MSc in Photonics and Optoelectronic Devices


Program Description

This MSc provides postgraduate vocational training in lasers, optics, and semiconductors tailored to the needs of those seeking to enter a photonics-based industry and university research. Students benefit from classes using the expertise at St Andrews and Heriot-Watt universities, followed by an around 3.5-month project, often with a UK photonics company. The industrial project allows real-world application of the material covered at the universities and gives valuable experience in commercial photonics.

For 2019 entry, admission to the Photonics and Optoelectronic Devices MSc is administered by Heriot-Watt University.

The MSc in Photonics and Optoelectronic Devices is a 12-month taught programme run jointly by the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews and the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, which makes available to students the combined diversity of research equipment and expertise at both universities.


  • Tailored to balance fundamental understanding with industrial relevance.
  • Gain an understanding of the fundamental properties of optoelectronic materials and devices with vocational training in modern optics, laser physics and semiconductor physics. You also gain practical experience in the operation of a wide range of laser devices and optoelectronic technologies.
  • Develop an appreciation of the widespread practical applications of coherent light sources in communications, material processing and testing, optical processing, medical treatments and diagnostics, and environmental monitoring.
  • The industrial project placement occupies 12-14 weeks from late May to August and is assessed in September after the submission of a dissertation.

Teaching format

Students take modules at St Andrews in Semester 1 and Heriot-Watt in Semester 2, followed by approximately 3.5 months working on a project, which is usually with an optoelectronics company.

Teaching comprises lectures, tutorials and laboratory work. Lecture classes are relatively small, with typically around 20-30 students in a class. Lecture modules are assessed largely through examinations at the end of each semester whereas the laboratory work is assessed continuously. The lecture and lab modules develop important skills and knowledge that can be used in the project. The project is an on-the-job investigation or development of some aspect of photonics, often in a commercial setting.

Well-equipped teaching laboratories allow you to explore the science of photonics and interact directly with academic staff and the School’s early-career researchers. Teaching staff are accessible to students and enjoy explaining the excitement of physics and its applications.

Students are also encouraged to attend relevant research seminars and departmental discussions given by research staff from other universities and specialists from the industry.


The lecture modules in this programme are delivered through lectures combined with tutorials, discussions and independent study; they are assessed through examinations and, in some cases, coursework. In the two lab modules, which are continuously assessed, students explore practical photonics for three afternoons a week.

Semester 1 modules (at St Andrews)

  • Displays and Nonlinear Optics: covering the physics of polymers and liquid crystals as well as the physical ideas and application of second and third order nonlinear optics.
  • Laser Physics: presents a description of the main physical concepts upon which an understanding of laser materials, operations and applications can be based.
  • One photonics application module: choose one from two or more application areas, for example, Biophotonics, Applications of Quantum Physics and Nanophotonics.
  • Photonics Laboratory: gives training in experimental photonics and allows students the opportunity to explore photonics practically in a series of chosen open-ended investigations.

Semester 2 modules (at Heriot-Watt)

  • Fibre Optic Communications: topics include fibre optic attenuation, fibre amplifiers, and nonlinear fibres.
  • Modern Optics: covers geometrical optics, Fourier optics and modulators.
  • Photonics Experimental Laboratory: develops students' skills in experimental design, exploration of physical concepts, and experimental skills.
  • Semiconductor Optoelectronic Devices: topics include light emitting diodes, laser diodes and photoemissive detectors.


The research and development project, which is often hosted by a UK company, is an ideal introduction to the optoelectronics and laser industry. It represents a great opportunity to get hands-on research and development experience in a commercial environment, working on a project that is important to the company concerned.

The project placement occupies 12 to 14 weeks from late May to August and is assessed in September through the submission of a dissertation (up to 15,000 words) and an oral exam.

The programme coordinator aims to find host companies for students on the programme. Companies who have recently hosted projects for our students include Ceres Holographics, Coherent, Daqri, Elforlight, Helia Photonics, Leonardo, Optoscribe, STMicroelectronics, M-Squared Lasers, Silixa, Taylor Hobson, and Unik Lasers.

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2019 entry.


The Photonics and Optoelectronic Devices MSc course aims to produce graduates with appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes to go on to be successful in the photonics area. Some of our recent graduates are featured in our graduate profiles. In addition to employment in companies, some MSc graduates have found long-term employment in universities worldwide. Some of the locations where our MSc graduates have obtained employment include:

  • BAE Systems
  • Cascade Technologies
  • Coherent
  • Edinburgh Instruments
  • Gooch and Housego UK Ltd
  • Leonardo
  • M-Squared Laser
  • Osram
  • Silixa
  • STMicroelectronics
  • Taylor Hobson
  • Unik Lasers

Entry requirements

  • A strong 2.2 Honours degree in physics, applied physics, electronic engineering, or equivalent qualifications.
  • If you studied your first degree outside the UK, see the international entry requirements.
  • English language proficiency.

The qualifications listed are indicative of minimum requirements for entry. Some academic Schools will ask applicants to achieve significantly higher marks than the minimum. Obtaining the listed entry requirements will not guarantee you a place, as the University considers all aspects of every application including, where applicable, the writing sample, personal statement, and supporting documents.

Application requirements

  • CV,
  • personal statement (optional),
  • two original signed academic references,
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates,
  • evidence of English language proficiency (required if English is not your first language).


Tuition fee scholarships

Recent Graduate Discount

The University of St Andrews offers a 10% discount in postgraduate tuition fees to students who are eligible to graduate or who have graduated from St Andrews within the last three academic years and are starting a postgraduate programme with the University of St Andrews.

Industrial support

STMicroelectronics, a semiconductor company, is offering financial support to the UK and European students as well as summer internships.

Most of our students undertake their summer dissertation research/development project in industry. Many of these companies pay their placement student a salary. These projects provide an invaluable insight into the environment in commercial photonics research and development.

Last updated October 2019

About the School

Founded in the fifteenth century, St Andrews is Scotland's first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. St Andrews is a unique place to study and live. Nestled on the east coas ... Read More

Founded in the fifteenth century, St Andrews is Scotland's first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. St Andrews is a unique place to study and live. Nestled on the east coast of Scotland, students may find themselves crossing golf-courses on their way to class, or jogging along the beach after dinner. Not only does the University have a world-class reputation, but it also offers a diverse range of social activities, including over 140 student societies and 50 sports clubs. Historic buildings are juxtaposed against the modern facilities, and the many student traditions truly make studying at St Andrews an unforgettable experience. Read less
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