Study Physics with our Oxford Summer School 2017 | Students aged 16-18

Also available for students aged 13-15.

Class Summary

This summer course aims to introduce students to aspects of physics beyond what is taught in most schools. Over the two-week period, students will be provided with a taster of the kinds of topics covered in a physics degree, an understanding of the state of modern physics and of some of the major unsolved problems in it, and a notion that physics is an exciting and intellectually challenging and rewarding discipline. The two main fields of modern physics are quantum physics and relativistic physics, so the course emphasises these two areas in particular.

The class contains very little overlap with conventional high school physics. The physics covered in high school is over two hundred years old. It can be archaic and boring, yet physics today is on the brink of exciting new discoveries. For students to gain an appreciation of physics, it is best that they are exposed to the ideas and problems of modern physics which are covered in class.

The course structure is based mainly on discussion and worksheets, with one homework sheet and one student presentation. Problem solving in groups captures the activity of research physics well, and this is why group worksheets in class are an important part of the curriculum.  The homework and presentation give the students further opportunity to test their understanding, and to research and explain to their peers topics not covered in the classes.

During the first four days, the underlying ideas of relativistic physics are introduced. During the next three days quantum physics is introduced and analysed from perspectives of philosophy and technological applications.  On the remaining days, a survey of other major areas of physics is offered for discussion.

Over the two-week course, students learn how to solve basic problems in relativistic physics and quantum physics; develop the conceptual sense to resolve common paradoxes in these fields; understand how these fundamentals are used to comprehend the world around us; gain a superficial understanding of some of the most important areas of modern physics; become familiar with some unsolved problems in physics, such as those currently being investigated at the Large Hadron Collider in CERN; and gain experience in researching and presenting a topic.


As the content of the course should be new to most high school students, unfamiliarity with the topics listed below should not discourage a student from taking this course; these requirements should be seen as preferable rather than mandatory.

Mathematical background required: basic algebraic manipulation; basic trigonometry; vector algebra; knowledge of differential and integral calculus an advantage but not necessary by any means.

Physics background required: displacement, velocity and acceleration; Newton’s Laws of Motion; conservation of energy; conservation of momentum; simple harmonic motion; waves.

Please note

It is not possible to choose Physics from both List A and List B, as the course content is the same. All option choices must be unique.