Physics and Astronomy

Degrees with research placement

If you're a high-performing Physics student with top grades you could be eligible for our Physics (with a research placement) MPhys degree. You'll go on research placements with our renowned academics over your summer holidays and learn about real research methods and practices. Choose from lab-based projects or theoretical projects.

Why study Physics (with a research placement) MPhys? 

  • work on a research problem with one of our renowned academics
  • develop your knowledge and skills to enhance your studies 
  • prepare for your future career or further study 
  • get paid during your summer placement to cover your living expenses.


You can find out if you're eligible for this course by checking the entry requirements on our undergraduate prospectus

How does the research placement work? 

This is a paid project that takes place over the summer. You select a project in the Spring term. Once you have a supervisor assigned, you both agree when you will carry out the project.

The duration of the summer research placements are:

Year 1 - 4 week placement

Year 2 - 8 week placement

Year 3 - 8 week placement (optional).

SEPnet logoThe project is assessed by a report. You may agree with your supervisor on additionally preparing a science poster, or a journal review.

We also encourage you to explore other avenues for gaining research experience, such as the Sussex Junior Research Associate scheme, and other organisations such as the Royal Astronomical Society and our partners in South East Physics Network.

Our projects

See some of the placements we currently offer below. Because we're a forward-thinking department, we only offer the most up-to-date projects to our students, which means these projects are subject to change.   

If you are already studying at Sussex you can find out more about each project on our internal pages.


Projects have included:

  • High energy astrophysics
  • Surveying the universe 
  • Star formation in the distant universe using the Hershcel Multi-Tiered Extragalactic Survey (HerMES)
  • Making galaxies: theoretical modelling of galaxy formation
  • Making a splash: Modelling water with smoothed-particle hydrodynamics
  • Cosmology from the microwave background
  • The inflationary model
  • Signatures of cosmic reionisation
  • Calibrating a small radio telescope
  • Fisihing for EELS (Extreme Emission Line Sources)

Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics

Projects have included:

  • Circuit Quantum Electrodynamics with a single trapped electron
  • Ion Quantum Technology
  • Quantum systems from confined cold atoms
  • Single-ion cavity QED
  • Single Molecules Under Control: Laser stabilisation for the manipulation of single molecular ions
  • Computational quantum mechanics 
  • Set up of a photonic characterisation bench using ultrafast optical sources
  • Terahertz photonics
  • Using quantum physics to improve measurement technology

Quantum Technologies

Projects have included:

  • Developing and operating ion trap quantum computers
  • Quantum microchips
  • New concepts in quantum computing
  • Quantum simulation with trapped ions
  • Quantum simulation with neutral atoms
  • Quantum programming languages
  • Quantum Radar
  • Coupling photons and ions towards realizing a quantum internet
  • Developing quantum enhanced clocks
  • Quantum sensors to measure brain activity
  • Quantum devices for inertial sensing
  • Networked quantum sensors
  • Quantum foundations and entanglement
  • Quantum imaging

Theoretical Physics

Projects have included:

  • Exploring the Quantum Vacuum: Understanding the Lamb shift caused by vacuum fluctuations in various systems
  • Higgs coupling fits
  • Warped extra-dimensional models
  • Jet physics at the LHC
  • Newton's potential in gravitational theories beyond General Relativity. 
  • Phase transitions in statistical and particle physics
  • Phase transitions in the early universe 
  • Quantum systems from confined cold atoms
  • Solitons and oscillons
  • Symmetry breaking in particle physics
  • Lorentz, canonical and gauge transformations in moving media

Samuel Morgan MPhys Research Placement

Student Case study

Samuel Morgan, Physics (research placement) MPhys graduate (pictured above)

What were you researching and which group did you work with?
During my time at Sussex, I completed two summer research placements; one after my first year and another after my second. For both of these experimental placements I worked with the Emergent Photonics (EPic) research group. The first placement lasted 4 weeks in the summer of 2017, and the second took place across 8 weeks in the summer of 2018. I also completed my MPhys Final Year Project with EPic during my fourth year (2019/20).

Broadly speaking, EPic’s research focuses on emergent properties of complex nonlinear optical systems. The focus of my placements was Terahertz Photonics, a sub-field of ultrafast photonics concerned with the generation, manipulation and detection of terahertz radiation which sits between microwaves and infrared radiation on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Tell us more about the research you were involved in

In my first placement I implemented the control program for a THz microscope. This device is used to image materials with THz radiation, much as objects can be imaged in visible light using a smartphone camera.

This device is not commercially available, and so this involved writing custom MATLAB scripts to interface with opto-electronic devices in the lab and ensure the proper function of the microscope.

In my second placement I engineered and tested a set of mounts for THz waveguides as part of one of the group’s larger projects. Waveguides are of interest in the THz community, offering the potential to condense traditionally large desktop arrangements into a tiny chip. My custom-made mounts allowed for the optimal physical conditions for THz generation to be created for the waveguides, as well as making them more robust and versatile. I tested these conditions and demonstrated the strong benefits incurred by the use of these mounts.

Was it a great experience and did you get to see what real physics is like?

I enjoyed all of my time with EPic. Each project posed new and interesting challenges which constantly tested my physics knowledge, experimental skills and problem solving abilities. The support network associated with working in an established research group was invaluable, allowing insight and advice from PhD students, post-docs and professors throughout any project; they all want to see you succeed.

My research placements allowed me to experience how experimental physics research is really done. Possibly the biggest takeaway for me is how long it takes! Physics research often involves the study of systems which have been boiled down to only a few variables. The unavoidable complexity of the real world means that replicating these conditions is hard, time-consuming and subject to error, something that I wouldn’t have experienced to the same first-hand degree if studying a normal undergraduate.

How did the placement help prepare you for your future career or further study?

Research at the bleeding-edge of any field is often characterised by problems with no pre-existing solutions; where pragmatic and critical thought is required to progress. The ability to think in this way is vital for success in interviews or at assessment centres where problems are often posed which require quick, logical thought. These skills are equally as imperative for entering further study and research, where these hurdles are part of the everyday workflow.

In my experience, employers are most interested in your independent projects and pursuits which are an extension from the usual undergraduate structure. Research placements are perfect for this, where the student has the opportunity to work on novel problems and develop an understanding of a specialist field.

What are you doing now?

I am now working as a Geophysicist with CGG in Crawley. In this role I am working on large-scale projects to generate imagery of Earth’s subsurface using seismic wave surveys, primarily for the location of natural resources like oil and gas. My projects with EPic were a hot topic during the interview and assessment process for this role.

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Physics and Astronomy