Physics Science

Physics Science

Physics is fundamental to all natural sciences and plays a central role in the development of new technologies. At Macquarie you’ll explore basic questions about intrinsic laws of the universe and learn how physics is applied to interdisciplinary fields.

You’ll learn about the nature of matter, how it moves through space and time, and the fundamental laws and theories that govern our universe.

Physics challenges students to explore the underlying principles of all physical phenomena. It will also develop:

  • problem solving skills
  • good laboratory techniques
  • skills in numerical analysis
  • technical writing
  • oral communication.

Physics at Macquarie University employs high quality and innovative approaches to teaching, underpinned by excellent research and strong links and collaborations with other organisations and industry.

Careers in physics

A physics degree, like science degrees of all kinds, including maths, computing, electronics, biology, chemistry, earth sciences etc., provides a broad education, teaching students to study and analyse problems with considerable rigour. A physics degree in particular, as well as throwing light on how our universe works, provides tremendous skills in problem solving that can be utilised in a wide range of career activities.

Successful completion of a degree in Physics and Astronomy is a demonstration of a keen intellect that has been trained to observe, analyse and interpret complex situations, and to solve a wide range of problems. Some graduates go on to be professional Physicists or Astronomers, but there is a very wide choice of careers that also need exactly the skills that our graduates have gained.

What jobs are there with a Macquarie physics degree?

Macquarie physics graduates have gained a wide range of jobs in areas such as telecommunications, industrial physics, hospital physics, electronics, computing, quality control testing, banking, insurance, teaching, management, technical sales, the armed forces, etc.
In recent years the growing area of telecommunications has employed many Macquarie physics graduates for tasks which include optoelectronics, systems monitoring, management, and technical writing.

Some physics graduates stay on to do research and gain higher degrees, such as masters degrees or doctorates. Our main research areas are photonics, optical and laser physics; nanoscience and condensed matter physics; quantum science and technology; and astronomy and astrophysics.

Whatever career you choose, you can be confident in the knowledge that your Macquarie Physics degree has been accredited by the Australian Institute of Physics, and will be respected wherever it takes you.

Annual Career Night in September

Our yearly Careers Night brings back to Macquarie a number of recent graduates, who tell us what careers they have chosen, and how their degree has given them the skills they needed to succeed. We invite you to our next Careers Night, but in the meantime offer recording of some of the previous speakers to give you a taste of where Physics and Astronomy can take you.

Find out more and hear talk from past speakers.

Professional experience

Many of our students become involved in the research program of the Department of Physics and Astronomy during their undergraduate degrees. This can include working at the University Observatory or other astronomy institutes in Sydney, or experimental work in the highly advanced optics and quantum physics laboratories of the Department.

Each year, the department offers competitively-awarded vacation scholarships for projects embedded in a research group of the Department (see Scholarships and Prizes below). A number of these projects have led to publications in the international scientific literature.

In addition, many units include assessment tasks involving mini-research projects, both theoretical and experimental.

Students wishing to develop their research skills may qualify to continue on to a Masters of Research program in Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics or Photonics will perform whole year projects on research-level problems, many using data from some of the world’s largest telescopes, and others designing and building new instruments for exo-planet hunting and other frontier discoveries.

Student experience

Most students undertake a Bachelor of Science degrees with a major in Physics. Students who decide their interests lie in astronomy, astrophysics or in applied optics  may switch to majors in Astronomy and Astrophysics or Photonics.

For highly able students, the Bachelor of Advanced Science is available for both Physics, and Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Macquarie’s modular unit structure allow each student to design an individual degree program to best suit their own aspirations and talents. For example you can add as much or as little computing and electronics as you wish to your physics program, including units in the other sciences, humanities, arts, languages or business etc. Some students combine science and law.

What do students of the Department of Physics and Astronomy do in a typical week?

Most units of study in physics typically present you with three lectures each week, during which you are taken through the study material for the unit, a tutorial, at which you practice solving problems and have the chance to sort out your questions, and two or three hours in the laboratory, where you carry out carefully guided experiments. This leaves plenty of time for private study to review your notes and learn the art of problem solving.

The topics covered in a physics degree program cover all the main branches of modern physics: mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, optics and quantum physics. We revisit each of these themes in successive years in more depth as your analytic and mathematical skills develop. To acquire these skills, students also take at least four units of mathematics.

What units are available at Macquarie for new students?

The core first year program in all Physics and Astronomy degrees consists of two physics units: either PHYS140 Physics IA and PHYS143 Physics IB, or PHYS106  Electric and Magnetic Interactions  and PHYS107 Modern Mechanics. Both these pairs of units will provide you with a broad background in Physics, to either help you with other science courses you may be taking (such as electronics, chemistry, earth sciences, some aspects of biology and some of the Photonics and Astronomy programs) or to provide the necessary background to continue in Physics at second year (200-level). Some students who are majoring in one of the other sciences sometimes opt to take either both or just one of these two units.

In 2016, we are introducing a new first year unit, PHYS130:Foundations of Physics to provide a gentler introduction to students intending to study further in physics but having little or no prior experience with the subject. Students completing PHYS130 will be well-prepared to progress to the core 100-level program contained in PHYS106 and PHYS107.

There are also two first year units in Astronomy (both counting as Planet units in the Macquarie degree program): ASTR170 Introductory Astronomy and ASTR178 Other Worlds: Planets and Planetary Systems. Both are introductory units suitable for aspiring physicists/astronomers and non-scientists with an interest in astronomy alike. Both units gives a broad underpinning of basic astronomical and solar system subjects and concepts with minimal mathematical content. No prior knowledge of astronomy or physics is required.
If you are majoring in Biology or Earth Sciences or just wish to have a general introduction to the concepts in Physics with minimal mathematics you may consider taking PHYS159 Physics for Global Citizens.

Another more technical introduction to physics is PHYS149 Physics for Technology (3 credit points), which is suitable as a service unit for students taking a range of degrees in other Sciences, Medical Science, Computing and IT, Finance and Business or Arts degrees.

What are key units in later years?

The core physics program includes

Students can choose from a range of other units to suit their interests including

What is the Bachelor of Advanced Science with a major in Physics?

This degree, designed for students with a high degree of proficiency in physics and/or astronomy allows a deeper exploration of many of the ideas in the standard physics and astronomy programs. Students take an additional whole year unit at 100, 200 and 300 level exploring ideas like probability and statistical concepts in physics, advanced and non-Newtonian mechanics, and the beginnings of field theory. Assessment tasks include project and research based approaches to learning.

Students in the standard Bachelor of Science who perform very strongly in physics and mathematics in their 100-level units may apply to transfer into the Bachelor Advanced Science in their second year.

Find out more about the Bachelor of Advanced Science with a major in Physics.

Scholarships and prizes

Undergraduate prizes

Many units in our program offer monetary prizes to the highest performing students.

The Arthur Pryor Prize

Open to all students proceeding to the degree of Bachelor. Awarded for proficiency in the unit PHYS242 – Big Ideas in Science.

The Australian Institute of Physics (NSW Branch) Prize

Open to all students proceeding to an MRes degree. Awarded for the best performance in the 1st Year of the Physics MRes program.

The Dick Makinson Physics Prize

Open to all students proceeding to the degree of Bachelor. Awarded for proficiency in 200-level units in Physics having a total of not less than 9 credit points.

The J.C. Ward, FRS, Physics Prize

Open to all students proceeding to the degree of Bachelor. Awarded for excellence in 300-level Physics units.

Read more about the J.C. Ward prize. 

The Peter Mason Prize

Open to all students proceeding to the degree of Bachelor. Awarded for proficiency in the unit PHYS143 – Physics IB.

The W. H. (Beattie) Steel Prize

Open to all students proceeding to the degree of Bachelor. Awarded for excellence in the unit PHYS306 Optical Physics.

Vacation Scholarships

The department of Physics and Astronomy offers several undergraduate vacation scholarships each year. The scholarships:

  • involve cutting-edge research during the summer vacation
  • are open to undergraduate physics students in Australia
  • have a scholarship of a tax-free stipend of up to $500 per week
  • are available in areas of research excellence
  • are typically awarded for 5 weeks in Jan – Feb

Find out how to apply and projects on offer. 

Macquarie University Undergraduate Scholarships

Macquarie University has a generous scholarship program that awards over $2.5 million to our students. Some of our scholarships have a strong emphasis on social inclusion and are awarded on the basis of financial need and other hardship. Others recognise factors such as academic excellence, sporting achievement and community engagement.

Applications for 2016 open in September 2015 and close early January 2016.

Please visit for more information.

You will also benefit from special advanced units not available to other students.

You will have close interaction with academics from the three major concentrations of research excellence that are based in the department. You will be given the opportunity to take part in research and gain practical experience working in our leading research laboratories.

This may include a summer vacation scholarship and a third-year research project. This degree is an excellent preparation for going on to honours and postgraduate studies in Physics and Astronomy.

Find out more about our Bachelor of Advanced Science

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