Physics at the University of Sydney offers you the opportunity to study the exciting fundamental concepts on which all sciences rely, and make contributions to cutting-edge research. Physics has been taught at the University of Sydney for over 140 years, the longest of any University in Australia. Today, the School of Physics provides world-class educational opportunities through its Postgraduate degree offerings.
Postgraduate degree programs are at the heart of a modern education in Physics. Students have the opportunity to learn from internationally recognised experts, contribute to original research, and become part of the community of scientists and scholars within the School of Physics.
The Sydney Advantage
The School of Physics at the University of Sydney is the leading Physics department in the country, with outstanding staff and students undertaking world-leading teaching and research. The academic staff within the school are true leaders of their fields, and include multiple recipients of prestigious ARC Fellowships, including Laureate, Federation, Professorial, Future, and QEII Fellowships.
The quality of research within the School is recognized by its housing of five ARC-funded Centres of Excellence and one NHMRC Centre of Excellence. These include two ARC Centres headquartered in the School: CUDOS and the Centre for All-Sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO), three ARC Centre nodes: the Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems, the Centre for Particle Physics at the Terascale, the Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, and the NHMRC Centre for Integrated Research and Understanding of Sleep. In addition, prominent international collaborations with the United States, Europe, and Asia, funded through multiyear competitive awards, as well as linkages to domestic government research agencies, present a range of opportunities unmatched in the region.
Research-led and coursework-based educational opportunities are supplemented by the School’s unique efforts in physics education research, led by SUPER (Sydney University Physics Education Research). This group studies the complex ways in which students go about understanding physics, and in collaboration with educational researchers around Australia and overseas, encourages the implementation, inside and outside the University, of the findings of research in physics education.
With access to supercomputers, modern laboratory facilities, and high-tech observatories, the School of Physics is the premier environment for physics education and research. Major observational infrastructure includes the Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST) and the Sydney University Stellar Interferometer (SUSI), operated by the School of Physics. These telescopes cover the radio and optical spectra and provide a technical foundation for observational astronomy.
In addition, the School is currently constructing a major new research and teaching facility, the Australian Institute of Nanoscience (AIN). The AIN will be world-leading, designed from the ground up to meet the demanding requirements of nanoscience research in decades to come, and the only building to house such an advanced research capability alongside comprehensive facilities postgraduate training and education. This investment will support basic and applied research aimed at understanding nature at a fundamental level, and translating this new knowledge into next generation technological outcomes underpinning revolutionary new electronic and optical devices, biomedical sensors, and material systems.
Areas of Research
Research at the school consists of a vibrant program of computational, experimental, observational, and theoretical physics. Our 100 staff and 150 postgraduate students conduct research across a vast range of interests from single trapped atoms to clusters of galaxies. Research at the school is grouped into broad areas, including:
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Biological and Medical Physics
- Brain Dynamics and Computational Neuroscience
- Complex systems
- Condensed Matter & Materials Physics
- High Energy/Particle Physics
- Photonics and Optical Sciences
- Plasma Physics
- Quantum Science
- Space and Solar Physics
The School’s research activities span various scales, from the solar system to the galaxy. Work in astrophysics covers a broad range of observational and theoretical topics, as well as the development of cutting-edge instrumentation. This includes studies of the extreme environments of pulsars and black holes, the interstellar medium, the seismology of stars and stellar lifetimes. On the largest scales, research focuses on the evolution of galaxies, cosmic magnetism, the nature of dark matter and cosmology.
Biological Physics is an emerging cross-disciplinary area in which physicists apply their knowledge and skills to analysing, modeling and quantifying biological data in an effort to better understand living systems. Related to this, research in Biophysics involves the modeling of biomolecules using a variety of simulation methods on fast supercomputers. The aim is to understand the function of proteins, especially those that are of medical and pharmacological significance. Current areas of interest are ion channels and protein interactions. Medical Physics spans diagnostic medical imaging techniques and radiation therapy in cancer research. Specific research themes include: bio-acoustics, medical imaging, MRI physics, radiation physics and dosimetry, radiotherapy, radiobiology, and nanomedicine.
Research in this area includes interdisciplinary research involving expertise from physics, mathematics, IT, medicine, engineering, and biology to better understand the multiscale dynamics, activity, information processing, and imaging of the brain and allied systems. Complex networks in brains and artificial systems are investigated, with studies ranging from the behavior of ensembles of neurons to emergent dynamics of the whole brain, including sleep, alertness, and biomedical imaging signals.
Complex Systems draws together researchers with interests in complex natural and artifical systems, including multiscale dynamics and emergent phenomena. Its interests range from theoretical and computational work, including development of new areas of theoretical and mathematical physics and new computational methods, to observation, experiment, and commercialization.
Research in condensed matter includes theory and experiment in mesoscopics, nanostructured materials, spins in solids, soft condensed matter, superelasticity in amorphous materials, and ab initio investigations of materials and surface science phenomena. Our goal is to acquire a detailed understanding of the fundamental science required to engineer and design nanomaterials, advanced electronic and biomedical devices.
High energy physics probes the subatomic world by observing the collisions of particles accelerated to extreme energies, either naturally (as in cosmic rays) or using giant accelerators. The school’s high energy research program involves participation in overseas collaborative experiments (at CERN in Europe and KEK in Japan) and Australian-based programs involving simulations, development and testing, and the analysis of results.
The Institute of Photonics and Optical Science and CUDOS have substantial research across most areas of photonics. Fundamental research in the most exciting and vibrant areas of photonics science includes: metamaterials, nonlinear optical materials, quantum photonics, photonic crystals, micro-structured optical fibres and micro-photonics. This science underpins important research applications in telecommunications, health, environment, security and information processing.
Research in plasma physics covers a wide variety of phenomena, important in fundamental science, applied physics, materials science, and industry. Our efforts include work on theoretical problems in the areas of nonlinear wave-wave and wave-particle processes, statistical plasma dynamics, quantum, space, and astrophysical plasmas, and plasma nanoscience. Experimental studies are carried out on gas discharges, plasma fusion, cold nonneutral plasmas, technological plasmas for materials processing, and nanoscale plasma phenomena.
Quantum Science in the School of Physics focuses on learning how to engineer and manipulate quantum systems, addressing challenges at both the hardware and "software" levels, as well as understanding basic aspects of quantum physics. Research in this area, at the forefront of international efforts, includes experimental and theoretical work in atomic physics (ion trapping), mesoscopics (spins in semiconductor nanostructures), quantum control, quantum information, quantum photonics, materials for quantum computation, and the foundations of quantum mechanics.
Quantum Science Research Group in the School of Physics
Space physics research ranges from the solar surface to the boundaries of the solar system and heliosphere. It includes the solar corona and solar wind, the ionospheres and magnetospheres of planets and moons, and the space weather that results from violent disturbances on the Sun. Research ranges from theoretical and computational studies of fundamental physical processes, to simulations of large-scale systems in space, and membership of international space exploration teams, including the twin-spacecraft STEREO mission, and the planned INSPIRE nanosat and Solar Orbiter probe.
The Centre for Integrated Sustainability Analysis (ISA) develops leading-edge research and applications for environmental and broader sustainability issues, bringing together expertise in environmental science, economics, technology, and social science.