The Loughborough physics graduate

Our courses are accredited by the Institute of Physics (IoP). They have been designed to provide an integrated and coherent development of the subject that takes advantage of recent changes to national standards (to which Loughborough actively contributed). The courses have been developed from the ground up to help students meet the following objectives - based on our department's shared vision of the Loughborough Physics graduate.

Institute of Physics (IoP) accreditation

  • Holders of accredited degrees are eligible for IOP membership and can follow a route to professional registration as a RSci or CPhys.
  • Graduates of accredited integrated master’s degrees have fulfilled the educational requirements for CPhys status, while graduates of accredited bachelor’s degrees have partially fulfilled these requirements, and need to demonstrate equivalence to integrated master’s.
  • Holders of accredited one- or two-year taught master’s programmes will meet the educational requirements for CPhys status provided they also hold an accredited undergraduate bachelor’s degree.

The aims of IoP accreditation are to:

  • Provide an independent, rigorous and valid assessment of physics degree courses
  • Support the standing of individual courses and departments
  • Make it easier to promote the standing of UK and ROI courses throughout Europe and the rest of the world
  • Guarantee to potential students that a course can satisfy the academic requirements for IOP membership and registered scientist (RSci) and provide a route to chartered physicist (CPhys)
  • Enhance the standing of physics and physicists.

(Information found on the Institute of Physics website.)

The Loughborough Physics Graduate

Our suite of degree courses in physics has been designed to provide comprehensive skills and knowledge in physics and to enable the successful graduate:

1. To be able to appropriately apply the Scholastic and Scientific methods within physics and have an appreciation of their usefulness to other disciplines.

The scientific method is an iterative process that “starts” by making observations, questioning the observations (why do all apples fall ...), formulating a testable hypothesis and (destruction) testing it, finally various hypothesis are brought together (unified) to make more general theories, and this inspires us to look for new things and the cycle continues. Physics, as an empirical discipline, is probably the best demonstration of the scientific method and its power (indeed sometimes it has yielded predictions that even the scientific community did not understand, such as with the potential existence of antimatter from quantum field theory). As such the physicist must appreciate that the ethics of the discipline are set by the need to accurately describe by nature and that their own ontologies or community rule are second to the outcome of experiments. Moreover, in order to be effective, this appreciation of the scientific method needs to be supported by sound scholarship.

The Loughborough degree should provide opportunities to develop:

  • skills to support the scientific method such as: a deep appreciation of the method itself and have the following characteristics: rational (logical and reasoned); methodological; reflective; creative, innovative resilient and adaptable (the formulation and testing of theories is often not an easy task); ethical (beyond avoiding plagiarism and collusions extending to balanced clear reporting and recording of findings).
  • the opportunity to become a capable scholar: to understand the importance of honesty and clarity in science (not just in following procedure and communicating outcomes but also extending to keeping records); agile learner; able to learn new physics; how to research; an ability to evaluate sources in terms of veracity, applicability and significance;

2. To be able to use Physics thinking in the formulation and solution of problems.

Physics-thinking is hard to clearly describe as, while it has this as an essential ingredient, it is not just scientific-thinking. It is also something more than the ability to formulate a reductionist view of a problem, removing unnecessary complication to obtain the simplest useful model. It is something that couples scientific thinking, reductionism and supplements it critical, creative thinking supported by an underpinning appreciation of physics principles (such as symmetry or least action) and body of knowledge and an ability to select relevant parts to bring to bear on a problem (that may well lie outside of physics).

The Loughborough degree should provide opportunities to develop:

  • a level of critical thinking that can identify that which is incorrect, inconsistent, possible, correct and which can be corroborated.
  • A “Loughborough” core of knowledge in physics
  • Identifying features of a system; Solving, modelling and simplifying problems (tractable and for understanding);
  • an appreciation of underpinning idas: conservation laws’ least action (Noether); correspondence principle, relativity principle, symmetry
  • an ability to approximate rapidly – order of magnitude, origin and control of error;
  • an appreciation of uncertainty and risk (and their mitigation) in the pursuit of solutions to open ended problems and practical work.

3. To be able to apply mathematics in the formulation and solution of physics problems.

The ability to apply logic, reason and mathematics in the solution of problems is a core skill. Coupled with physics-thinking, the numeracy of physicists makes them appealing to employers not just within but outside of the sciences and engineering. More than this, there is something very deep in the fact that mathematics gives physics is predictive power and ability to abstract and generalise the laws of nature often into a few, relatively simple, equations. Indeed – it is this level of abstraction that enables the programme of unifying known physical laws into more widely encompassing principles (such as Maxwell’s unification of electricity and magnetism into a single theory).

The Loughborough degree should provide opportunities to develop:

  • mathematical competence in the formulation and solution of problems.
  • an appreciation of the predictive power and nature of mathematics within physics.
  • an appreciation that physical theories encode a mathematical set of assumptions (axioms) for that discipline from which predictions can be extracted.
  • an ability to approximate solutions to a problem and understand, for example, the origins and control of numerical (as opposed to physical) error, solution stability and other mathematical phenomena that impact on physical phenomena.

4. To be able to use computers and related technologies in the formulation and solution of physics problems.

As with all science and engineering disciplines, computing has become part of the fabric of the professional physicist. Their use extends from modelling and simulation to the collection and processing of data which may be either through bespoke programmes written by practitioners or third party applications. Computers also find great utility in managing large projects, collaborations and facilitating effective communication (from visualisation of data to scientific social networking and training).

The Loughborough degree should provide opportunities to develop:

  • an ability to program computers using a variety of languages (and an awareness that there are several) for the simulation and/or collection and/or analysis ofdata.
  • an appreciation of the use of computers based solution in the support, planning and execution of projects especially those of a collaborative nature.
  • an ability to understand the emergence of errors in computational solutions. In this we do not simply mean the understanding and control of numerical error but also that complexity and human factors effect the reliability of projects. Here, for example, software engineering solutions such as Unit Testing and version control have a role in ensuring projects adhere to the scientific method.

5. To be able to design, observe, measure and experiment in a competent, precise and safe manner.

Physics is completely dependent on rigorous, scientific, experiments in both the discovery of new phenomena and in the testing of physical hypothesis. To be an experimental physicist requires the ability to make accurate measurements of physical properties, to gain insight from the observation of natural phenomena, and to design and construct experiments that can discriminate between different hypotheses. Mathematical and/or theoretical physicists should have an appreciation of these issues, and awareness of that which is possible, and an ability to work with experimental physicists in the shared pursuit of probing and testing nature (and vice versa).

The Loughborough degree should require the student to develop the ability to design experiments and apparatus underpinned by basic experimental skills, such as the use of standard equipment, maintaining appropriate records and assessing experimental uncertainty and. There should be opportunities to gain experience of more advanced techniques and data interpretation. Laboratory work will require the development of an appreciation of the design principles and assessment and mitigation of risk in experimental work.

6. To be able to collaborate with others (team members and other stakeholders) on projects involving highly technical content.

Physics is a demanding discipline and to make good progress it is the norm that physicists within academe and industry collaborate on projects. This is in part because no individual will or can have sufficient subject level skills and expertise to complete the project alone. It is also in part because the problems being tackled are sufficiently complex, abstract or ... that collaboration becomes essential. More than this however, physics is a social subject where Socratic debate, dialectical reasoning and cooperation couple with the physicists own critical evaluation of the subject underpin what is a community driven effort to understand, model and make use of nature. As such within this degree we seek to foster a habit of team-working and develop skills pertinent to working in such an environment.

The Loughborough degree should provide opportunities:

  • to form a core vocabulary and an understanding that in order to collaborate a shared language is needed (and that, especially in multi-disciplinary collaboration, this can be a challenge).
  • to demonstrate a willingness to collaborate and an appreciation of the need to do so.
  • To communicate clearly with both specialist and non-specialists (a skill that is needed in diverse teams but also in communicate with the wider community where there may be a need to not just communicate what has been done but also its importance and context. Hence there is a need to be articulate, precise, factual, consistent and have some empathy with the audience).
  • to work in a team and develop some core traits of a physicists such as being, committed, reliable, adaptable and resilient but also requires other soft skills such as dependability, caring, empathy and the taking of initiative (an understanding that for a team to be truly greater than the sum of its parts, members will need to be coordinated and assume different roles and that their role will bring with it a degree of personal responsibility).
  • to learn how to prioritise tasks, undertake time & resource management as well and project planning and management.