Theoretical Physics

BSc (Hons) (NFQ Level 8)

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Curricular information is subject to change.

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Why is this course for me?

At UCD, Theoretical Physics puts emphasis on the mathematical description of physical phenomena, providing a unified picture of the fundamental laws of nature. It’s ideally suited to students who enjoy studying Mathematics and Physics in secondary school. Insights from Theoretical Physics are driving our understanding of nature at all scales, from the origin of large-scale structures in the universe to the Planck scale, where our current understanding of space and time breaks down. The degree subject comprehensively covers Theoretical Physics, while developing your knowledge and expertise in problem solving, using analytical and computational techniques, which have wide application in, for example, biophysics, social physics, quantum physics, relativity and nanoscience.

Course Pathways
What Will I Study

Theoretical Physics is one of the degree subjects available through the Physics stream in the common entry Science course.

Students study similar modules for all degree subjects in the Physics stream in first year and will study modules for a minimum of two degree subjects in second year. At the end of second year, students choose their degree major. Assuming students meet all the academic requirements in first and second year, students are guaranteed a degree subject from the stream they are studying in second year. We do our best to ensure that students go on to study their top degree subject choice. As we offer plenty of degree subjects in each stream, students have a number of similar degree subjects to choose from as their degree major. This is a sample set of modules that a Theoretical Physics student could study each year in UCD.

First Year

  • Scientific Enquiry
  • Introduction to Applied & Computational Mathematics
  • Calculus in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences
  • Frontiers of Physics
  • Foundations of Physics
  • Astronomy & Space Science
  • Fields, Waves and Light
  • Optional Modules
  • Elective Module

Second Year

  • Computational Science
  • Classical Mechanics
  • Calculus of Several Variables
  • Introductory Quantum Mechanics
  • Oscillations & Waves
  • Vector Calculus
  • Methods for Physicists
  • Electronics & Devices
  • + modules for 1 other Science Subject
  • Elective Modules

Third Year

  • Advanced Theoretical Physics Laboratory
  • Classical Mechanics+Relativity
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Electromagnetism
  • Optics & Lasers
  • Complex Analysis
  • Option Modules
  • Elective Modules
  • Physics offers summer research experience to undergraduates

Fourth Year

  • Research Project
  • Applied Quantum Mechanics
  • Advanced Mathematical Methods
  • High Energy Particle Physics
  • Nuclear Physics
  • General Relativity & Cosmology
  • Computational Biophysics
  • Quantum Field Theory
  • Option Modules

Timetables & Assessment

Each student will have their own timetable based on their individual module selection. This is a full time course and classes may include lectures, practicals and tutorials, depending on the subjects. Students will also be expected to study independently (autonomous student learning). Assessment varies with each module but may comprise continuous assessment of practicals, written exams and online learning activities.

For detailed information on subject content click here

You may be interested in the following Blog posts: How my degree changed my perception of scientists

International Study Opportunities

Students can apply to study for a trimester or year in third year in a number of universities worldwide including:

  • University of California, Berkeley, USA
  • University of California, Santa Cruz, USA
  • San Jose State University, California, USA
  • University of Melbourne, Australia
Career & Graduate Study Opportunities

Theoretical Physics graduates can choose to develop careers in:

  • Academic and government research institutions
  • Energy technologies
  • Information and communication technology
  • Advanced materials [e.g. semiconductor industry]
  • Management consulting, stock market and financial risk analysis
  • Climate change and environmental impact analysis
  • Second and third-level education

Our Theoretical Physics graduates are well prepared for further research and have successfully completed PhDs in MIT, Caltech, Harvard, Princeton and Cambridge, as well as in UCD.

Other Entry Routes

“In First Year, I had the opportunity to sample a number of different areas before eventually choosing Theoretical Physics as my degree. The combination of problem solving, mathematics and programming helped me make my decision. I travelled to CERN in Geneva with the Physics Society which was a great experience. I also regularly go on surf trips with UCD Surf Club around Ireland. I travelled with the club to Taghazout in Morocco on their annual foreign trip where I had an amazing time. Since my graduation, I have been working as a Technology Consultant within Ernst & Young which gave me the opportunity to work on a large variety of projects and learn about how technology can be used to solve problems for various clients.”

Ian Smith, Graduate

Contact Information

Associate Professor Vladimir Lobaskin,
UCD School of Physics
Professor Adrian Ottewill, UCD School of Mathematics and Statistics
Belfield, Dublin 4.


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