Master’s in (Theoretical) Physics in Leipzig (Germany)

The International Physics Studies Program (IPSP) at the University of Leipzig offers Master (also Bachelor) program specializing in experimental or theoretical physics in English. I shall only discuss the course-outline of the theoretical physics due to my own interest and lack of knowledge in the direction of experimental physics.

Structure of master’s program

The 2-year, and so 120 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) official (in the sense that one can take more than 2 years to complete and attend more than 120 credits) Master of Science (M. Sc.) in Physics program consists of 4 semesters and is divided into two phases.

  • Phase – I: Coursework (60 credits)

  • Officially each student has to pass 60 credits (if one does more than 60 credits then the best grades will be accounted while the rest will be in the final transcript as additional without affecting the overall grade; one can even repeat same course) from the following categories.   
    • Compulsory coursework (25 credits)

This is divided into the following two parts.

      • Experimental Physics (10 credits): One has to pass at least the advanced solid state physics or the soft matter physics. The course detail is decided by the lecturer, but, there must be some experiments to perform, as suggested by the name alongside with the regular lectures. For example, I attended soft matter physics  by Professor Claudia Mierke. There were one and a half hours of  lectures twice per week, followed by one and a half hours of seminar where students have to give a talk on a topic offered by Professor Mierke. The talk was counted as one-third of the final grade. The other one-third came from the submitted reports of the three performed experiments, supervised by some PhD students from Professor Mierke’s group. The rest of the grade was assigned for the written exam based on the weekly lectures.
      • Theoretical Physics (10 credits): One has to pass either the advanced quantum mechanics or the advanced statistical physics. The course content and structure are fixed by the lecturer. The (compulsory) theoretical physics courses are consist of one and a half hours of lectures, twice per week followed a weekly seminar of the same duration where the (compulsory) homeworks and problems from lectures are discussed. Usually students have to obtain a minimum percentage (for instance, I attended advanced quantum mechanics by Professor Gerd Rudolph where the bar was fixed at 60%) in the homeworks to qualify for the written exams on which the final grade is marked.
      • Advanced seminar “Hauptseminare” (5 credits each): In these seminars different topics are announced by the organizers and the students are suggested reference materials after a particular choice have been made. The philosophy behind these seminars is to introduce students with the research world to learn by self-study under a supervisor and then present the topic to scientific-audience. Generally a theme is selected for each advanced seminar (like, Holographic Methods in Condensed Matter Theory was the theme of the one I attended which was organized by the particle theory group and the statistical physics group with a guest professor from University of Jena) and topics are distributed accordingly. One has to present the material (may be a part of a book, a review or a regular article, for example, I have talked on entanglement entropy in quantum field theory) by chalk and board (usually preferred in theoretical and mathematical physics community), and/or slides within 45 minutes followed by a report. The final grade is sometimes equal weighted on both presentation and report, sometimes more weighted on the presentation.
    • Elective coursework “Physikalischer Wahlbereich” (35 credits)

There are a number of courses depending on the semester (in the sense that all courses are not offered in semester) in different branches of theoretical and mathematical physics: computational physics, computer simulation, theory of soft and biological matter, mathematical physics (differential geometry, symplectic geometry, Hamiltonian mechanics, classical gauge theory, etc.), group theory for physicists, general relativity, cosmology, relativistic quantum field theory, algebraic quantum field theory in flat and curved spacetimes, quantum field theory of many-particle system, particle physics, etc. Like every 10 credits courses, these are one and a half hours of lectures twice per week with seminars of same duration for obligatory/optional (depending on the lecturer) homeworks.

In parallel to the lecture courses, students have the following two options to complete their elective courses.

      • Advanced seminar “Hauptseminare” (5 credits each): One can attend up to two (even more is possible, but those will then be counted as extra credits without contributing in the final grade) advanced seminars (that is one is the compulsory one and another one is the elective).There are Group Seminars by all research groups (discussed below) open to everyone where the talks are presented by master and PhD students, post-doc (not necessarily in respective groups), and invited guests.
      • Reading course (5 credits each): There are some courses which are not regularly offered (sometimes it is offered with regular courses as well and then the topics are chosen as supplementary materials of the main lecture), albeit there are active researchers in Leipzig. The Reading Course is a partial solution to resolve the situation. Structurally the Reading Courses are similar to Advanced Seminars, that is, students have to pick a topic offered by the professors, but the difference lies in the purpose and targeted audience. In contrast to the Advanced Seminars where topics are selected mostly from research arena, Reading Courses are intended to gain in-depth understanding of an “established” topic (for example, I have chosen  the paper on tunneling processes through black hole horizons by Moretti and Pinamonti), so the students have to go into the details in their reports and present (chalk-board and/or slides) usually in front of PhD and other master’s students in presence of the professor. Usually the grade is equally distributed for the talk and report.
  • Phase – II: Research (60 credits)

Officially half (2 semesters: 1 year) of the master’s program is devoted to conduct a research project supervised (called 1st  supervisor) by a member from any recognized research institution. The research should be something new and typically leads to a publication (but neither obligatory nor required). A thesis report (two printed copies and a soft copy) must be submitted to the Office of Study Affairs “Studienbüro which will be graded independently by the 1st supervisor and the another (2nd) supervisor. Furthermore, the student must appear an oral presentation (chalk-board or slides). In case (which is quite usual), the 1st supervisor is not from the Faculty of Physics and Geo-Sciences, the 2nd supervisor must be (to be precise, at least one of the supervisors must be) from the Faculty of Physics and Geo-Sciences. The 2nd supervisor grades he thesis report and optionally (not obligatory) present in the defence. There is no template for the thesis report, but one must include the title, author (name, date of birth and place, faculty, etc), names of the two supervisors, and disclaimer about originality (plagiarism is strictly prohibited) with all other standard materials. The final grade for thesis accumulates the grades of thesis report by two supervisors with the grade from the oral defence agreed by both examiners (at least two examiners are required, apart from the 1st supervisor the second examiner may or may not be the 2nd supervisor) and finally averaged out.

As mentioned, one is free to choose the 1st supervisor. Locally the following institutes offer master thesis projects.

The following areas of theoretical and mathematical physics are investigated in this institute.

      • Computational Quantum Field Theory: phase transitions and critical phenomena, disordered systems (spin glasses, diluted ferromagnets, random lattices and networks), soft matter physics (polymers and proteins, interfaces, membranes), dynamical triangulations and quadrangulations in 2D quantum gravity.
      • Quantum Field Theory and Gravity: algebraic quantum field theory in flat and curved spacetimes, geometry of classical and quantum gauge theories, early universe cosmology, quantum field theory under external conditions.
      • Statistical Physics: dynamics of quantum condensates, topological order in interacting quantum systems, nonequilibrium physics of low-dimensional quantum systems, quantum transport.
      • Elementary Particle Theory: algebraic quantum field theory in flat and curved spacetimes, gravity in higher dimensions, quantum field theory under external potential, lattice quantum chromodynamics, string theory.
      • Theory of Condensed Matter: mesoscopic emerging properties in soft and biological matters, nonequilibrium statistical mechanics.
    • Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Sciences

The following areas of mathematical physics are conducted in this institute

    • Else there are professors from the Institute for Mathematics working on partial differential equations (general relativity, hydrodynamics, numerics: high-temperature series expansion, quantum information theory, boundary value problem, etc), functional analysis (dynamical system), Geometry (symplectic, pseudo-Riemanian, conformal, Finsler, Dirac operator, etc) where a mathematics oriented student can work.

Admission

The basic requirement for this program is a Bachelor’s in physics and related disciplines (for example, I obtained BS in Applied Physics, Electronics and Communication Engineering) with the knowledge of the English language at least of B2 level (TOEFL: pBT: 500, cBT: 173, iBT: 61, IELTS: 5.5). One has to apply via the uni-assist. The deadline is from 1st April to 31st  May (winter semester).

Funding

There are no tuition fee and university funding for this program. However, sometimes there are teaching assistantships (During my time it was a 10 hours/week with 11.01 euro/hour) for three months per semester where the students can apply. Else there are a number of private scholarships, for example, the Konrad Adenauer foundation, the Friedrich Ebert foundation, the Hanns Seidel foundation, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Rosa Luxemburg foundation, etc. Officially, every master’s student in Germany is allowed to work 20 hours per week for 120 full (8 hours) or 240 half (4 hours) days.

Accommodation

There are usually adequate places in student residence  halls. Else one can also look for private housing. As far as square meters, student halls are cheaper than private housing (including internet, electricity, etc). Ensure your accommodation before landing in Germany (it is also a visa requirement).

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