Physics degrees relaunched

After a nine-year absence, Newcastle University has restarted teaching Physics, offering prospective students the opportunity to study for a BSc or a MPhys in Physics.

A dwindling interest in studying Physics a decade ago  meant the last intake of Physics students at the University occurred in 2004. However, the field has seen a nation-wide spark in interest recently, with numbers of students studying Physics in school increasing, causing a subsequent rise in demand for Physics degrees.

So far, four new academics have been appointed to help teach the new degree programmes. Additionally, £2 million has been invested into providing purpose-built facilities, including a Physics laboratory in the Herschel Annex building, where the Physics department is housed. The Herschel building is named for the University’s first Professor of Physics, Alexander Herschel, who was appointed in 1871 and whose grandfather, Sir William Herschel, is credited with discovering the planet Uranus.

“As the ‘queen of sciences’ physics will always be a core discipline”

The facilities were officially opened in a ceremony on Friday 6 November by the internationally acclaimed physicist, astrobiologist, cosmologist and Director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, Professor Paul Davies. Speaking on the subject of  “the great unresolved problems of physics”, Professor Davies lauded the reintroduction of Physics degrees at Newcastle University, commenting, “I welcome this initiative which restores physics to its rightful place at this esteemed institution. As the ‘queen of sciences’ physics will always be a core discipline.

“In the second decade of this century, physics is poised to transform the frontiers of research from fields as diverse as computing, cancer biology, materials science and nanotechnology. The career opportunities opening up for physics graduates herald a new Golden Age for science.

“The end is not in sight for theoretical physics, nor experimental physics; there is still a long way to go yet.”

The ceremony continued with flare, as a paper cover was set aflame to reveal a plaque commemorating the occasion.

Speaking exclusively to The Courier, Professor Steve Homans, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering (SAGE) at Newcastle University, stated: “It’s wonderful to see Physics back on the map in Newcastle. I think Physics has exhibited a rebirth, the Brian Cox effect perhaps. We have a lot of very strong Physics research in Newcastle already in other departments, like Electrical Engineering, but this means that the University’s physicists can come together to focus their efforts.

“Over the next decade, we would hope to establish Physics as a separate discipline within the University, by gaining more researchers and postgraduate students, as they are ultimately the lifeblood of research.”

There are 39 undergraduate students currently on the first year of the two new single honours Physics degrees, the first intake in eleven years, with numbers set to rise. Plans also exist to expand the current facilities with the construction of cryogenics and electronics laboratories intended.

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