Undergraduate - Area of Study

Students who commenced study in 2012 should refer to this area of study entry for direction on the requirments; to check which units are currently available for enrolment, refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your area of study.

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All areas of study information should be read in conjunction with the relevant course entry in the Handbook. The units listed for this area of study relate only to the 'Requirements' outlined in the Faculty of Science component of any bachelors double degrees.

Managing facultyFaculty of Science
Offered bySchool of Physics
CoordinatorDr Kevin Pimbblet (Level one); Dr Lincoln Turner (Level two); Dr Alexis Bishop (Level three); Dr Csaba Balazs (Honours)


  • Unit codes that are not linked to their entry in the handbook are not available for study in the current year.


Physics seeks to provide a fundamental understanding of how our physical universe works at all conceivable scales of length, time and energy. It ranges from the very practical, such as improving medical imaging technologies, to curiosity-driven questions, such as why is the sky blue? It addresses fundamental questions about the nature of space, time and matter, and also provides insight into the nature of reality and the origin of our universe. In mainstream physics, students explore diverse topics ranging from atom optics, astrophysics and particle cosmology to condensed matter physics, x-ray optics and synchrotron science. Students with biomedical, bioscience and environmental science interests can study relevant physics at level one. A program in physics, involving experimentation, application of theory and problem solving, provides a sound scientific background for a complex and technologically-oriented world.

The School of Physics offers physics units at all undergraduate and honours levels, together with astronomy and astrophysics units at levels one, two and three. Students may include some astronomy and astrophysics in a physics minor, major, and honours.

The first three levels of physics provide a broad foundation, with some opportunity for specialisation in level three. During honours and postgraduate study, opportunities exist for specialisation in a wide range of topics in theoretical and experimental physics.


On completion of a major sequence in physics students will:

  • have a clear understanding of how physics knowledge is constructed, and appreciate the importance of physics in everyday life, in technologies, and in the structure of the universe
  • have an understanding of classical physics (mechanics, electromagnetism, waves and optics), the foundations of quantum, atomic, condensed matter and statistical physics, and some aspects of contemporary physics knowledge and practice
  • be able to apply physics concepts in these areas with appropriate mathematical methods to a range of situations, and demonstrate problem solving and critical thinking skills
  • have acquired computational and IT skills, an ability to plan experiments, and experimental skills including the effective use of a range of scientific instruments, measurement, data analysis, and analysis of uncertainties
  • have developed, in the context of the discipline, the graduate attributes of effective communication, quantitative literacy, information and communication literacy, inquiry and critical thinking
  • have developed an understanding of the ethical, social and international perspectives of the discipline
  • know the key principles underlying occupational health and safety in laboratory practice
  • have a foundation for further learning in physics and related disciplines, for employment requiring analytical, quantitative and experimental skills, and for undertaking secondary physics teacher qualifications.


Level one

Level two

  • ASP2011 Astronomy
  • PHS2011 Physics: Quantum concepts and technologies
  • PHS2022 Physics: Electromagnetism, light and entropy

Level three

  • ASP3222 Physics for astrophysics
  • ASP3231 Observational astronomy
  • MTE3545 Functional materials and devices
  • MTE3547 Materials characterisation and modelling
  • PHS3031 Foundations of contemporary physics
  • PHS3042 Fundamentals of condensed matter physics
  • PHS3051 Photon physics
  • PHS3062 Fundamental particle physics
  • PHS3131 Theoretical physics
  • PHS3142 Theoretical physics II
  • PHS3350 Physics research project 1
  • PHS3360 Physics research project 2

Sequence requirements

Minor sequence in physics (24 points)

Major sequence in physics (48 points)

Double major sequence in physics (72 points)

  • a major sequence in physics
  • the remaining units (to complete 72 points) including at least 36 points of PHS units at level three (with ASP3222 as an alternative to PHS3062); additional units may include ASP3231, level three mathematics units approved by the physics level three coordinator, or one of MTE3545 or MTE3547.

Note that physics units have mathematics pre-requisites. PHS2011 has MTH1030 as a prerequisite; PHS2022 has MTH2010 as a prerequisite; level three units (PHS3031, PHS3042, PHS3051, PHS3062, PHS3131 and PHS3142) have MTH2010 and MTH2032 as pre-requisites. Details of the ASP and MTE units, and related sequences, are described in the 'astronomy and astrophysics' and 'materials science' entries in the Science areas of study section of the Handbook.

Requirements for honours in physics

  • 24 points of relevant level-three units, of which normally 18 points are PHS units

Additional information

See coordinator details in table above.

Level one

The mainstream sequence PHS1011 and PHS1022 covers foundational topics in physics over two semesters, providing a balance between a theoretical understanding of physics along with practical applications and experimental physics. These units follow a mathematical approach and use calculus. Students are required to have passed VCE year 12 Physics (or equivalent), or do PHS1080 in place of PHS1011. Mainstream physics is normally taken by students with interests in physics, mathematics, astrophysics, chemistry, computational science, those with a general interest in the nature of the universe, and those doing science/engineering double degrees. For PHS1011, MTH1020 or MTH1030 are recommended co-requisites. PHS1022 has a prerequisite of VCE Specialist Mathematics or MTH1020, with MTH1030 as a recommended co-requisite (to enable students to proceed to level two physics.).

Foundation physics PHS1080 is suitable for students with no year 12 Physics who wish to understand the basic principles of physics. It specifically prepares students for entering PHS1022 in semester 2 and for continuing in physics or astronomy-astrophysics beyond level one.

PHS1031 and PHS1042 are specifically designed for students interested in biomedical and environmental disciplines respectively. There is an emphasis on applications of physics principles in a range of relevant situations. These units can be undertaken by students with no previous physics experience and do not require calculus. However they do not provide students with a suitable foundation for further studies in physics or in areas based on physics.

PHS1011 or PHS1080, and PHS1022 are required to enter the level two physics units PHS2011 and PHS2022. Students with alternative semester-one physics may be enrolled in level two physics at the discretion of the level coordinator. Students continuing to level two physics should ensure that they do the required mathematics (at least MTH1030 in level one).

The school also offers ASP1010 Earth to cosmos - introductory astronomy at level one. Any level one physics unit provides a basic foundation to do level two astronomy and astrophysics. See the astronomy and astrophysics entry for details.

Level two

The units PHS2011 and PHS2022 develop key areas of physics including quantum physics, condensed matter physics, electromagnetism, optics, atomic and nuclear physics, and statistical physics. Many key concepts are linked via appropriate applications. MTH1030 is a prerequisite for PHS2011 and MTH2010 is a pre-requisite for PHS2022.

Students intending to proceed to level three physics (including theoretical physics) must complete the units PHS2011 and PHS2022, and should also take MTH2032. In addition, ASP2011 complements the mainstream physics units and provides a background for students who wish to take level three astrophysics units. For information on astronomy and astrophysics including the observatory facilities at the Clayton campus, see the 'astronomy and astrophysics' entry in the Science areas of study section of the Handbook.

Level three

The School of Physics offers a range of level three units that cover classical mechanics and field theory, relativistic particles and fields, quantum mechanics, advanced quantum mechanics, seminars in theoretical physics, scattering and spectroscopy, condensed matter physics, statistical physics, nuclear physics, fundamental particle physics, electrodynamics and photonics. In addition, the school offers units in observational astronomy and astrophysics. All level three physics units require MTH2010 and MTH2032. PHS3031 is essential for any student considering doing Honours in physics. A physics research project unit (PHS3350) may be taken by a qualified student wishing to do independent work, subject to approval by the School towards a physics major, or two research project units for a double major.

Level three physics units normally consist of two series of 12 one-hour lectures, a further 12 hours of tutorial/workshops, and an average of 2.5 hours of laboratory per week or one-hour seminar work per week for theoretical units.


In addition to the requirements listed above, students must meet the entry requirements for the Science honours program relevant to their course of enrolment. See the entries for:

  • 3520 Bachelor of Science Advanced with Honours
  • 0051 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science
  • 2188 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science (Science Scholar Program)

Full details regarding the course structure for honours in this area of study are outlined in course 0051 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science.

Relevant courses

Single degrees

  • 0050 Bachelor of Science
  • 3520 Bachelor of Science Advanced with Honours
  • 1120 Bachelor of Science (Science Scholar Program)

Double degrees

  • 0530 Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science
  • 3537 Bachelor of Arts (Global) and Bachelor of Science
  • 3528 Bachelor of Biomedical Science and Bachelor of Science
  • 1469 Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Science
  • 3517 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Computer Science
  • 3711 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education
  • 1633 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education
  • 3278 Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering and Bachelor of Science
  • 4609 Bachelor of Environmental Engineering and Bachelor of Science
  • 3282 Bachelor of Mechatronics Engineering and Bachelor of Science
  • 0085 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Engineering
  • 0086 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Laws

Honours degrees

  • 0051 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science
  • 2188 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science (Science Scholar Program)