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QFFF Course at Imperial - Chances to get in...

  1. Jun 16, 2015 #1
    I am seriously considering applying for the QFFF MSc course at Imperial beginning this September and would like to know a little bit more about the course, the entry requirements and the prospects of continuing with a PhD in Theoretical Physics after completing the course. Is anyone on here doing/has done this course?

    I should probably explain my current situation in a little more detail to give you some context for my application:

    I completed an MPhys in Theoretical Physics at Durham University recently, however I had to take my finals late because I dislocated my hip in a high speed ski crash in the run-up to my exams. This put my life on hold a bit, as i was unable to get out of bed for 2 months, and on crutches for a further 3. Furthermore, it cast a bit of a shadow on my ambition to do a PhD. I completed my finals in August (the resit period) and graduated in January 2015 with a first class degree. I then moved to London to be with my girlfriend and took at job as a trainee Patent Attorney. Having worked there for a number of months now, I’m not sure I can see myself pursuing a long term career in patent law, as I’m much much more interested in physics than legal administration.

    During my undergraduate degree, I always focussed on the mathematical/theoretical aspects of physics. In fact, were I to retake my undergraduate degree I may well have chosen to have done a joint honours maths and physics. My module choices in 3rd and 4th year were as follows:

    3rd Year (BSc)
    Foundations of Physics 3A (Further Quantum Mechanics, Nuclear and Particle Physics) - 70%
    Foundations of Physics 3B (Fourier Optics, Statistical Mechanics, Magnetic Materials) -76%
    Maths Workshop (Complex Analysis, Algebra, Asymptotic Series, Special Functions, Integral Transforms) -63% (comprised of 2 papers one of which I got 73% on but I bombed the second paper on Integral Transforms and Asymptotic Series with a 50% :( )
    Planets and Cosmology - 63%
    Theoretical Physics 3 (Relativistic Electrodynamics, Quantum Scattering and Introduction to Relativistic Quantum Mechanics) -75%
    Key Skills A (Problem Solving and Computing)

    4th Year (MPhys)

    Project - “Large Order Behaviour of Perturbative Quantum Field Theory” under Dr Chris Maxwell. We looked at infra red freezing limits of observables in QCD (Adler Function, unpolarised Bjorken Sum Rule and GLS sum rule) using renormalon techniques. We were able to demonstrate that these functions were analytic in Q^2/Lambda^2 in the leading-b approximation to a skeleton expansion. I programmed in Python and Mathematica to produce plots of the functions in question and their derivatives, which was quite tricky - since there was an infinite cancelling mechanism occurring at the Landau pole, which seemed to blow up (especially in the derivative plots) when we used a finite number of terms in the series, until I found an alternative representation of the function using Logarithmic Integral functions that could be used in some places but not others…anyway I digress. - 71%

    Particle Physics - Introduction to Quantum Field theory, Gauge Field Symmetry, Phenomenology (81%)
    General Relativity and Astrophysical Fluids - 73%
    Advanced Theoretical Physics - Superconductivity and Quantum Optics. 62%

    My concerns arise because I haven’t been actively doing any physics or mathematics (apart from brain teasers in my spare time) since the end of my undergraduate degree. I appreciate that the most common path would be for people to transition directly into this course following an MPhys, but because of my circumstances this hasn’t been possible for me. Do you think I’m suitable for this course? I did get a first class degree but my marks weren’t uniformly perfect (my accident hit me pretty hard). What factors are most heavily weighted for applications (which I am aware are very competitive)? How would you advise me to go about applying to ensure the greatest chance of success?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2015 #2
    QFFF has acceptance rate of about 75%. With a first in physics from Durham, you have an extremely high chance of getting in. I will bet 100 to 1 that you will be accepted if you have a good reference from your project supervisor and a coherent personal statement.

    Something I learned the hard way this application season is that references trump grades. Do not worry too much about that maths paper.
  4. Jun 16, 2015 #3
    Oh fantastic! I got on like a house on fire with my project supervisor and my academic advisor who've both agreed to write me great references. I was worried because I only got a low 70s first and assumed that there would be candidates with mid 80s type grades, because the pages said that a first was the minimum requirement. I've got Kings College London as a back up in mind though just in case.
    Best of luck with your application!
  5. Jun 17, 2015 #4
    Also does anyone know what the deal with modules is on the QFFF? I'm aware that you can only take 2 of the MSci modules, but does this include the QFT course? What is the maximum number of modules I could take?
  6. Jun 19, 2015 #5
    Also does anyone know how long they take to get back to you typically, once the references are submitted?
  7. Aug 4, 2015 #6
    If you still want to know: The MSc at imperial consists of three blocks, namely compulsory modules, optional modules and dissertation. The compulsory modules are (the last time I checked) QFT, QED, Unification and Particle Symmetries (and oh boy are you going to have fun with this one :) ). Optional modules can be chosen form a list and can include up to two MSci level courses (stuff like GR, group theory etc.). QFT does not count as one of these, it is merely optional for undergraduates during their MSci year.

    Apart from that, with a degree and grade like that form Durham, you should easily get on the course.

    Also, if you haven't found this already, it might be usefull https://workspace.imperial.ac.uk/theoreticalphysics/Public/MSc/QFFFhandbook1415.pdf
  8. Aug 4, 2015 #7


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    Gold Member

    This is true when you are applying for other things besides entrance to a university course. If you are applying, for example, for a job, or a scholarship, or a research grant, your references will be very important. If you can convince several "big name" types that you are worth supporting, then you are going to get support.

    It might seem unfair. But remember that the people you ask for references must stand behind you and with you. If it is a job application for example, the people who give you references may have to work with you for many years. Or suffer their colleagues disapproval if you do not work out.

    So it is always good to work on your interpersonal skills. Don't make the mistakes I did. Try not to be a cranky old bastard all the time. Try to be helpful, pleasant to work with.
  9. Aug 4, 2015 #8
    Hi guys thanks for the responses. Just to let you know, I got in and I'm starting the course in October. Currently brushing up my maths, Lagrangian mechanics, and doing some reading ahead and practice problems. Thanks for all the support.
  10. Aug 4, 2015 #9
    Congrats on getting in. It's a great course and I'm sure you'll have an amazing (and tiring) experience :smile:
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