Master in Physics and Astronomy (Joint Degree with UvA)


Program Description

Groundbreaking research at the heart of modern society

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:

  • Advanced Matter and Energy Physics
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Gravitation, Astro- and Particle Physics
  • Biophysics and Biophotonics
  • Science for Energy and Sustainability
  • Theoretical Physics

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.

Study programme

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:

  • Optional courses in Physics
  • Compulsory courses in chosen specialization
  • Essay, student seminar or project (Research profile only)
  • Research project
  • Presentation and Master’s thesis
  • Optional courses (to make up for any deficiencies)
  • Additional courses and projects (does not apply to Research profile)

Career prospects

Our graduates are employed by research institutes like the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN), the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI). But they also find careers with major multinationals like Shell and Philips, and with telecommunications companies and banks. The public sector likewise offers opportunities, as do software houses and consultancies. If you choose the Research profile, you can become an assistant or trainee researcher at a university and work towards a PhD.

PhD programme
The four-year PhD programme trains you as an independent researcher. PhD students are employed by the university under a contract which includes agreements about the character and content of their education. The first year is mainly spent complementing your theoretical knowledge and preparing the ground for your research. To obtain your PhD, you must write a thesis.

In addition to those financed by the university, other PhD positions are supported by bodies like the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), as well as various companies and the European Union.

Postgraduate training course for clinical physicists
The Master’s programme in Physics, and the specialization in Biophysics and Physics of Complex Systems in particular, can be organized in such a way that it provides admission to a postgraduate training course for clinical physicists.

Science teacher degree
Science education is the foundation of innovations that improve our world. Due to the shortage of certified science teachers and the fact that our economy is knowledge-based, you will be highly valued both in and out of the classroom. With a science teaching degree you can become involved in improving science education both as a teacher or other positions in the educational industry. Practical and scientific knowledge of teaching methods and educational psychology can steer your career in many directions.

Why VU Amsterdam?

Organization and facilities
VU Amsterdam scores highly for the organization of its curriculum, its working methods and its facilities such as the LaserLaB. Student guidance plays an important role in the Master’s programme. You will remain in close contact with your personal tutor throughout, enabling you to optimize your performance on the Master’s programme.

Research training in advanced laboratories
The Master’s programme in Physics and Astronomy offers you the opportunity to prepare for your future career. You will be working with leading international researchers in advanced laboratories.

Diversity in courses
The Master’s programme is highly diverse. Courses such as Particle physics, Quantum Optics, Physics of Organs, Femtosecond Lasers, Nonlinear Techniques and Mechanics of Human Tissues provide the ideal opportunity for in-depth specialization, both in terms of theory and practical application.

Home to leading research groups
The Physics Department has strong ties with Chemistry, Biology and Medicine and is home to leading research groups working on physics of the cell, biophysics, physical chemistry and laser-related sciences. Through its participation in the National Institute for Subatomic Physics (NIKHEF), the department is involved in experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Geneva. Our department also cooperates in projects at renowned institutes such as the Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics (AMOLF) and the Institute for Plasma Physics.

Research topics

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.

Application for students with an international degree

Physics and Astronomy is a joint degree between the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. All student administration and services for this programme are organized by the University of Amsterdam. Please follow the UvA application procedure for this programme.

Practical information for international students

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.

Overview Physics & Astronomy: UVA/VU joint degree

  • Language of instruction: English
  • Duration: 2 years
  • Application deadline: 1 February for non-EU/EEA-students. 1 July for Dutch and EU/EEA-students.
  • Start date: 1 September
  • Study type: Full-time
  • Specializations: Astronomy and Astrophysics, Theoretical Physics, Gravitation, Astro- and Particle Physics, Advanced Matter and Energy Physics, Biophysics andd Biophotonics, Science for Enerfy and Sustainability.
  • Field of interest: Natural Sciences

Last updated Nov 2020

About the School

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 175 English taught programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level to over ... Read More

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 175 English taught programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level to over 26,000 students from all over the world. Students and staff of 122 nationalities create a dynamic international academic community. The University distinguishes itself in research and education through four interdisciplinary themes: Human Health and Life Sciences, Science for Sustainability, Connected World and Governance for Society. Curious about student life at VU Amsterdam? Click here to ask our International Student Ambassadors. Read less