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From the infinitely small to the infinitely large

Physicists and astronomers try to understand nature: from the smallest building blocks of matter and their interactions to the evolution of the universe on a cosmological scale. Ultimately, this endeavour leads to new insights that are helpful in other scientific disciplines, and to many applications in our daily lives. Although our insights go ever deeper and reach ever further, there is much we still do not understand. That is why basic research remains so important.

In our Master of Science in Physics and Astronomy (2 years, 120 ECTS, jointly organised with Universiteit Gent), teaching is done in small groups, with a strong component of personal interactions between teaching staff and students. Around 50% of our graduates currently move on to a PhD. Apart from a focus on Research, we also offer the Minor in Economy and Business and the Minor in Education.

LET'S GET PHYSICAL!

Physics and Astronomy research at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) covers a wide spectrum: experimental elementary particle research, theoretical research on elementary particles and cosmology, applied research on semiconductor lasers, metamaterials, and also the study of the principles of biological systems; and let us not forget astronomy and astrophysics where we look at binary star systems and how high-energy cosmic rays are produced in supernova explosions and black hole jets. And so, physics indeed reconciles the knowledge of the infinitely small and the infinitely large... and many things in between as well.

The VUB takes advantage of its unique position in the capital of Belgium and Europe. One of the strong points of the Master's programme at VUB are the close connections to many internationally renowned research groups and the links with other departments both within VUB, like engineering (photonics) bio-engineering and biology, as well as with our alliance partner Universiteit Gent and our sister university Université Libre de Bruxelles and many other universities in Belgium and abroad.

Sophie Viaene, PhD student, awarded Robert Brout Prize

"The main advantage of the MSc in Physics and Astronomy at the VUB boils down to this: there is room for exploration, flexibility and freedom. Next to the compulsory course on general relativity, I really enjoyed several optional courses in solid state physics and electromagnetism. My Master's thesis and optional courses introduced me to the ideas that are now part of my PhD project in applied physics. Very recently, the geometrical techniques of general relativity are used to describe the interaction of light with artificially structured materials in an elegant way, leading to revolutionary optical devices such as "Harry Potter" invisibility cloaks. In my PhD, I hope to deepen this geometrical link with combined analytical and numerical insights, by including the nonlinear feedback due to gravitation and by extending it to the quantum world."

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Sciences and Bioengineering Sciences

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3 Minors, 1 Degree

This MSc programme combines the research expertise of both the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and Universiteit Gent (UGent), allowing you to tailor your study programme to your interests. One choice you have to make in advance is which of our three minors you want to follow: Research, Economy and Business or Education (30 ECTS in Dutch). No matter which minor you choose, you will get a solid training as a physicist and we offer you the possibility to participate in high-level research. There is no wrong choice!

Take a look at an example of your future timetable.

External Mobility

If you choose the Research minor, you will have to take up two External Mobility-courses. These allow you to follow courses at another university or to do an internship at a company or research institution. A combination of courses and internship is also possible. The internship will be assessed through a report and presentation.

Petra Van Mulders working at CERN

Students as Scientists

The offered courses are strongly embedded in both universities' ongoing research programmes. Through intensive collaboration with members of the research groups, you will get the opportunity to develop and improve your scientific skills. The researchers at VUB have strong connections within Belgium and in- and outside Europe through research projects such as the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica and the CMS experiment at CERN in Geneva. Many of our students have the opportunity to do an internship or research for their Master's thesis at CERN during their studies. this close connection to research means our students are well-prepared for a PhD-position, with around half of our graduates pursuing such a career in research.

Did you know that VUB postdocs and faculty are leading international teams of scienctists? For example Dr. Petra Van Mulders, a VUB alumnus and postdoctoral researcher, was until recently leading the team working on identification of particles called b-quarks at the CMS experiment at CERN. The results of her work are now used by researchers all over the world in the attempt to determine the characteristics of the recently discovered Brout-Englert-Higgs particle.

 

Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes describe the intended knowledge and understanding, skills and attitudes that you must master after completing your studies.

Do you want to know more about the specific learning outcomes of this programme? Click here for more information.

AFTER GRADUATION

A master degree opens doors in many different branches and sectors. You will be able to work in the private sector, (non-) governmental organisations, or continue your academic career as a PhD researcher. Not sure what your next step should be? The VUB helps you with your first steps on the job market.

Wanted: physicists!

Graduates in Physics and Astronomy from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel have acquired a broad knowledge and easily applicable skills that allow them to land a job in the most diverse sectors. They are highly regarded in all sectors where problem solving skills, analytical, mathematical and ICT skills are needed. Did you know physicists are sought-after on the job market? Like in most of Europe, in Belgium physicists are among the 10 highest-paying jobs.
A lot of graduates find a job in scientific research. They work at universities, research institutes and assist in new scientific developments. In industry, physicists are in high demand due to their broad education in modelling, statistics and informatics. In banking, finance and pharmaceutics graduates with a degree in Physics work mainly on risk analysis and modelling. Finally, several physicists are also employed in the field of education.

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THE VUB HELPS YOU TO MAKE YOUR FIRST STEP IN THE JOB MARKET WITH WORKSHOPS, NETWORKING EVENTS, JOB FAIRS, TIPS ‘N TRICKS FOR JOB INTERVIEWS. ALL AN AMBITIOUS STUDENT NEEDS!

First step in the market

Phd?


IF YOU WANT TO CONTINUE YOUR ACADEMIC CAREER, YOU CAN APPLY FOR A PHD POSITION AT THE VRIJE UNIVERSITEIT BRUSSEL. ALL YOU NEED IS A PROMOTER, RESEARCH SUBJECT AND SUFFICIENT FUNDING. ARE YOU UP FOR THIS CHALLENGE?

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Saskia Demulder, PhD student

”Doing a PhD enables me to combine creativity - exploring new and existing concepts - and engaging challenging problems. For my research I explore models in string theory that have the attractive property of being very symmetrical. Just like a round and even sphere has more symmetry to it than any random, often uneven, stone you pick up. For a theoretical physicist this symmetry opens doors to the ability of computing and thus knowing everything of the world the model describes. Moreover, as a first-year PhD student I’ll first have the great opportunity to expand my knowledge and skills during a Solvay doctoral school that takes place in different cities in Europe. I cannot wait to get started!” 

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Physics and Astronomy: inherently international

The fields of Physics and Astronomy are inherently international: the creation and dissemination of knowledge has taken place in international cooperations for generations.

Therefore, the Department of Physics strongly encourages students to be mobile, preferably by including an exchange period in their study programme. The flexibility of the Master in Physics and Astronomy facilitates a one-semester stay in another country. Within Europe, the Department of Physics has Erasmus+ mobility agreements with the following universities:

France 

Netherlands 

Spain 

Sweden 

Switzerland 

In addition, there are also multiple possibilities for an exchange outside of Europe.

For more information, don't hesitate to contact the faculty exchange coordinator.

Jan Kunnen, PhD student

"I had the opportunity to spend the summer between my two Master years at the central IceCube-lab in Madison, Wisconsin. IceCube is a neutrino observatory located at the geographic South Pole. When neutrinos interact with the ice they produce electrically charged secondary particles that in turn emit Cherenkov light, as a result of traveling through the ice faster than light travels in ice. The IceCube sensors collect this light, which is subsequently digitised and time stamped. This information is converted into light patterns that reveal the direction and energy of muons and neutrinos.
For my Master's thesis I was very actively involved in the Dark Matter research the Brussels IceCube group is doing. I searched for an excess of neutrinos from the direction of the Sun, as that could point to a Dark Matter population in the Sun. Unfortunately, no no neutrino excess from the direction of the Sun has been seen yet, so we need to keep searching!"

Admission criteria

The Master of Science in Physics and Astronomy is open to holders of a Flemish Bachelor degree in Physics or Physics and Astronomy. For non-Flemish degrees and other bachelors in science, applied science and life sciences, admission will be evaluated based on academic records and skills.

This Master's programme presupposes a broad and good basic knowledge of physics and astronomy. Application prerequisite for the programme Master in Physics and Astronomy is an academic Bachelor's degree in Physics, Physics and Astronomy, or equivalent. Equivalency and admission to the programme will be based on a review of each student's academic record and will be evaluated case by case.

Application

Admission is based upon acceptance of a complete application (proof of meeting the academic and language requirements, satisfactory background...). All necessary information regarding the admission requirements, deadlines and application forms can be found on the application page.
 

Financial support?

There are possibilities for financial support available in certain cases. In addition the tuition fees in Belgium are relatively low as universities are supported by the government. Some examples:

  • European Economic Area student tuition fees for 60 ETCS/year:  approx 900€
  • Outside European Economic Area student tuition fees for 60 ETCS/year:  approx 3000€
  • Scholarship programmes available for many non-EEA countries

For more details on admission requirements and application

Click here