Faculty of Physics and Astronomy

The unusually close connections between basic and application-oriented research make Heidelberg an excellent location for studying physics and astronomy.
special colloquium with Nobel Prize laureate
A special colloquium with Nobel Prize laureate Martinus Veltman, part of a week of events on topical research issues in physics and astronomy for students from Heidelberg and further afield

The development of physics from a more speculative to an exact science in the 19th century owes much to famous names like Gustav Robert Kirchhoff and Hermann von Helmholtz. In the 20th century, important scientists working at the Faculty included astronomer Max Wolf and the Nobel Prize laureates Philip Lenard, Walther Bothe and Hans Jensen. The latter's appointment to the newly created chair of theoretical physics in 1949 marked the beginnings of the broad research spectrum for which physics in Heidelberg is still renowned.

a profil in teaching
The Teachers

The Institutes

The Faculty in the Internet:

Today, this spectrum encompasses both basic research and application-oriented approaches. Particle physics (high-energy physics, heavy ion physics, atomic and neutron physics) investigates the fundamental constituents of matter and the way they interact.

The diversity of the material world around us is a result of the collective phenomena produced by the interactions of a very large number of particles. These complex forms are the province of condensed matter physics. Astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology explore the universe and address the issues posed by its evolution and constitution. The basic research such investigation largely involves is supplemented by strongly application-oriented study interests such as environmental physics (which was more or less invented in Heidelberg), medical physics and hardware informatics.

Research at five institutes

There are five closely linked institutes engaged in experimental and theoretical work on these subjects at the Faculty: the Kirchhoff Institute for Physics and the Institutes of Physics, Theoretical Physics, Environmental Physics and Theoretical Astrophysics. Cooperation and interaction are writ large: hardly any of the research groups working here limit themselves to basic or applied research alone.

multi-chip module
A multi-chip module developed at the Faculty's ASIC Lab.

three-dimensional exposure of a spark plug
A three-dimensional exposure of a spark plug produced by neutron tomography, a technique allowing real-time, non-destructive penetration of extremely dense materials and the imaging of very light elements.

Such wide-ranging research activity is made possible by substantial funding from external sources, which in the last few years has been used to defray about 40% of personnel costs and more than 50% of material costs.

This research landscape is enriched by a number of special collaborative programmes linking research groups from various institutes and Faculties and frequently extending beyond the limits of the University. They include several collaborative research centres and postgraduate research groups funded by the German Research Foundation. Projects of this kind exist at many different levels: in Heidelberg itself, involving the Max Planck Institutes for Astronomy, Nuclear Physics and Medical Research, the German Cancer Research Center and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory; at a national level, with the Laboratory for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt and the German Electron Synchrotron in Hamburg; at a European level, with such institutions as the European Nuclear Research Centre in Geneva and the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, and also with many other research locations worldwide.

cosmic gas
Under the gravitational pull of dark matter, cosmic gas surges into a galaxy cluster, heating up to several million degrees in the process. Computer simulations are used to study the physical properties of the gas and obtain information on the evolution of galaxy clusters.

The Faculty is one of the largest of its kind in Germany. The favourable study conditions and the wide range of subjects reflected in curricula and thesis topics assure its attractiveness for beginners and advanced students alike.

Working for a degree

Diplom and doctoral theses can also be worked on at the non-university research institutions referred to above, provided the Faculty members supervising the work are affiliated with them. Altogether about 300 - 400 Diplom and doctoral theses are completed annually. In terms of the number of degrees (some 120 per year at Diplom level) the Faculty is an absolute front runner in Germany and the situation is similar for doctorates and Habilitationen.

The broad research opportunities, the open-minded, communicative teaching style and the attractions of Heidelberg provide near-ideal conditions for scientists and students to make a success of their work in physics and astronomy.

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Latest Revision: 2018-05-23
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