In this course, we explore how to build theories for complex fluids; we will often be taking examples from the world of biology. The focus of the course will be to emphasise generic features in order to build up a repertoire of theoretical tools that are widely applicable to analyse a diversity of soft materials. 

Topics covered may vary from year to year depending on the specialisms of the staff involved but will include:

  • Physics and non-equilibrium thermodynamics of binary mixtures
  • Symmetries and phases of liquid crystals
  • Topological defects in liquid crystals
  • Hydrodynamic theories of complex fluids
  • Topological properties of DNA: knots and supercoiling

Lecturer: Davide Marenduzzo

Institution: Edinburgh

Hours Equivalent Credit: 20

Lecturer:  Martin Evans and Juraj Szavits-Nossan

Institution: Edinburgh

Hours Equivalent Credit: 22

Assessment: Hand-in exercises

This is a final year undergraduate course organised by the University of Edinburgh

Course Summary

In this course we will discuss equilibrium phase transition, of the first and second order, by using the Ising and the Gaussian models as examples. We will first review some basic concepts in statistical physics, then study critical phenomena. Phase transitions will be analysed first via mean field theory, then via the renormalisation group (RG), in real space.  Momentum space approaches will be briefly discussed. We will conclude with a study of stochastic dynamics and the approach to equilibrium and we will discuss nonequilibrium dynamics and nonequilibrium phase transitions.

Lecturer: Herbert Fruchtl 

Institution: St Andrews

Hours Equivalent Credit: 9

Assessment: Continuous assessment through assignments

Course Summary

The course will provide an introduction to practical computational chemistry techniques. The focus is on an introduction to the current state-of-the-art computational chemistry codes together with the theory behind the methods. Ab-initio, DFT and classical methods, as well as cheminformatics, will be introduced along with how they are used in practice by researchers in Scotland.

Lecturer: Jonathan Keeling

Institution: St Andrews

Hours Equivalent Credit: 30

Assessment: Continuous Assessment (5 problem sets for graduate students)

This is a final year undergraduate course organised by the University of St Andrews.

Course Summary

Quantum field theory combines classical field theory with quantum mechanics and provides analytical tools to understand many-particle and relativistic quantum systems. This course aims to introduce the ideas and techniques of quantum field theory. I will use examples drawn mainly from condensed matter physics to illustrate the ideas and application of quantum field theory.

Lecturer: Phil King, Peter Wahl, Bernd Braunecker and Chris Hooley

Institution: St Andrews

Hours Equivalent Credit: 35

Assessment: Problem Sheets, Presentations, vivas (for undergraduate students)

This is a final year undergraduate course organised by the University  of St Andrews.

Course Summary



The aim of this module is to give an introduction to a variety of modern topics of condensed matter physics. As well as surface properties and probes, we will cover the introductory concepts of topologically non-trivial materials – states of matter that are not characterised by spontaneous symmetry breaking but rather by a distinct topological order of the underlying electronic system. This has recently come to prominence in condensed matter physics with the realisation that seemingly conventional band insulators come in topologically trivial and non-trivial classes, the latter being known as topological insulators. This course will cover the underlying principles and introductory theory of exotic states of matter, will introduce the probes necessary to investigate them and their application in the study of other quantum materials, and will provide a survey of the current state of experimental results in this new and rapidly evolving field. 

Assessment: Problem Sheets, Presentations, vivas (for undergraduate students)

Lecturer: To Be Determined

Institution: Heriot Watt

Hours Equivalent Credit: 14

Assessment: Continuous Assessment based on tutorials

Course Summary

Note: this course is not available in 2020/21 academic year. 

The course focuses on the dynamics of quantum systems interacting with their surroundings. Due to the inevitable interaction between a quantum system and its environment peculiar quantum features such as the existence of quantum superpositions and entangled states are quickly destroyed. Starting from a microscopic model, we will derive an equation of motion, the so called master equation, describing the dynamics of a quantum system in the presence of an environment. We will then examine the properties of the dynamics of an open quantum system as described by the master equation and explore two aspects of both fundamental and applicative importance in physics: First we will consider the fragility of quantum superpositions (e.g. Schrödinger cats) and entanglement under the influence of a quantum environment since controlling or suppressing environmental perturbations is essential for future quantum technologies.  Then we will discuss how the fact that every quantum system is inevitably connected to an environment can be invoked to (at least partly) explain the quantum-classical border.