BSc in Physics
This programme provides training to well-rounded physicists with the technical and general skills required to make a unique contribution in research and development environments where physics-related problems are investigated, who can undertake more intensive research and postgraduate studies in Physics, or work in the teaching profession and tertiary education in science and technology.
Nuclear physics, the radiation and therapy and the laser physics (physical option) streams: You take a prescribed combination of Physics, Mathematics, Scientific Communication Skills and Computer Skills modules. In addition you may select modules from Chemistry, Computer Science, Probability Theory and Statistics, and Applied Mathematics.
Laser physics (biological option) stream: In the first two years you take a combination of prescribed modules in Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Scientific Communication Skills and Computer Skills. In the third year you take Physics, Physiology and Animal Physiology, and Computer Skills and you also choose between Biochemistry and Chemistry.
Theoretical physics stream: You take a prescribed combination of Physics, Computational Physics, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Scientific Communication Skills and Computer Skills modules.
The first three years of the programme focus on the four fundamental principles of physics: Classic Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, Statistical Physics and Thermodynamics and Electromagnetism. It aims to provide you a firm foundation in physics. Specialisation in the fourth year (BScHons) enables you to follow a specialist career in one of three possible streams: nuclear physics, laser physics, and radiation and therapy physics.
Having successfully completed this stream, you will have the general and more specialised skills needed to pursue further research and postgraduate studies in Nuclear Physics, or to follow a career in environments where techniques in nuclear physics are applied to the investigation of a wide range of problems. Such environments include research and development in industries where institutions like Sasol, Iscor, Eskom, the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA), the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR), the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) are involved; the development and utilisation of energy resources in any subject of study where the principles of nuclear physics apply. Basic and applied research in nuclear physics, such as is conducted at the iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator-based Sciences (iThemba LABS), also present interesting opportunities.
Because of the rapid increase in the use of lasers in many fields, there is a worldwide need for trained physicists with expertise in optics, lasers and laser applications.
Lasers provide innovative solutions over a wide front benefitting humanity. All telecommunications rely on lasers and optical fibre technology – no internet is possible without lasers! The micro-electronics, e.g. in cell phones, are manufactured with lasers. In medicine lasers are used to correct vision, heal eye disorders that may cause blindness, treat skin diseases and to do surgery inside the body with an endoscope. New materials and medicines are developed by using laser light to change molecules. In the protection of our environment lasers make it possible to detect harmful substances fast and even remotely. High-power lasers may in future open the way to fusion as a virtually infinite source of clean energy. The use of lasers in the defence industry contributes to our safety.
Radiation and health physics
The purpose of this stream is to train students to become radiation physicists who are able to work as hospital physicists or radiation control officials with organisations that monitor radiation risks, such as the Department of Health, nuclear power stations, and uranium mines.
Curriculum: In this stream you take prescribed modules at Tygerberg and iThemba LABS that include Radiation Protection, Physics of Radiotherapy, Physics of Nuclear Medicine and Image Processing from Applied Mathematics. A BScHons in this stream of study also provides access to postgraduate studies in Physics.
This stream prepares students intensively for the research field of complex systems and for the application of quantum field theory, for instance in condensed matter physics, the physics of biological systems and particle physics. Having obtained your BSc after three years, you may then in your fourth year continue with the programme as a postgraduate student. This will prepare you for a professional career in theoretical physics.
Because this stream includes statistical physics components, it is closely related to a number of other disciplines and several of its subjects have links with the broad field of information technology. Some of the techniques you will be trained in are already being applied in the biological and economic sciences and in geology. Since the curriculum is based largely on Physics, Mathematics and Computer Skills, you may confidently look forward to career opportunities in the private sector, where there is an increasing demand for the problem-solving skills that are given major attention in this stream.