physics students

Key facts

Postgraduate students 2016–17
Taught Master's: 114
Research: 325

Staff : Student ratio 2016–17
1 : 11.7

Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014
92% of research classed as world leading or internationally excellent

Imperial’s Department of Physics is one of the largest and most prestigious in the UK.

We have 150 academic staff, over 200 postdocs, 900 undergraduate and 500 postgraduate students. The Department has hosted three Nobel Prize winners in the past, and is currently home to three Knights of the Realm:

  • Sir Peter Knight
  • Sir John Pendry
  • Sir Jim Virdee

We're also home to 16 Fellows of the Royal Society, including Professors Michele Dougherty, Joanna Haigh and Jenny Nelson.

Research within the Department is carried out by nine research groups:

  • Astrophysics
  • Condensed Matter Theory
  • Experimental Solid State Physics
  • High Energy Physics
  • Photonics
  • Plasma Physics
  • Quantum Optics and Laser Science
  • Space and Atmospheric Physics
  • Theoretical Physics


The Department has a wide range of experimental and computational laboratories providing state-of-the-art facilities across the whole of physics and astronomy.

We have dedicated optical and mechanical workshops and clean rooms (for device fabrication down to the nanoscale), and unique measurement and modelling facilities in many subject areas.

Study opportunities

The Department offers a number of study options to help you take your knowledge to the next level.

Tabbed information block

Master's courses

MRes courses

MSc courses

Research programmes

Our research currently spans nine themes:


Our research includes: the measurement of cosmological parameters; the application of advanced statistical methods to problems in cosmology and astrophysics; searches for the most distant quasars; multiwavelength studies of galaxy formation and evolution; star formation, stellar evolution and the interaction of stars, planets and disks; brown dwarfs; and solar variability and its impact on climate change.

Condensed matter theory

The physics of condensed matter encompasses the design of materials to power new technologies as well as the exploration of fundamental physics. Our research includes plasmonics and metamaterials, theory and simulation of materials, strongly correlated quantum systems, and complexity and networks.

Experimental solid state physics

This group’s research mission is to carry out exemplary basic science and novel world-leading technology development. Main areas of activity include: renewable energy and efficient energy use; sensors and nanomagnetism; plastic electronics and optoelectronics; plasmonics; and research at the interface with biomedical sciences.

High energy physics

The High Energy Physics group is one of the largest in the UK. It participates in many experiments and R&D programmes, and is highly regarded internationally. It exercises significant influence in many of the current and future international experiments that investigate the fundamental particles and the forces between them.


The Photonics group aims to conduct internationally significant research into fundamental science underlying optical technologies, and to develop novel technologies for practical applications ranging from astronomy to biomedicine. The group’s research priorities are informed by our industrial partners and the needs of society, as well as by scientific curiosity.

Plasma physics

This is one of the world’s leading and longest established university groups in plasma physics research. It is involved in a range of experimental, theoretical and computational research in plasma physics, including fundamental plasma physics, ultra-intense laser-plasma interaction phenomena, plasma-based particle acceleration, laboratory astrophysics, and thermonuclear fusion. The Department also hosts the AWE-supported Institute for Shock Physics.

Quantum optics and laser science

The Quantum Optics and Laser Science (QOLS) and Photonics groups make up the optics section, probably the largest enterprise in optical physics within the UK university system. Research activities in QOLS deal with fundamental issues of light-matter interaction physics and cover a broad range of experimental, theoretical and numerical disciplines. These range from quantum information theory and experiments with cold atoms and ions, through to high power laser system development and attosecond science.

Space physics

This research is aimed at understanding the physics of the solar wind and heliosphere; the interaction of the solar wind with planets and comets, including space weather; the space environments and atmospheres of the Earth, Venus, Titan, Jupiter and Saturn; and fundamental plasma physics processes including collisionless shocks and turbulence. Research activities include hardware and mission development, data analysis, and theoretical work.

Theoretical physics

The internationally renowned Theoretical Physics Group was founded by Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam. The group’s research interests are diverse but all are focused on understanding the structure of spacetime and matter at the most fundamental level. The main themes of research are: cosmology; string theory and M-theory; quantum gravity; the foundations of quantum mechanics; and quantum field theory.