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Department of Physics

The Cavendish Laboratory

Training future generations of physical scientists continues to be a central pillar of the Cavendish’s programme. The Laboratory attracts large numbers of the brightest young scientists from the UK and overseas at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Ability at problem solving and finding original and imaginative solutions in experimental and theoretical physics are key skills which are fostered at all stages in their training.

Undergraduate Teaching

The basic course has a three- or four-year structure, over 80% of the students opting for the four-year course. Our objective is to teach and train undergraduates in the complete spectrum of experimental and theoretical physics at the highest level and to ensure that they are exposed to the many ways in which physics can bring new insights and advances in cognate fields of research. Physics at undergraduate level is offered through the Natural Sciences Tripos in conjunction with other physical and biological sciences, and allows specialisation to occur as the students progress through the Tripos. The undergraduate course is highly regarded and exceptionally comprehensive, ranging from the purest theoretical research to new interdisciplinary subjects such as the physics of the life sciences. Physics students are able to develop their enthusiasms and ingenuity through the challenges provided by the course. In the later years of the course, students can gain examination credit in non-traditional physics areas such as entrepreneurship and education. Each year, typically, over 100 students graduate from the four-year course. A recent innovation is the ‘Master of Advanced Study (MASt)’ degree in Physics, allowing students from outside Cambridge to study the fourth year of the undergraduate degree course for a standalone Masters.

Postgraduate Training

The Laboratory offers postgraduates from all over the world the opportunity to study with world-class researchers across, effectively, the complete spectrum of physics, from studies of the very early universe, to the physics of superglue and chocolate. Research is organised flexibly within the research groups, some administratively linked into larger sectors. However, the direction of research is determined by the initiative of the individual research workers. Students interact closely with the academic staff members and a large group of post-doctoral workers and research fellows in an intellectually stimulating environment. About 70-80 postgraduate students join the Laboratory each year, resulting in a cohort of about 400 students within the Laboratory at any one time. The courses lead to a PhD after 3-4 years or an MPhil after one year.