Physics is an indispensable part of modern society. Modern life would be entirely different without computer chips, lasers, MRI screening and all the other benefits of physics research. The Master’s programme in Physics and Astronomy provides you with plenty of opportunities to study and engage in groundbreaking fundamental research and its applications. Whether you are interested in physical processes within cells, creating artificial photosynthesis, astroparticle physics or testing fundamental symmetries at the atomic scale, the Master’s programme in Physics and Astronomy gives you the opportunities to deepen your knowledge and engage in groundbreaking fundamental research.
You will have the opportunity to concentrate on a specialization track of your choice:
You will learn to test, explain and develop theories of physical phenomena and to analyse and solve problems using a scientific approach. The result is a well-balanced education in which you combine a broad understanding of physics and astronomy with in-depth knowledge of specific areas and the ability to reason and work at an academic level.
Physics and Astronomy is a joint degree programme of the University of Amsterdam and VU Amsterdam. Courses are given at the two Faculties of Science. Graduates receive a diploma accredited by both universities.
The Master’s programme in Physics is a two-year programme during which you will take compulsory modules in your chosen specialization, plus a number of optional subjects. These options can be general physics subjects or courses drawn from another specialization. The programme also involves writing an essay on a subject which is not directly related to your field of specialization. In your second year, you will join one of the participating research groups. Your research will culminate in a Master’s thesis and a final presentation.
Structure of the programme
On the Master’s curriculum, you will gain wider knowledge and a deeper understanding of physics in general and of one or more specific areas of physics. The programme consists of the following elements, though the balance will vary depending on whether you take the Research profile or one of the other profiles:
Neutrinos as a gateway to new physics
Neutrinos are the most intriguing of all known elementary particles, due to their extraordinary properties. These almost massless particles barely interact with matter. Recent measurements of neutrino masses and neutrino mixing point to a new physics, beyond the Standard Model. Our Theory group is exploring possible new theories and their predictions.
The physics of DNA repair
DNA is the carrier of genetic information in all organisms. In a cell, DNA is constantly being damaged by forces such as UV light or reactive chemicals. Cells contain complex mechanisms to repair this damage and prevent cell death or cancer. Our Physics of Complex Systems group uses optical tweezers in combination with fluorescence microscopy to study the mechanism of DNA repair at the level of single molecules.
What can we learn from plants?
Photosynthesis is a remarkably efficient and robust mechanism which not only works in very bright sunlight but also at low levels, when plants are in the shade or under cloud cover. Our Biophysics research group is studying the mechanism plants use to protect themselves from excessive sunlight. This knowledge can be used to develop a new generation of bio-based solar cells.
How constant are physical constants?
How do we know if the mass of a proton is the same today as it was just after the Big Bang? Measuring and exploring new theories involving the fundamental physical constants is one of the areas you can explore at VU Amsterdam’s internationally renowned LaserLaB Amsterdam.
Working with extremely low temperatures
Temperature can have a startling effect on matter. At the LaserLaB Amsterdam, helium atoms are cooled to temperatures around one millionth of a degree above absolute zero. At these extremely low temperatures the wave-like nature of matter manifests itself.
Mapping the sky
Mankind has been using electromagnetic radiation to study the universe for centuries. If Einstein’s theory of general relativity is correct, then the VIRGO detector near Pisa, in which VU Amsterdam participates, will soon be mapping the sky using gravitational waves.
|Science in Amsterdam
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam collaborates closely with the University of Amsterdam (UvA) in most MSc tracks in physics and chemistry. Both universities have an excellent international reputation, with several research groups playing leading roles in various fields of science. Their collaboration has resulted in a range of high-quality MSc programmes. Due to this cooperation, students can enjoy the expertise of two universities, as well as benefiting from the existing networks and collaborative projects at both universities. For example, the Accelerators Department at CERN in Geneva, the Dutch national institute for subatomic physics Nikhef and the Institutes for Plasma Physics (Rijnhuizen) and for Atomic and Molecular Physics (AMOLF).
"For me, cosmology is the perfect specialization within Physics and Astronomy. There are two very big theories in physics, from which – as far as we know – all the others are derived: the quantum field theory and the relativity theory. To explain physical phenomena, you usually need only one of these. But cosmology is such a huge challenge, as it is one of the few branches of physics in which you need both theories at the same time. This programme really offers me all the challenges I was looking for.”
LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION
Application Deadline 1 February for non-EU/EEA students
* 1 July for Dutch and EU/EEA students.
* Please note: students with a non-Dutch bachelor’s degree and/or students who require visa/housing services are required to apply with our joint degree partner: the University of Amsterdam.
Astronomy and Astrophysics; Theoretical Physics; Gravitation, Astro- and Particle Physics; Advanced Matter and Energy Physics; Biophysics and Biophotonics; Science for Energy and Sustainability
FIELD OF INTEREST
“During the final stages of my studies at the Physics of Complex Systems section, I took up a student placement with a leading research group at the University of Chicago. There I was taught all about the chemical synthesis of quantum dots: tiny crystal beads, only about 10 millionths of a millimetre in size, which we wanted to use at VU Amsterdam for fluorescence microscopy. At the time, only a couple of labs in the whole world had mastered this technique. I received excellent supervision from a Chinese PhD student. And not only on the academic side. He also arranged a good place for me to live, and we saw a lot of the country together. We are still in touch. He is even planning to come to Amsterdam. A fine follow-up to a useful and instructive placement.”
Within the Master’s programme in Physics and Astronomy, the following specializations are offered:
For each track you can choose one of the following career profiles:
The Physics and Society, Physics and Communication and Physics and Education profiles are partly taught in Dutch. The Research profile is taught in English.
Structure of the programme
For the general structure of the Master's programme in Physics and Astronomy and course descriptions, see the study guide.
The specialization Advanced Matter and Energy Physics gives you a solid understandig of gas phase, soft condensed matter and hard condensed matter physics. Using state-of-the-art equipment and under the supervision of top-ranked physicists you will be able to do research into topics as:
The specialization Advanced Matter and Energy Physics is organized into three study paths:
Each of these paths contains:
Each of the study paths provides a coherent programme that equips students to conduct their research projects in one of the participating groups.
Study paths can also be combined. The programme coordinator will help you to design a coherent study programme tailored to your own interest and optimally suited to prepare you for your research project. The programme coordinator will also act as tutor to help you graduate on time after two years of study.
A small literature survey and an extensive one-year research project form an essential part of the programme. Usually these projects are conducted at one of the associated research groups, but these can also be conducted in a research laboratory abroad or in an industrial lab. Our contacts include top physicists at the world's most prestigious scientific institutions. The VU Amsterdam research groups are all part of LaserLaB Amsterdam which is part of a consortium of 27 leading laboratories in laser based research throughout Europe.
Participating research institutes
The Advanced Matter and Energy Physics programme is powered by three major players in experimental physics research in Amsterdam: the Physics Department of VU Amsterdam (VU), the Van der Waals-Zeeman Institute for Experimental Physics of the University of Amsterdam (UvA), and the premier NWO/FOM institute AMOLF. Top researchers from all three institutions teach groundbreaking topics in each of the three study paths, and challenging reseach projects at the forefront of ongoing and new research are on offer from all three partners.
As a successful graduate, your training in the important and growing fields of experimental physics research will make you a highly prized commodity in the market for PhD candidates. You will be of interest to research groups at VU, UvA and AMOLF, as well as to the hosts of your international or industrial research placement. Besides this, your strong analytical and problem-solving skills, along with your ability to design, set up, exploit and communicate successful experimental solutions providing clear answers to important (scientific) questions will make you highly attractive to the world beyond physics.
Our MSc graduates have gone on to work in the knowledge-besed sector (for example Philips, Philips Medical Systems, ASML, Shell, Océ, TNO, ESA), the financial sector, the IT and consultancy secor (KPN, McKinsey, ING, ABN AMRO), as well as in government (for example Ministries of EZ, VROM, OCW). Students with strong writing and communication skills can go on to a career with a newspaper, magazine or science-oriented non-profit organization.
dr. Rick Bethlem
Phone: 020 5987951
The dynamic field of astronomy and astrophysics is currently gaining importance worldwide. New generations of instruments - situated on the earth's surface and in space - enable us to study the origin, structure and evolution of planets, stars, star systems, and the universe in a more profound way than ever before.
Is Astronomy and Astrophysics the study for me?
It is, if you:
What does Astronomy and Astrophysics have to offer me?
The programme provides you with thorough training in both the observational and theoretical aspects of modern astronomy and astrophysics. It focuses on current international research topics, such as:
You use a wide range of theoretical and applied tools to define the properties of astrophysical objects, and to identify the fundamental laws that govern their behaviour. Among these tools are:
The programme is firmly embedded in the Astronomical Institute Anton Pannekoek, which has a long track record of world leading research in both observational astronomy and theoretical astrophysics.
Prof. dr. C. Dominik
The specialization Specialization in Gravitation, Astro- and Particle Physics is unique in the Netherlands. Its programme is fully embedded in the research of Nikhef, the Dutch national institute for subatomic research. Nikhef staff teach the subjects at the forefront of particle and astroparticle physics research. The programme provides an excellent springboard for PhD positions, both within the institute and elsewhere. Burning questions:
Physicists use particle accelerator experiments to investigate high-energy interactions in a controlled environment aimed at approximating the conditions a fraction of a second after the Big Bang. They study the neutrino radiation from the sun, supernovae and other speculative sources. Such experiments often rely on state-of-the-art technology and innovative software, including distributed computing as part of the GRID project. This specialization is offered in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University.
Students take compulsory courses on particle and astroparticle physics and experimental techniques. They can also choose from a wide range of courses offered by VU Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam, Utrecht University and Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen.
Online study guide
Check the online study guide for more detailed information about the curriculum and the research opportunities.
Participating research institutes
Dr. Henk-Jan Bulten
Phone: +31 (0)20 598 7902
In the two-year track Biophysics and Biophotonics you will use the language of physics to explore the secrets of life processes. Supported by the cutting-edge technologies available in our laboratories and by a series of theoretical classes delivered by our enthusiastic staff members, you can dive into the fascinating world of DNA unfolding, protein function, cell mechanics, tissue engineering, and organ function. You will learn about photonics and its use in the development of new imaging techniques; or you can choose to deepen your knowledge in the application of physics in the area of biomedical imaging and therapy, in close collaboration with the medical doctors of the two academic medical centers of Amsterdam. After this programme, you can continue an exciting career in an academic research institute, apply for a post-graduation training to become a clinical physicist, work in hospitals, schools, or the private sector.
Is Biophysics and Biophotonics in Amsterdam the track for me?
If you enjoy working in a multidisciplinary environment where you are challenged to bridge fundamental physics and life sciences, Biophysics and Biophotonics is the track for you. Building on your previous knowledge in mechanics, electromagnetism, optics, quantum mechanics, and mathematics, in the first year you will attend a series of classes that will strengthen your physics background while expanding your knowledge in life related topics. In the second year, you will choose the subject of your research internship, where you will have the opportunity to work side by side with leading research professionals. Thanks to the extended number of collaborating institutes, we can offer internships in all the areas of Biophysics and Biophotonics, from single molecule to patients, from very fundamental to bed-side.
What does Biophysics and Biophotonics in Amsterdam have to offer me?
The track Biophysics and Biophotonics in Amsterdam is unique in that it involves leading research groups from the Department of Physics and Astronomy of Amsterdam, as well as the two academic hospitals (AMC and VUmc) and other research institutes in Amsterdam, including
Thanks to this broad network, we can offer you the opportunity to learn what it is like to work in multidisciplinary research teams where physicists, chemists, biologists, engineers and medical professionals come together to further develop and improve the underlying physical principles, theories and methods for, for instance:
Prof. dr. Davide Iannuzzi
Phone: +31 20 59 87577
Scientific research in the field of energy and sustainability is of utmost importance to ensure a sustainable society. The specialization Science for Energy and Sustainability is a broad, interdisciplinary specialization, covering topics from both physics and chemistry. This specialization trains you to provide sustainable solutions to the current pressing global situation with regard to energy, climate and sustainability. Besides your scientific involvement in the development of new technological solutions to these problems, you will also be trained in analysing the societal context of global developments in this field.
The program consists of a 12 ECTS core programme, 24 ECTS restricted choice, a 6 ECTS literature thesis and a 60 ECTS research project. The research project may be divided into a major project and a minor project. In addition, 6 ECTS academic skills and 12 ECTS of free choice are included in the programme. The programme has been designed to accommodate a student influx of various backgrounds, and to enable conferral of a physics or a chemistry character in keeping with the requirements of VU and UvA Physics and Chemistry exam committees.
Year 1 (60 ECTS)
Core programme, 12 ECTS
Period 3: Current Sustainable Energy Technologies
Period 6: Project Sustainable Future
Restricted choice, 24 ECTS, choose 4 courses from this list:
Energy and Climate Change; Science, Policy and Economics
Open Innovation in Science and Sustainability
Management of Sustainable Innovation
Period 3: (year 2): Heterogeneous Catalysis
Catalysis for Sustainable Energy
Photosynthesis for Energy
Free choice/deficiency, 12 ECTS (all-year round)
The free choice can be used to fulfil specific requirements (e.g. physics students can do 12 ECTS courses in physics to allow a research project in physics). This programme will be carefully chosen after consultation of the master programme coordinator.
Generic to the MSc physics: Literature thesis
Period 1-6: Literature thesis 6
Academic Skills, 6 ECTS (all-year round, depending on schedule course)
Year 2 (60 ECTS)
Period 1-6: Research project / MSc thesis 60
The research project can be split into a major and minor project that add up to 60 ECTS.
Master Programme Coordinators
The program trains you to become an independent researcher in the emerging field of energy and sustainability, which is essential for advancing the sustainable development of our society. After graduation you are qualified to pursue a PhD degree.
You are also well equipped to pursue a career as a chemist or physicist in industry, such as Shell, ECN, energy start-ups. Your broad education enables you to participate in advisory and policy functions of companies and governments with respect to science, energy and sustainability matters.
Dr. Raoul Frese
Phone: +31 20 598 7263
In order to address such questions, mathematical descriptions need to be explored and developed. This makes present-day theoretical physics an advanced subject that requires a high level of conceptual and technical sophistication. It’s a challenging but exciting field of study.
Theoretical Physics offers a wide range of advanced courses in all aspects of the field. Extensive training in areas such as quantum field theory, statistical physics and condensed matter theory forms the backbone of the Master’s programme. In addition students can take optional physics and mathematics courses, such as string theory, computational methods, quantum optics, group theory, general relativity, and, nonlinear dynamics and chaos. At the same time, seminars and other informal meetings give students a taste of the original creative and imaginative spirit of the field, and train them in the craft of explaining things to others ("If you can't explain it, you don't understand it").
Online study guide
Check the online study guide for more detailed information about the curriculum and the research opportunities.
Dr. Greg J Stephens
Important: All students must contact the programme coordinator of the specific specialization.
Check all general information on admission and application to Master's programmes here.
Before you arrive
Accommodation: Information about accommodation at VU Amsterdam.
Visa/ residence permit: Find out whether you require a visa and/or residence permit and what you need to do to arrange it. You can find the information below the accommodation section.
Pathfinder: Fill in the Pathfinder and you will find all the relevant practical information for your situation.
There are several possibilities for obtaining funding.
Check all information about scholarships, fellowships and grants.
For specific questions about the different master’s specializations, please contact any of the people below.
|Astronomy and Astrophysics||Prof. dr. C. Dominik||+31 (0)20-5257477||C.Dominik@uva.nl|
|Advanced Matter and Energy Physics||Dr. Rick Bethlem||+31 (0)20 598 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Gravitation and Astroparticle Physics||Dr. Henk-Jan Bulten||+31 (0)20 598 email@example.com
|Physics of Life and health||Prof. Dr. D. Iannuzzi||+31 (0)20 59 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Science for Energy and Sustainability||Dr. Raoul Frese||+31 (0)20 598 7263
|Theoretical Physics||Dr. Greg Stephens||+31 (0)20 598 email@example.com|
Practical information for international students
Would you like to know more about our courses, scholarships and application & registration procedure? Please contact our International Office.
General information about VU Amsterdam
Please phone us at +31 (0)20 598 5000 (Monday – Friday, 9:00 to 12:00). You may also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.