With the wide-ranging expertise of our tutors, their high quality teaching and the extra study support we provide, you will have all the help and guidance you need to excel here.

Teaching

We have several dedicated tutors and teaching is tailored to individual students wherever possible. Associate Professor Prateek Agrawal is a theoretical physicist whose research concerns open questions in the fundamental laws of nature such as dark matter and dark energy. Associate Professor Vivien Parmentier is a particle physicist who specialises in studying the atmospheric properties of extrasolar planets. Our Lecturer, Dr Graeme Smith, teaches Astrophysics and his work seeks to answer a long-standing problem in understanding the brightness of helium emission lines seen in the ultraviolet spectrum of the solar atmosphere. For any topics that their expertise does not cover, we will arrange teaching so you will always be able to choose any options on the course that you wish.

Before the main term begins, there is a preparatory maths course on offer free of charge to help you make the jump from A level Maths to the level required for Physics at Oxford. Attendance is not compulsory, but recent freshers have found the classes very handy and you won’t be charged extra accommodation costs for attending.

Once you are here, Somerville is located extremely close to the Physics Department making it very convenient to go back and forth between the two for lectures, tutorials, food and practicals. Most importantly, being so close to your department translates to an extremely valuable 15 minutes more time in bed every morning.

The impact of all this is that our students do very well, making significant progress compared to their peers. We have had numerous students who, upon admission, were ranked below average; but after four years with us ended up graduating with top marks.

In the first three years the Physics course is based on tutorials and classes in College along with lectures, practicals, and BA projects (for those taking the BA degree) in the Physics Department. Tutorials are normally given in pairs – one tutor and two students at a time (although in some cases students may have tutorials individually or in larger groups as per their needs). Following Departmental guidelines, students can expect about one tutorial or class per 4 lectures. For those taking the M.Phys or MMathPhys degree, the fourth year options are taught in a Departmental class format. The fourth year MPhys. Projects are carried out in one of the Physics Department research groups. Between the terms, most of the time is devoted to independent study, revision, and development of one’s own academic interests.

Community

Somerville College admits seven undergraduates a year to read Physics. Students taking physics have a few options: they may choose to pursue a 3 year BA or 4 year Masters (MPhys) degree or Mathematical and Theoretical Physics (MMathPhys).

Some great Somerville physicists include Joanna Haigh, the President of the Royal Meteorological Society; Jacqueline Mitton, the astronomer, writer and namesake of the asteroid 4027 Mitton; and Dame Julia Higgins, the polymer scientist and President of the Institute of Physics from 2017-2019.

Next Steps

Our students go on to a wide range of careers ranging from the financial industry to management consulting, to medical research and engineering, as well as the civil service, the charity sector, teaching and business start-ups – in addition to the many who continue to pursue Physics and closely related topics. The Oxford Physics degree is considered excellent preparation for students interested in virtually any field of quantitative or technical study, and our graduates are highly sought after.

Fellows and Lecturers
  • Prateek Agrawal

    Fellow & Tutor in Physics; Associate Professor in Particle Physics
  • Anthony Bell FRS

    Senior Research Fellow; Emeritus Professor in Physics
  • Richard Brearton

    Retaining Fee Lecturer
  • Amalia Coldea

    Senior Research Fellow
  • Lucy Harris

    Retaining Fee Lecturer; Postdoctoral Research Assistant
  • Vivien Parmentier

    Fellow & Tutor in Physics; Associate Professor in Particle Physics
  • Ludovic Scyboz

    Fulford Junior Research Fellow; Postdoctoral Research Assistant
  • Graeme Smith

    Lecturer in Physics
  • Roman Walczak

    Senior Research Fellow
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