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Research and Impact

The 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) was conducted by the official body for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

In 2021, 96% of Durham Physics research outputs are considered either to be of world-leading or internationally excellent quality (REF 2021).
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Physics Research

What our REF assessment means

The REF assessment offical body examined our academic publications, the impact of our research outside academia and the outstanding environment within the Durham physics department. Based on the quality and power (numbers of researchers) of our research we are placed 7th in the UK.

In REF 2021 the number of World Leading research outputs rose by 64% from the 2014 results and the results from our impact case studies demonstrates the excellence of the broad application of our research and leadership across the faculty.

See the 2021 REF results page for more information.

Impact case studies
96% of our research outputs are world-leading or internationally excellent (REF 2021)
World leading research We're consistently in the top of the league tables for "world leading" or "internationally excellent quality" research, placing us 7th in the UK when the size of our research base is considered.
International recognition Our academic publications, the impact of our research outside academia and the outstanding environment within the Durham physics department is internationally recognised.
Rewarding partnerships Our research partnerships have achieved great things with a number of outside companies. 86% were rated as internationally excellent or world leading.
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Levelling Up: Aspire Higher

Levelling Up: Aspire Higher is an academic and pastoral support programme, targeted at students who are aiming to pursue the study of Physics at University (we also offer similar programmes in Maths and Chemistry).

Find out more Eligibility Criteria

Our research groups


Durham is one of the UK's leading centres for astronomical research with world-class groups working in a wide range of fields covering the observational, theoretical and instrumentation aspects of astronomy. There are 28 academic staff across the combined astronomy groups, with over 100 postdocs, postgraduate students and support and technical staff involved in astronomy research.


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Quantum Light & Matter

The Durham Quantum Light and Matter (QLM) research section encompasses several research groups sharing a common interest in the study of the quantum properties of atoms, molecules and solids and their interactions with light. Our work aims to advance our fundamental understanding of quantum light and matter, whilst exploring a broad range of applications in quantum science, metrology and quantum technologies.


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Centre for Advanced Instrumentation

The CfAI’s vision is to undertake a world-leading programme of education and research with international impact, based on the development of novel instrumentation and cutting edge technologies with applications across a range of strategically important scientific areas of benefit to modern society.

Members of CfAI are directly involved in two Covid-19 related projects. In one project the precision optics facility is being re-opened to machine mould tools for infrared lenses for integration into a novel thermal imaging system. The second project is using an imaging system, designed within CfAI, to view with cellular resolution inside the lung using a micro-fibre optic endoscope. This is a collaborative project involving Durham, Bath, Herriot Watt, Dundee Universities, and led by Edinburgh University.


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Condensed Matter Physics

Materials Physics is one of the largest, most diverse and dynamic fields in modern physics, encompassing all aspects of the solid and liquids states of matter. This breadth is reflected in the research undertaken at Durham which spans a wide range of subjects from light emitting polymers and solar cell materials to nanoscale magnetics. Our work aims to push forward the forefront of our understanding in the physics of materials using experiment, theory and computation. 


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Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology

Our work addresses the mysteries surrounding antimatter and dark matter, the possibility of supersymmetry, new fundamental forces and even the very modifications of the structure of space-time at very high energies.  In this, we work closely with the IPPP on building a bridge between theory and experiment in understanding the building blocks and fundamental forces of the universe.


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Physics Education and Scholarship (PhES)

We are a research and scholarship group within the Department of Physics comprised of staff members on the Education track. Formed in October 2021, we are the sixth research section within the department. Members comprise of permanent academic staff, fixed term teaching fellows and PDRAs on split contracts who are also part teaching fellows who have varied interests in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) and Physics education research (PER).


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