Facilities and research community

Find out about the facilities and research community within the School

School location

The School of Physics and Astronomy is located in the James Clerk Maxwell Building (JCMB) in the King's Buildings Campus, just south of Edinburgh City Centre. Students studying for a PhD in Astronomy or Astrophysics will be based in the Institute for Astronomy at the nearby Royal Observatory, Edinburgh (ROE).) The King's Buildings hosts one of the largest science and engineering Colleges in the UK and houses a diverse selection of research, teaching and library facilities, carrying all major Physics research publications.

The School of Physics and Astronomy has long been associated with cutting edge, high performance computing through EPCC  (also based at JCMB on the King’s Building campus) and offers a suitably impressive range of computing facilities for its students.

Student facilities

All postgraduate research students have an office and/or laboratory, which is normally shared with other students and staff in the same research group. Each office offers computing facilities with email and internet access. Student life within the School is friendly and relaxed and there is a large common room for socialising with students and staff over coffee, tea and lunch.

Taught courses

During the first year, students have the opportunity to take undergraduate and postgraduate courses to gain or enhance skills in relevant areas.  In addition to the courses available at the University of Edinburgh, students also have the opportunity to take courses delivered by other Universities in Scotland through the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA).

Skills Training and Career development

We are keen to help students develop the necessary workplace skills, whether in academia or not. Students are offered the opportunity to attend a variety of skills training courses, from presentation skills and interview techniques, to paper and thesis writing.  All research groups will encourage students to go to conferences to present posters and talks, and experimental groups will expect students to visit international research facilities.

Closer to home, students have the opportunity to participate in undergraduate teaching activities within the School, such as laboratory supervision and running tutorial groups. Teaching is an excellent way of developing vital transferable skills, as well as being a useful supplementary source of income. Communicating Physics also helps increase the understanding of Physics - even basic concepts can take on a different lustre after you have tried to teach them.

Careers Service

Institute for Academic Development


PhD students organise and run an informal series of Postgraduate colloquia, giving them a chance to talk about their work, find out what other students are doing and help develop essential communication skills, in a friendly lunch-oriented environment.

In addition, the School has a full programme of seminars given by academics of international reputation. This is an ideal opportunity to keep ahead of the current issues.

School Seminar Programme


Prizes are sometimes awarded to PhD students, including the annual Winton Award which is awarded to students with the best PhD theses in the fields of astronomy and particle & nuclear physics. 

Winton Award