Physics is a search for and an application of rules that can predict the evolution of the world around us.
This includes planetary motion, quantum jumps in atoms and the propagation of light.
Through central concepts such as energy, force, particles and waves, Physics attempts to answer fundamental question about Nature, while at the same time providing solutions to technological problems.
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Why study Physics?
Learning how the physical world works is fascinating. It is also useful. Physics will hone your thinking ability, and help you to develop high level analytical and problem solving skills. In Otago’s Physics department you will get to study with some of the country’s top physicists. Our research informed teaching draws from a broad spectrum of expertise areas including geophysics, optics, energy science, atomic physics, electronics, and quantum theory.
We recommend that students enrolling for a Physics degree have a background in NCEA level 3 Physics and/or Mathematics. We are always very happy to answer any questions you may have about what studying physics involves, where it might take you, and how to get off on the best possible start for your degree.
An Otago degree in Physics will give you multiple future options. You could work in high-tech areas such as electronics, laser technology, smart materials, healthcare, analytics, or telecommunications.
You might find yourself working for a company developing new products or services, relying on your know-how to come to grips with the complex physical problems of the real world. By combining your study of Physics with another subject you could move into any number of specialist fields. For example, a Physics degree with particular emphasis in acoustics, combined with a music degree, might lead you to becoming an acoustics expert for a construction or architectural company.
You might move into medical physics, working on such techniques as radiotherapy and solar phototherapy. You could work at a hospital, becoming involved in important health initiatives, such as improving or evaluating a public health screening programme. If you choose to continue in Physics and physics research, you might move into areas such as atomic and laser research or energy management.
You may find yourself at sea off Antarctica, studying the effect of waves on the break up of sea ice. Such pursuits could see you working for a university, a research institute or a company specialising in a particular area of physics and its application. Once established in a particular field, you might find yourself suitably experienced to be a high-tech management consultant.
Large international organisations depend on consultants for much of their contracted work. Such positions offer great variety and, in many cases, fantastic opportunities for travel. Physics teachers are in hot demand, both here and overseas. There is an ongoing shortage of secondary school physics teachers, particularly at the higher levels. Being able to teach physics will make you a much sought after employee.
All courses involve a mixture of lectures and practical laboratories, so you will have plenty of opportunities to gain hands-on experience in problem solving. Several of our courses, in particular our first year courses PHSI 131 and 132, make use of “Classroom Response Systems”, where the lecturer poses a multiple-choice questions and each student submits an answer using a handheld transmitter. The submitted answers then forms the basis of engaging in-class discussions centered on pivotal concepts of Physics.
Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages.
- Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc)
- Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc)
- Bachelor of Science (BSc)
- Bachelor of Science with Honours (BSc(Hons))
- Diploma for Graduates (DipGrad)
- Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci)
- Master of Science (MSc)
Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Physics
PHSI 132 Fundamentals of Physics II
MATH 130 Fundamentals of Modern Mathematics 1
MATH 140 Fundamentals of Modern Mathematics 2
PHSI 221 Classical and Quantum Mechanics
PHSI 222 Electromagnetism
PHSI 381 Experimental Physics II
144 further points, must include 18 points at 200-level or above. Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Science.
Bachelor of Science with Honours (BSc(Hons)) in Physics
Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci) in Physics
Master of Science (MSc) in Physics
|Papers and thesis|
Note: The papers are normally taken before undertaking the thesis.
Minor subject requirements
Physics as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree
Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree
Four PHSI papers, at least two of which must be above 100-level, including at least one at 300-level or above
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a selection of on-campus papers will be made available via distance and online learning for eligible students.
Find out which papers are available and how to apply on our COVID-19 website
|Paper code||Year||Title||Points||Teaching period|
|PHSI131||2022||Fundamentals of Physics I||18 points||Semester 1|
|PHSI132||2022||Fundamentals of Physics II||18 points||Semester 2|
|PHSI170||2022||Introduction to Astronomy||18 points||Summer School|
|PHSI191||2022||Biological Physics||18 points||Semester 1, Summer School|
|PHSI221||2022||Classical and Quantum Mechanics||18 points||Semester 1|
|PHSI222||2022||Electromagnetism||18 points||Semester 2|
|PHSI243||2022||Environmental Physics||18 points||Semester 1|
|PHSI245||2022||Electronics for the Sciences||18 points||Semester 2|
|PHSI282||2022||Experimental Physics I||18 points||Semester 1|
|PHSI307||2022||Special Topics||18 points||Not offered in 2022|
|PHSI308||2022||Special Topics||18 points||Not offered in 2022|
|PHSI331||2022||Quantum, Atomic and Particle Physics||18 points||Semester 2|
|PHSI336||2022||Mathematical Physics||18 points||Semester 2|
|PHSI341||2022||Thermal and Condensed Matter Physics||18 points||Semester 1|
|PHSI343||2022||Waves in Physical Systems||18 points||Semester 1|
|PHSI365||2022||Computational Physics||18 points||Semester 1|
|PHSI381||2022||Experimental Physics II||18 points||Semester 2|
|PHSI421||2022||Statistical Mechanics||10 points||Semester 1|
|PHSI422||2022||Upper Atmospheric and Space Physics||10 points||Semester 2|
|PHSI423||2022||Advanced Quantum Mechanics I||10 points||Semester 1|
|PHSI424||2022||Advanced Quantum Mechanics II||10 points||Semester 2|
|PHSI425||2022||Advanced Electromagnetism||10 points||Semester 1|
|PHSI426||2022||Fluids, Instability and Transport Phenomena||10 points||Semester 2|
|PHSI437||2022||Topics in Advanced Physics||10 points||Not offered in 2022|
|PHSI438||2022||Topics in Advanced Physics||10 points||Not offered in 2022|
|PHSI480||2022||Research Project||40 points||Semester 1, Semester 2, Full Year, 1st Non standard period|
|PHSI490||2022||Dissertation||60 points||Full Year|
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Department of Physics