The School of Physical Sciences is a dynamic multidisciplinary department, achieving national and international excellence in physics, chemistry, and forensic science. We offer a broad training in physics, and provide an ideal preparation for a wide range of careers in the manufacturing and service industries as well as education, the media and the financial sector.
Our degree programme
Astronomy, space science and astrophysics allow us to see the Universe and our place in it. Through studying these subjects, mankind has continually enlarged its horizons and explored the cosmos. The subjects continually evolve and change every year based on discoveries by researchers around the world.
In your first year, you get to grips with the broad knowledge base on which physical science is built, studying astronomy and special relativity, computing skills, mathematics, mechanics, electricity, thermodynamics, laboratory and computational skills.
Your second year covers a broad range of subjects such as the multiwavelength universe and exoplanets, spacecraft design and operations, data analysis in astronomy and planetary science, atomic and nuclear physics, quantum physics, mathematical techniques and electromagnetism and optics. In your final year, the combination of specialist modules and laboratory work on individual and group projects opens avenues for even deeper exploration: for example, stars, galaxies and the Universe, the Sun, the Earth and Mars, thermal and statistical physics and relativity, optics, and Maxwell’s equations.
ASSA student Emma Spyrides explains what studying at the University of Kent is like.
Year in industry
You can take this degree as a four-year programme and spend a year working on a placement. For more details, see Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics with a Year in Industry.
You also have the option of doing a four-year MPhys programme and working as part of a research group doing cutting-edge work. For details, see Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics.
The Beacon Observatory provides a fully automised system with both optical telescope and radio telescope capability. It includes a 17" astrograph from Plane Wave Instruments with a 4k x 4k CCD and a BVRIHa filter set, as well as a 90-frames-per-second camera.
You have access to first-class research facilities in new laboratories. These are well equipped for synthetic and analytical techniques ranging from soft organic polymers to nanoparticles to highly sensitive organometallic species.
The University is a member of the South East Physics Network (SEPnet), which offers a competitive programme of summer internships to Stage 2 and 3 undergraduates.
The School of Physical Sciences is home to an international scientific community of physics and astronomy, chemistry and forensic science students. Numerous formal and informal opportunities for discussion make it easy to participate in the academic life of the School. All students have an academic adviser and we also run a peer mentoring scheme.
You are encouraged to participate in conferences and professional events to build up your knowledge of the science community and enhance your professional development. The School also works collaboratively with business partners, which allows you to see how our research influences current practice.
You can also take part in:
the School’s Physical Sciences Colloquia, a popular series of talks given by internal and external experts on relevant and current topics the student-run Physics and Space Societies, which organise talks with top industry professionals, practical demonstrations and social events
The School of Physical Sciences also has links with:
the Home Office optical laboratories local health authorities aerospace/defence industries software and engineering companies Interpol.
Teaching is by lecture, laboratory sessions, and project and console classes. You have approximately nine lectures a week, plus one day of practical work. In addition, you have reading and coursework and practical reports to prepare.
Assessment is by written examination at the end of each year, plus continuous assessment of written coursework. Practical work is examined by continuous assessment.
Knowledge and understanding
You gain knowledge and understanding of:
- Physical laws and principles, and their application to diverse areas of physics including: electromagnetism, classical and quantum mechanics, statistical physics and thermodynamics, wave phenomena and the properties of matter as fundamental aspects, with additional material from nuclear and particle physics, condensed matter physics, materials, plasmas and fluids.
- Aspects of the theory and practice of astronomy, astrophysics and space science, and of those aspects upon which they depend, including a knowledge of key physics, the use of electronic data processing and analysis, and modern day mathematical and computational tools.
You gain the following intellectual abilities:
- Identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with problems, and to make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
- The ability to solve problems in physics using appropriate mathematical tools.
- Execute and analyse critically the results of an experiment or investigation and draw valid conclusions, evaluate the level of uncertainty in these results and compare them with expected outcomes, theoretical predictions or with published data to evaluate the significance of their results in this context.
- Use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour.
- Comment critically on how spacecraft are designed, their principles of operation, and their use to access and explore space, and on how telescopes (operating at various wavelengths) are designed, their principles of operation, and their use in astronomy and astrophysics research.
You gain subject-specific skills in the following:
- Competent use of C&IT packages/systems for the analysis of data and information retrieval.
- The ability to present and interpret information graphically.
- Communicate scientific information and produce clear, accurate scientific reports.
- Familiarity with laboratory apparatus and techniques.
- The systematic and reliable recording of experimental data.
- Use appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources as part of managing your own learning.
You gain transferable skills in the following:
- Problem solving and the confidence to try different approaches to make progress on challenging problems and numeracy.
- Investigative ability including the use of textbooks and other literature, databases, and interaction with colleagues.
- Communication, such as dealing with surprising ideas and difficult concepts, including listening carefully, reading demanding texts and presenting complex information in a clear and concise manner.
- Analytical abilities, in particular attention to detail, to manipulate precise and intricate ideas to construct logical arguments and use technical language correctly.
- The ability to work independently, to use initiative, meet deadlines and interact constructively with other people.
The programme aims to:
- Instil a sense of enthusiasm for physics through an understanding of the role of the discipline at the core of our intellectual understanding of all aspects of nature and as the foundation of many of the pure and applied sciences.
- Provide knowledge of its application in different contexts in an intellectually stimulating research-led environment.
- Provide a balanced foundation of physics knowledge and practical skills and an understanding of scientific methodology.
- Enable students to undertake and report on an experimental and/or theoretical investigation.
- Develop the ability to to apply skills, knowledge and understanding in physics to the solution of theoretical and practical problems in physics.
- Provide a knowledge and skills base from which students can proceed to further studies in specialised areas of physics or multi-disciplinary areas involving physical principles.
- Generate an appreciation of the importance of physics in industrial, economic, environmental and social contexts.
- Instil and/or enhance in you a sense of enthusiasm for astronomy, astrophysics and space science, and an appreciation of its application in current research.
- Generate an appreciation of the importance of astronomy, astrophysics and space science and its role in understanding how the universe in which we live came about and how it continues to exist and develop.
- Provide a grounding in space systems and technology, and the overlap between the science and commercial drivers in the aerospace industry.
- Motivate and support a wide range of students in their endeavours to realise their academic potential.