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LMU München - theoretical physics

  1. Aug 10, 2010 #1

    I am lately looking for a theoretical physics master program taught in English, and I came across http://www.theorie.physik.uni-muenchen.de/TMP/courses/index.html" [Broken]. It really looks like a complete program for those who seek a really mathematical-based courses; not to mention its hot topics such as string theory, black holes, et cetera. It seems to be a really good program if one wants to pursue a PhD in the future.

    So, I would like to ask to the audience if there is anyone here who has done –or is now taking– this course.

    Also, if you have any suggestions with respect to other theoretical physics programs, please go ahead.

    Thank you
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 11, 2010 #2
    What country?

    I know in the UK we have:

    Quantum Fields and Fundamental Forces - Imperial College London
    Elementary Particle Theory - Durham
    Particle Physics - Sussex
    Advanced High Energy Physics - University College London
    Theoretical Physics - King's College London

    Glasgow's website mentions that a new Theoretical Physics MSc is due to start next year, but give very little detail.

  4. Aug 11, 2010 #3
    Good luck Redsummers. LMU's physics department is definitely one of the best in Germany. You would probably get involved in some research with one of Max Planck institutes (MPE and MPA are located in Garching). I am applying for Ph.D there for the next intake. I hope I get accepted.
  5. Aug 11, 2010 #4
    I am not exactly at LMU,

    but if you would like to know more about the courses, google the following:

    site:uni-muenchen.de mathematical quantum mechanics

    and you will come across: http://www.mathematik.uni-muenchen.de/~lerdos/WS08/QM/
    Same procedure for the rest of the courses (just replace 'mathematical quantum mechanics' with the desired course/lecture name).


    Note: if you are interested in knowing more about tricks of searches using Google, you can look at my thread: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=404570
  6. Aug 12, 2010 #5
    Well, I am first thinking about Universities in Germany, since I am now studying Physics in Leipzig Universität (in English –I am not fluent in German whatsoever).
    But thanks for the British Universities, I will also have to consider Universities in the UK, so I will take into account the ones you just mentioned ;)

    By the way, I know that this subject has been treated here a gazillion different times; but I have noticed that you didn't state Cambridge University (in particular Mathematical Tripos Part III) in your list, do you have any arguments not to add it? –I mean, I have personally heard (read) a lot of good things, like they have an amazing array of courses in all sorts of areas, as well as 'attractive' topics, etc. And then on the other hand, I have also read that you don't really learn much since you just have to cram lectures for the final exam, and so many of the people there don't understand what's really going on.

    I would appreciate any impute you could give here about this!


    First of all, good luck to you! I have not yet applied there (still have one more year before applying). I knew there were some Max Planck Institutes over there, didn't know that students could get enrolled if they just study in LMU, it's good to know.
    So I'm guessing that it is very competitive to get accepted there... Do you know by chance how many students are normally in the M.Sc courses? –From physiker_192's post, I would say there are about 20 people by course (?). Just saying because there are only 17 marks in the final exam results.

    Thank you too, physiker_192, I will now dig those sites :P
  7. Aug 12, 2010 #6



    1. this book might be of interest to you, at the level the LMU MSc course

    2. You've mentioned that you are in an English MSc at Leipzig & the discussion is mainly focusing on Germany (or for anyone who is interested), just want to high light the following German book by Eugen Fick as one of the best books on Quantum Theory I've seen:

    3. In case you don't know about this webpage
    This site is really awesome for obtaining 2nd hand books (not that hard to get around using Google Translate or minimal German), offers are by private sellers and by books dealers as well.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  8. Aug 13, 2010 #7
    I am actually in a very similar situation to you, in that I am applying to a series of Theoretical Physics masters programs for entry in 2011. I didn't mention Part III because it is a generic physics program rather than being specifically theoretical. You may also consider Part III Maths (as opposed to Natural Sciences) which could equally well prepare you for Theoretical Physics, but the Maths course seems to be far more highly regarded...

    If you are also interested in generic programs, there is (what I think is) a rather excellent scheme in the UK, designed for students resident in other European countries, run by SEPnet (www.SEPnet.ac.uk), who run a full 2 years Bologna compliant masters across 6 universities (including Sussex, Queen Mary and Royal Holloway who all have access to excellent M-level Theoretical Physics courses).

    I am applying to all the universities I listed, but not Cambridge, since I do not fancy my chances up against the kind of competition that Cambridge attracts!

    Also found out today that Glasgow is already running the Theoretical Physics MSc, and the course material looks quite tasty.

  9. Aug 13, 2010 #8
    Yes, I was actually referring to the Mathematical Tripos Part III, it seems they have some good stuff as for the array of courses they offer, you can for example attend to pure mathematics courses (such as Diff. Geometry, complex manifolds, algebraic geometry/topology, etc.) which would definitely help a lot to your theoretical background. But I comprehend what you say about how competitive is it to get accepted there, even though they accept 200 students from all over the world (which is a lot if you compare it to other universities when it comes to theoretical physics and mathematics courses). Anyhow, at the end of the day, it's not that there is a huge difference between what you learn in different Universities as long as you're doing a theoretical physics course, and otherwise you can always learn it on your own if you really need it, any professor could also help.

    By the way, is the maximum amount of applies a student can do to Unis: 5, in the UK? even for a master degree?

    Thanks for all these universities you mentioned with the theoretical physics courses, actually they all sound to me as pretty high lvl Universities, are the requirements to all of them similar? (well, I guess that ICL may ask for a stronger background than the others).
    Anyway, I think it's time for me to read the syllabi they offer!
  10. Aug 13, 2010 #9
    Yes, it would appear that the world is your oyster with Part III Maths! There seem to be conflicting opinions about it - the best people to ask would be current students, at an open day for example.

    From what I've seen of the program specifications, it looks like Cambridge, ICL & Durham have the most extensive programs, whereas the other ones I mentioned don't cover quite so much material/are at a slightly lower level.

    There is no central application system at postgraduate level, it is done on an institutional basis, so there is no limit. I think I'm applying to 7 programs at 6 institutions. The SEPnet course would give you a years research as well, which would probably help getting a PhD position.

    The SEPnet thing I mentioned I think asks for a UK 2.2, everywhere else is 2.1, except for ICL who ask for a 1st (not sure how these translate into European grades - sorry!). I'm sure they give the European requirements on the websites, and if not then the admissions departments have been quite helpful.

    Do post back if you find any other ones! I wouldn't mind studying in continental Europe myself, but the Masters funding over there seems to be even more sparse than here.

  11. Aug 14, 2010 #10


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    I don't think that it happens only at Cambridge...
  12. Aug 14, 2010 #11
    About Masters funding, I would say it's harder to get it in Germany that in the UK for instance (but not impossible), you should also keep in mind that the tuition fee for a year of a Master degree in Germany would not be greater than 1000 euros (and living in Germany may not be really expensive, I live in Leipzig and I spend about 300 euros per month –paying the rent too–.. oh yeah, other facts is that I don't actually party and about the food, there are University-'restaurants' called mensa spared in the city which are really cheap, otherwise I just cook pasta and some easy-to-cook dishes). Finding funding for a Bachelor is also close to impossible if you don't speak German, but again it's not that expensive if you come to think about it. I guess there is more offer of funding when it comes to a Master degree though.

    About other universities in Europe, now that you mentioned, you may like to check this:
    http://www.mastersportal.eu/students/browse/programme/10136/theoretical-and-mathematical-physics.html" [Broken] (if you go to the more tab, you can find the program homepage)
    http://www.mastersportal.eu/students/browse/programme/509/theoretical-physics.html" [Broken] It's in the Netherlands, you could check it out too, I have never been in the Netherlands though... Don't know if I would like it over there.
    http://www.thphys.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php?lang=e&n1=graduate_school" Heidelberg is also really well-known in Germany for the Physics they have always offered, and this course seems to be interesting and in English too.
    http://www.itp.phys.ethz.ch/education/index" [Broken] It's not only that Einstein, Schrödinger and Pauli studied there (which doesn't mean a lot after a century) but their program seems pretty interesting, check it out.
    http://www.science.ku.dk/english/education/master/mscprogrammes/physics/" They also have a good structured program, and I have heard a lot of good things about it. There is the Niels Bohr Institute too.
    http://www.perimeterscholars.org/course-curriculum.html" I think the name of the institute speaks for itself, even though it's not in Europe but in Canada (they offer financial support).

    That's all the places I have now in mind, note that all of them are top Institutes, so the requirements may be quite high; but you have nothing to lose by checking them.

    Ah, about the grading thing in the UK, I will have to study how this really works xD. Is a first analogous of having an average of +75%? Or it has something to do with the difficulty of the course instead of the mark? anyway... I don't think I can really understand it if I don't experience it at the first hand.
    If you have questions about German, US or Spanish(I would not consider to study theoretical physics in Spain though...) grading, just ask me here.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  13. Aug 15, 2010 #12
    Nice selection Redsummers.

    BTW, I'm in a similar situation, would like to do a theoretical master course after finishing my current master course.

    Funding in Germany is not an issue, as you always get some student assistant job at the uni (something like part time RA ?)..
    However, considering the academic load of the LMU course, this will be challenging a bit especially in the beginning, in addition that living expenses in München are rather high (at least double of the number you quoted for Leipzig).
    Plus having to spend another two years living as a student,,, I need to give this more thought.

  14. Aug 15, 2010 #13
    300 euros a month, wow. I've always thought of Germany as expensive (compared to the UK, anyway). And 1000 euros per year for a MSc is excellent, the UK ones are running between £3000 to £4600 for a year!

    @physiker I've always worried that having to work as a teaching assistant/marker/etc would eat too much into studying time.

    I will have a look at the European institutes you listed, I've already seen the Perimeter one, but don't intend to apply for the same reason as Cambridge. I assume they are all taught in English?

    1st >= 70%, 60% <= 2.1 < 70%, 50% <= 2.2 < 60%, 40% <= 3rd < 50%, fail < 40% is our grading system. Some universities also have an unofficial '1st starred' for the very top students.

    I would be interested to know how the German system works. Is there a Europe wide system, or is country dependent?

  15. Aug 15, 2010 #14
    Hi Scott,
    1) The German grading system is numbers from 1.0 (best), 1.3, 1.7, 2.0, ..., 4.0 (worst pass), 5.0 (fail). The grades are somewhat silly because unless you know the average grades given at the respective university in the respective field, a number is meaningless. E.g. a 2.0 officially is "good". In the old physics diploma studies, the average final grade given ~1.3 and I don't know of anyone with a worse grade than 2.0. In law, everyone with a final grade of 3.0 or better is given "with distinction", and only a minority of students get it. Since there is a European university system, I am sure that at least for the new courses (there was a reform towards the European system relatively recently) the grading scheme is either European or a transcription rule for the grades exists.

    2) The 300 euros/month might be realistic for the eastern part. In the western part, this number might be higher depending on the city, Munich being the most expensive (perhaps twice of that). Fees range from about 400 euros/year to ~1400 euros/year depending on the region the university is in (the university's reputation has nothing to do with that). I do not think that relying entirely on tutoring to pay your bills is realistic. You get ~8 euros/hour during the semester (~7-8 month/year) and get paid maybe 10 hours/week (possibly even less; I've never tutored as a student). The only advantage of tutoring over working as a waiter is that you learn something along the way - but I know of no one who makes a living with it.
  16. Aug 16, 2010 #15
    Thanks for the info Timo. It seems grades need context, however hard one tries to standardize them. For example, my current institution (University of East Anglia) which is somewhere in the 30's of best Institutions in the UK had no 1st class students in Chemistry this year, whereas I was reading a student paper at Durham University (top 10 in UK) saying that no one had received less than a 2.1 from some of their departments in the last decade!

    1400 euros per year, even if it is a two year degree, is still considerably cheaper than a single year MSc in the UK! Hmm, my German is very poor, so I suspect I could only really get a job in a tourist-y type shop or something. And I still wonder how possible it is to excel in a top rate masters program if one has to do paid work as well.

    Did you/are you doing a Masters?

  17. Aug 16, 2010 #16

    I would like to clarify a point, depending on where, in major states you get 10eur(at the uni) an hour (at working as a student assistant, it can even be more (scientific assistant: 12 eur/hour).
    A student assistant job doesn't mean correcting homeworks or so, but rather a scientific/technical mini job. There are few teaching assistant jobs, as typically PhD students fill the positions, when available, they are typically for large lectures (in a number of cases, most exercise groups are in German while a few are in English, since not all the PhD students speak German).
    As an example, some research institute or some company might need to programmer to do some specific application,, or some agency needs help with secretarial work.

    For many, they work at university research institutes (awesome, and requires minimal German if any), supporting specific research projects (the work can be in pure theoretical physics even). Hence it is a very good way to earn money and get some experience.

    To answer your question, combining MSc study and part time work is fine, not stressing especially if you like the job, but during your first semester, try to keep the number of work hours to say 12-14 hrs a week (max. 16 for practicality, but you can get 20hrs/week, however this is too much).
  18. Aug 19, 2010 #17
    I guess that now with the Bologna process things may be different. At least, as far as I know concerning the grades of my fellows this past year, scores where oscillating from 5 to 1. On the other hand it's hard to make a conversion table from German to British grading systems. The easiest way to do it, would probably be conversing all the 1.0, 2.0 etc to percentages. *shrug*
    But anyway, as Game-Over said, it is sometimes hard to standardise them, even in the same country due to the different grading criteria every university may use.

    Yup, I actually searched for MSc. only in English. I am not looking either for degrees taught in German, mine is very poor too.

    About obtaining a job in Germany when you don't speak German, I think both physiker and Timo have given you the answer. I have a friend who is not fluent in German either, but was able to teach English to kids into some school. Maybe you could also find some job in teaching English if there were no offers from the physics faculty.

    Btw, it seems that you both (physiker_192 and Timo) are taking master degrees (or already finished). I have something to ask too, about the German system. I am enrolled in a physics course in English, and as some other students told me, there's no need to take any extra examination to go from the Bachelor to the Master once the student has finished the Bachelor (at least in my university). My question is: to study a MSc. in Germany, would I need to take any extra test/exam for that specific uni? or having my average final grade in Leipzig is more than sufficient to apply to other German universities?

    As it seems in the LMU -theoretical physics course- website, they don't require any other specific examination. http://www.theorie.physik.uni-muenchen.de/TMP/application/index.html" [Broken] all they say about the requirements, they don't state anything about the minimal average final score of the Bachelor whatsoever.

    Well, now that I'm in the topic, I ask Game-Over too. Do British universities ask the student to do an extra exam to apply to the uni? –I don't think so, but it's always better to ask.

    Thanks again!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  19. Aug 20, 2010 #18
    Nah, UK universities aren't very hot on entrance examinations. I haven't seen any graduate programs that require anything like that. I suspect applying to Cambridge or Oxford might entail an interview though.

    I'm pleased to know that the German institutions don't require exams. I've also been considering applying to the US, but the two GREs you have to take are expensive and would have to be studied for!

    It's interesting that they don't give a minimum grade/GRE score as a guide. I assume it means they consider each application individually. I bet the requirements to compete with the people who apply is quite high.

    The prospect of supporting myself as a research assistant sounds intriguing. Doing extra work like this may even assist with the degree! Number of hours one could work depends upon how crammed the lecture timetable is I suppose.

  20. Aug 20, 2010 #19


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    I've considered applying for this program, but decided to continue with pure mathematics. It should be a very exciting and good education.
  21. Aug 25, 2010 #20
    Hi Scott,
    you're welcome.
    Strictly speaking, no "top rate masters programs" can exist in Germany. Crowding a program with exorbitantly high demands on the students is really not a problem for any university. Whether the students are good enough for those expectations and whether the university can do a good job in teaching is a different matter that has yet to be determined. In practice of course, a "top rate masters program" at the LMU may be a self-fulfilling prophecy: the university has the reputation of being pretty much the best in Germany (overall; along with the TU Munich) so they will probably attract very ambitious students and be able to select the best.
    The German standard is that students get money from their parents. Some work for a bit of extra money. Very few depend entirely on self-earned money. I don't know a single physics student who did and managed to get the degree in the end. Also, I know no student (except PhD students who get paid quite well) making a living by jobs at university - in no field. So while I am not too familiar with the new B.Sc/M.Sc system, I at least want to advice you to be careful about planning to study and seriously work at the same time. It's definitely not the standard case in Germany. I personally know no one who does. That doesn't rule out the possibility, of course.
    I studied in Germany, but under the old system which directly lead to a Masters-like degree (Dipl. Phys.). So I only had to apply once (admission rate 100% at all universities so no big deal) and never bothered with Masters programs. Physiker_192 most certainly has more hands-on experience with Bachelor and Master courses than me. But his optimism does not quite fit what I see, so I at least wanted to express my scepticism.

    It is up to the universities to make up their admission criteria themselves. But since universities have notorious money problems, they will just take your final grade in most cases. The course at the LMU seems to be an exception to that. I interpret what they write as accepting the N people with the best grades and M of the L next-best students based on their impression in an interview. I doubt there will be a test. The interview is more likely about background, character and motivation. EDIT: Since I just read a funding application for a huge project: you might have advantages if you're non-german (so the university can show its "international orientation") or female (so the university can show it is "promoting gender equality").
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2010
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