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Physics and Astronomy


The Physics and Astronomy Department offers a vibrant, world-class environment for students interested in a diverse array of problems in the physical sciences. Our research seeks both to uncover the fundamental laws that govern natural phenomena on all scales, and to apply these to the understanding of real-world problems.

World-leading research

With £3.4M invested in advanced facilities and labs over the last few years, we focus on fundamental, interdisciplinary research across physics and astronomy. We use research-led teaching to expose our undergraduates to pioneering ideas, and enable postgraduates to experience the cutting-edge of the field via internationally-recognised research groups.

Postgraduate Research

Working in partnership with academic and research staff, our PhD researchers benefit from a creative, supportive and professional environment, experiencing our pioneering research first-hand.

Discover Postgraduate Research

Research groups

Our research encompasses a broad range of experimental, computational, and theoretical physics, with research groups in electromagnetic and acoustic materials, quantum systems and nanomaterials, biomedical physics, and astrophysics.

Research projects range from the study of thermodynamics in the quantum regime, to the atmospheres of exoplanets and the diagnosis and treatment of cancer using nanoparticles. We also work closely with non-academic partners, including the electronics and defence industries, as well as the Met Office and NHS Trusts

"Our research addresses the priorities of UKRI, Government Innovation Strategy, and the Exeter 2030 Strategy, and is consolidated within 3 cross-cutting themes.

Our research groups in Astrophysics, Biomedical Physics, Electromagnetic and Acoustic Materials, and Quantum Systems and Nanomaterials, carry out a broad spectrum of curiosity driven research. We are pursuing Physics for Health by using our expertise in biophotonics to understand biological systems and develop new clinical applications.

Our research in advanced materials feeds into the development of low loss electronics, photovoltaics and batter technology to deliver Physics for Sustainability. In collaboration with the Met Office, research into planetary atmospheres also leads to predictions of global climate outcomes.

Finally, within Physics and Artificial Intelligence (AI), we use AI to solve some of the most numerically demanding problems in physics, and exploit our expertise in electronic, photonic and magnetic materials to develop new architectures for brain-like and quantum computing."

Read more from Professor Rob Hicken

Professor Rob Hicken

Director of Research

Research centres, institutes and themes

Strong links between our groups cultivate collaborative research linking multiple disciplines. This is exemplified by our cross-disciplinary research with the Global Systems Institute and the Met Office on planetary climate science, and the Centre for Metamaterials Research and Innovation, which spans physics and engineering. Jointly with the £52M Living Systems building adjoining Physics, we also house an interdisciplinary biophysics hub positioned at the interface between the physical and the life sciences.