What is Physics?
Physics is the study of nature at its most fundamental level. It deals with matter, light and energy and their interactions on all scales from the tiniest particles inside the atomic nucleus to the forces that give rise to the structure of the universe. Physics attempts to answer some of the most fundamentally important questions in science like:
- Why is the universe filled with matter rather than anti-matter?
- What is the mysterious dark energy and dark matter?
- What is the nature of the early universe?
- What is the origin of mass?
- Are there extra dimensions of space-time?
Why study it?
Physics is at the forefront of all 'big science' and many new technologies. It is intellectually very challenging. Physics graduates have a wide range of career choices reflecting their deep understanding of the physical world and the strength of their skills in analysis, problem solving, critical thinking and experimental, computational and theoretical techniques. Graduates can apply their knowledge to areas such as astronomy, business modelling, medical technology, meteorology, synchrotron science, teaching, management consulting, new materials research, instrumentation engineering and telecommunications. They are highly employable – please refer to the Australian Government's career website, JobOutlook.
How do I study it?
Physics and Mathematical Physics are specialisations or majors within the Bachelor of Science undergraduate degree. Information sheets summarising key information such as entry requirements, career paths, sample course plans etc may be accessed on-line: Physics and Mathematical Physics.
The course normally commences with the Physics taken at first year, of which there are a variety to suit your background. In addition, you may also choose subjects offered within Faculty of Science like Maths, Chemistry, Biology and those outside the faculty such as those in the Arts, Commerce & Music. At second and third year, students may choose from a variety of physics subjects, often in conjunction with mathematics subjects. The main areas of study within physics include astronomy and astrophysics, classical and quantum mechanics, computational physics, electromagnetism and electro-dynamics, electronics and instrumentation, energy and the environment, experimental methods, optics, relativity, and thermal physics, as well as the physics of elementary particles, nuclei, atoms, molecules, gases, liquids and solids.
For student interested in studying physics deeply at tertiary level, it is strongly recommended that you study English, physics, maths methods and specialist maths at VCE or equivalent level. Students who are interested in a career as a research scientist, additional postgraduate study in Physics is almost certainly required.
How do I study astronomy?
Astronomy and astrophysics are areas of specialisation that are taken as a part of physics major when undertaking an undergraduate degree like Bachelor of Science. If you study at the University of Melbourne, you must complete additional postgraduate degrees, Masters followed by PhD, to work as a researcher in the field. The total duration of study is 3 + 2 + 3 years respectively. It is strongly recommended that you study English, physics, maths methods and specialist maths at VCE or equivalent level.
We run specific Outreach programs in physics aimed at students & teachers. Please refer to our Physics Outreach section for more detail.
Some research groups are able to provide Work Experience placements at various times throughout the year. To apply, please go to the Work Experience page.
Below are profiles of some of our current university students and their research projects at PhD level (low resolution PDF files).
Please refer to our section on Careers for profile information.