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Postgraduate Programme

Postgraduate Degrees

Three postgraduate degrees are offered in physics: the MSc and PhD degrees by dissertation and the MSc by course work and research report. Students who have satisfactorily completed a three-year degree at Wits, including physics as a major subject, are eligible to join the Physics Honours (fourth year) programme. Students from other institutions must contact the Head of Department concerning eligibility to join the Physics Honours course. Further details on the requirements for the postgraduate degrees may be obtained from the Head of Department.


A formal structure of postgraduate courses is offered for postgraduate study. Students reading for the MSc by course work and research report are required to attend and be examined on topics as determined by the Head of Department. The structure of the course work will depend on the candidate s area of intended specialization. Advanced courses include a number of topics within the following broad areas: advanced quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, electrodynamics, solid state physics, nuclear physics, applied nuclear physics, physics of materials, spectroscopy and diffraction physics.

Students registered for higher degrees by dissertation are encouraged to attend postgraduate courses and may be required, at the discretion of the Head of Department, to be examined in selected courses.

Besides the formal course structure there are regular specialized colloquia as well as more general lectures in the Physics Club series.

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Honours in physics

This constitutes the final year before a student is allowed to be considered for an MSc or PhD programme. Only those with a sufficiently high Honours mark will be encouraged to continue after the Honours year with studies towards the MSc and PhD degrees. Those students with degrees obtained under other systems who apply for admission to our Honours programme may be asked to take additional courses and/or laboratory components, to be specified by the course coordinator. This may in some cases require a 18 or 24 month registration for Honours.

The course consists of :

a) a selection of modules from

i) principle modules

  • Electrodynamics 
  • Elementary Particle Physics 
  • Medical & Radiation Physics(1) 
  • Nuclear Physics 
  • Statistical Mechanics 
  • Quantum Mechanics II 
  • Quantum Mechanics III 
  • Solid State Physics I 
  • Solid State Physics II

ii) additional modules (which may include)

  • Applied Nuclear Physics 
  • Group Theory 
  • Low Temperature Physics 
  • Mathematical Methods in Physics 
  • Radio Astronomy 
  • Honours topics in the Departments of Computational and Applied Mathematics, Mathematics or Chemistry, subject to approval by the course coordinator.

b) a compulsory essay and a compulsory experimental or theoretical project with an oral presentation and a written report

c) MSc courses offered within the Department may also be taken in well motivated cases.

The selection of courses taken by a student is subject to the approval of the course coordinator. A points system applies where courses each have an appropriate weighting factor. There is one exam paper per module written in June or November depending on whether the module was offered during the first or second term. Each exam paper is examined by an external examiner.

Intending students should obtain the course list as early as possible in December or January before lectures begin. Curricula are confirmed at the first meeting of class which is usually on the last Monday morning before the first term lectures begin. During this "orientation week" tours of the various facilities will be offered (facilities in the Physics Department, Medical Physics in Hillbrow Hospital, and the Schonland Research Centre for Nuclear Sciences on Campus).

 Physics Honours Course Information

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MSc in Physics

This is offered

(a) by dissertation
(b) by course work and a research report.

Candidates registered under (a) are required to attend selected advanced courses and to produce a dissertation on a research topic. Those registered under (b) spend a larger proportion of their time on course work (about 150 lecture periods), are examined on this work and must produce a short research report. In both cases the candidate works under the guidance of a supervisor.

Courses are offered on a wide range of advanced topics in Experimental, Theoretical and Applied Physics. Courses are given by members of the Department, the Schonland Research Centre for Nuclear Sciences, the Department of Medical Physics as well as by staff at the Hartebeeshoek Radio-astronomical Observatory and frequently by visitors from abroad.

Courses offered may include:

  • Advanced Nuclear Physics 
  • Advanced Quantum Mechanics 
  • Advanced Statistical Mechanics 
  • Applied Nuclear Physics 
  • Applied Semiconductor Materials Science 
  • Computational Physics 
  • Field Theory and Quantum Electrodynamics 
  • Health Physics 
  • High Pressure Physics 
  • Introduction to Elementary Particles 
  • Low Temperature Physics 
  • Magnetic Resonance 
  • Methods of Mathematical Physics 
  • Minerals Physics 
  • Modern Optics and Laser Spectroscopy 
  • M?auer Spectroscopy 
  • Nuclear Astrophysics 
  • Nuclear Reaction Mechanisms 
  • Particle-Solid Interactions 
  • Phonon Dynamics 
  • Phase Transitions and Critical Phenomena 
  • Quantum Theory of Solids 
  • Scattering and Reaction Theory 
  • Solid State Electronics 
  • Superconductivity

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BScHons and MSc in Physics Education

The School of Science Education offers Honours and Masters degrees in Science Education. A student may specialise in the area of Physics Education. For the Honours degree, a student must choose a coherent set of courses from the list offered for Honours in physics, as approved by the Head of Department. The list should contain at least two core topics, and the points add to at least half of that required for the ordinary Honours degree. The student must also take three courses from the list offered by the School of Science Education, which includes

  • Science Education I and II 
  • Mathematics Education I and II 
  • Chemistry Education 
  • Physics Education (compulsory).

With special permission a BEd course may also be considered. The student is also required to do a minor research project in the area of Physics Education.

The Honours degree is taken over 12, 18 or 24 months, depending on the circumstances of the student.

The Masters course is usually done by course work and research report over one year (full-time) or two years (part-time). The course in Research Methods in Science Education is compulsory. An additional three courses must be taken, one of which is a course on Misconceptions in Physics. A full list of courses offered in any particular year is obtainable from the Science Faculty office. In addition to these four courses, a student must complete an approved research programme and research report in the area of Physics Education. Alternatively, with permission, a student may take the Masters degree by dissertation.

After successful completion of the Masters degree, a candidate might consider a programme of comprehensive and detailed research in a specific area of Physics Education, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

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Financial assistance for graduates

There are various possible sources of financial assistance for postgraduate study.

a) University

  • Merit Awards. 
  • Senior Bursaries.

Holders of these bursaries are expected to do a limited amount of teaching in the Department.

b) Foundation for Research Development

The FRD offers postgraduate bursaries to South African citizens for Honours, MSc and PhD study. Application must be made through the department. Holders of these bursaries may be permitted to supplement them with additional grants, for example with a Senior Bursary.

c) Grant Holder Bursaries

Individual researchers may be able to offer FRD Grant Holder Bursaries to any prospective research students. Application must be made to individual grant holders.

d) Other bursaries and scholarships

A number of postgraduate bursaries and scholarships are administered by the University. Information on these may be obtained from the Bursaries and Scholarships office of the University.



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