Our research

Physics is an exciting and dynamic subject that is continually evolving, and Exeter's reputation for high-quality research (90% of our work was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent) is a testament to the research pedigree of our staff, many of whom are world leaders in their field. We collaborate with internationally-leading scholars, industries and governmental bodies to ensure we are at the very heart of the most pioneering research and technology. This has enormous benefits for you as a student. Working to extend the frontiers of knowledge generates an innovative, lively atmosphere and the research undertaken gives physics at the University its own distinctive flavour. Lectures are illustrated with in-depth descriptions of recent discoveries and many of our option modules are based on our research interests. Students on the MPhys degrees can obtain first-hand experience of what it is like to conduct research by undertaking a project in one of our research groups during your third and fourth years. All students can apply to undertake a placement with our researchers during the summer vacation. 


Our Astrophysics group is one of the largest in the UK studying star formation and extra-solar planets. Our research spans various themes devoted to the general understanding of stars and planets, from their birth to their death. The strength of these activities relies on the remarkable synergy between Exeter’s complementary expertise in theory, applied mathematics, climate science, numerical simulations and observations.

>>> Read more about the research undertaken in the Astrophysics group

>>> Read about how our Astrophysics research is reflected in our undergraduate modules.

Biomedical Physics

For decades physics has played a crucial role in the development of new techniques for medicine and is increasingly important in understanding the behaviour of biological systems. With many years’ experience of magnetic resonance imaging, our Biomedical Physics group are now developing complementary expertise in the development and application of optical imaging and vibrational spectroscopy. Our work also considers a wide range of fundamental questions in modern biology and physiology.

>>> Read more about the research undertaken in the Biomedical Physics group

>>> Read about how our Biomedical Physics research is reflected in our undergraduate modules.

Electromagnetic and Acoustic Materials

We concentrate on the fundamental study of the electromagnetic (e.g. visible, terahertz and microwave) and acoustic (sound) properties of structured materials. This includes plasmonics, magnonics, spintronics and the photonics of bio-inspired and disordered structures. Our work involves material synthesis and nanofabrication, imaging and characterisation using microwaves, ultrafast laser and synchrotron sources, as well as ultrasound, results from which are combined with numerical and analytic theory in quantum optics and quantum information science. We host the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials. Our researchers are exploring the underlying physics, through to material engineering, feeding industry and academia with graduates to exploit this exciting field.

>>> Read more about the research undertaken in the Electromagnetic and Acoustic Materials group

>>> Read about how our Electromagnetic and Acoustic Materials research is reflected in our undergraduate modules.

Quantum Systems and Nanomaterials (incorporating the Centre for Graphene Science)

The properties of systems that consist of up to a few-hundred atoms can differ remarkably from those of macroscopic devices, because the effects of the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics dominate the behaviour of such small systems. This paves the way to the discovery of new physical properties and exciting phenomena. The emerging class of atomically-thin materials offers easy access to a new realm of optical, electrical and thermal properties which are the focus of research in the Quantum Systems and Nanomaterials group.

>>> Read more about the research undertaken in the Quantum Systems and Nanomaterials group

>>> Read about how our Quantum Systems and Nanomaterials research is reflected in our undergraduate modules.


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Our research

Student life

Staff profiles

Student profiles

Funding opportunities

Equality in science

The Exeter Observatory

We maintain an on-site observatory for undergraduate teaching purposes. The observatory has recently been upgraded (2015) to a robotic facility with a computer-controlled mount and dome, 14" Schmidt-Cassegrain, CCD and filters. You can read more about the observatory here.

Applying physics to human biology

A multiphoton image of the lamprey annular cartilage using a combination of imaging modalities. The Biomedical Physics research group have the use of the Multiphoton Imaging and Spectroscopy Laboratory.


Some of our researchers are exploring "metamaterials" - artificial materials that have acoustic or electromagnetic properties that do not exist in nature. You can read about our EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials here.

Centre of Graphene Science

An adaption of graphene, "GraphExeter" was invented in our Centre of Graphene Science.  This new material promises to be a viable and attractive replacement to indium tin oxide (ITO), the main conductive material currently used in electronics, such as ‘smart’ mirrors or windows, or even solar panels. 

Exeter professor is IOP president

Professor Sambles has been professor of experimental physics at the University of Exeter since 1991, where he is academic lead of the large electromagnetic and acoustic materials research group. On taking up the role as IOP president, he said "It is an opportunity for me to continue the outstanding work of the Institute in developing both the public awareness of, and inclusiveness in, physics and furthering the understanding of the value of physics to society in the years to come."