six advanced topics in physics. Students will be assessed on only four of these topics, with individuals self-selecting the contact sessions, coursework options and exam questions that reflect their preference.

An indicative list of these six topics include: biological physics, special relativity, physics of electronic & photonic materials, cosmology, nuclear astrophysics, and quantum computing.

Module provider

Mathematics & Physics

Module Leader

CLOWES Steven (Maths & Phys)

Number of Credits: 30

ECTS Credits: 15

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 156

Lecture Hours: 40

Tutorial Hours: 24

Guided Learning: 40

Captured Content: 40

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

None

Module content

An indicative list of the selection of topics available within the module is given below.

Biological physics. All living organisms, including humans, are made of what physicists call soft matter. For example, both DNA and proteins are polymers, a type of soft matter. This course introduces the physics of the soft matter we are made of, such as how oxygen and proteins are transported by diffusion and by blood flow. This transport gives the cells of our bodies the oxygen etc they need to function. It will also introduce how we and all other life on Earth have evolved so that our bodies and cells are optimised within the limits set by the laws of physics. 

Special relativity. Special Relativity is the theory formulated by Einstein in 1905 describing how the observations of physical reality appears to observers in different inertial frames. The surprising results include that time and space are mixed up as a four-dimensional space-time, that mass is a form of energy, and that objects appear to shrink when moving fast. This topic explores relativity theory from its basic foundations to its consequences in mechanics, including in reactions in particle physics. 

Physics of electronic and photonic materials. While soft solids make up our living bodies, hard solids give us enormous technological power providing us with information and energy. This course is about the electrons that flow in hard matter through chemical bonds, and how controlling the small-scale structure influences this flow. The same theoretical physics tools can be adapted to understand how controlling the large-scale structure of hard matter influences light flow in photonic materials, from butterfly wings to optical fibres. 

Cosmology. In Cosmology, students will learn about the observational evidence and theoretical framework of our standard model of cosmology. They will learn to describe the evolution of the Universe with the Friedmann equations, and explain the role of baryons, radiation, dark matter and dark energy in the standard model of cosmology. By the end of the module, students will understand the thermodynamic evolution of the Universe, primordial nucleosynthesis, and how initial density fluctuations in the Universe grow into the diverse galaxy population we observe today. 

Nuclear astrophysics. Abundances, nuclear fusion in starts, hydrogen burning, He burning and other burning processes. Heavy element production via s, r and p processes and astrophysical sites. Universality of the processes (stellar archaeology). Stellar reaction rates: general characteristics of thermo-nuclear reactions, reaction rate calculations, cosmo-chronometry, and the role of experiments. 

Quantum computing. Quantum computers are fundamentally new kinds of programmable device which have much in common with normal digital computers, but which harness particular aspects of quantum mechanics to allow some computation not possible on a classical computer. In this topic, quantum computers are introduced and methods for using them to solve physics problems are discussed. Topics such as mapping Hamiltonians from other quantum problems to a quantum computer representation, and algorithms to find eigenvalues will be developed. 

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Open-book online tests, best four marks from six. 20
Examination Two-hour end of semester examination (Part A), answer four from six 15-mark questions. 40
Examination Two-hour end of semester examination (Part B), answer six from twelve 10-mark questions. 40

Alternative Assessment

None

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate conceptual knowledge and analytical problem-solving skills on a range of topics in physics. Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

 One hour open-book online tests in which students have to complete for each of the six topics.  Part 1 topics tests taken in weeks 5-6 and part II topics tests taken in week 11-12. The best four marks of six taken, each worth 5% (Total 20%).

Two 2-hr in-person examinations.


  • Paper 1 - Students answer four of six 15-mark questions. There will be one question for each of the six topics. (40%)

  • Paper 2 - Students answer six of twelve 10-mark questions. There will be two questions for each of the six topics. (40%)



Students undertaking a 'Physics with' programme will be required to select assignments based on their specialty and programme specification. This will be clearly communicated in the assessment and exam rubrics.

Feedback and formative assessment: Formative assessment will take the form of question sheets based on the lecture material, students will receive feedback on their solutions in the tutorial classes. Online feedback will be provided for all attempted coursework test.

Module aims

  • Provide students with a broader knowledge of advanced topics in physics, going beyond core physics topics taught in earlier years.
  • To expose students to a range of cutting-edge and fundamental physics to better inform their choice of future projects or placements on the programme, as well as their chosen field beyond graduation.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 To demonstrate an understanding of a broad subset of questions and topics currently relevant to the field of physics. K
002 To demonstrate the ability to solve analytical problems over a broad range of topics in physics. C
003 To demonstrate the application of previously taught core physics to new topics within the field. CKT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

This module is delivered collaboratively across Physics, with lectures and tutorials on six advanced topics in the discipline. Each topic is taught over one half of the semester and the methods of learning and teaching consist of lectures, tutorials and dedicated recap/ revision sessions. 

Students are required to attend lectures and tutorials covering four of the six topics. Students self-select which of the four topics they want to attend and learn. This design of the module allows students to attend more than the four required topics if they so choose, providing them with the opportunity to explore which topics of physics they find the most intellectually stimulating.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

https://readinglists.surrey.ac.uk
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PHY3066

Other information

The School of Mathematics and Physics is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability, and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills, and capabilities in the following areas:

Resourcefulness and Resilience: Covering multiple topics requires students to acquire a diverse set of new knowledge. Such that, they need to adapt to different theoretical frameworks, experimental techniques, and problem-solving approaches. This diversity of knowledge enhances their resourcefulness through exposing them to various ways of thinking and problem-solving.

Employability: Learning multiple topics simultaneously requires effective time and task management. Students must prioritise their learning, allocate time efficiently to each topic, and maintain a balance between depth and breadth of understanding. This develops skills in managing complex workloads.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Physics BSc (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Astronomy BSc (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics BSc (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Quantum Computing BSc (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics MPhys 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Astronomy MPhys 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics MPhys 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Quantum Computing MPhys 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics MSc 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Mathematics and Physics BSc (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Mathematics and Physics MPhys 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Mathematics and Physics MMath 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2025/6 academic year.