All the lectures are given in English
The NPAC Master’s degree (or ”M2”*) is designed to provide training for students wishing to enter research in nuclear physics, particle physics, astroparticles and cosmology. More specifically it prepares students for either an experimental or a theoretical PhD in these fields in laboratories attached to the universities or other major research institutions (CNRS, CEA).
(*)In the French system, the master program is divided into two years: M1 (first-year of Master) and M2 (second-year of Master).
The content of the program has a dual objective. On the one hand, it provides an introduction to the physics of the “infinitely small” – the physics of the fundamental particles and interactions in Nature, and the physics of nuclei built from these elementary building blocks. On the other hand, it introduces the physics of the “infinitely large” – modern cosmological theory and its description of the geometry and contents of the Universe (including notably dark matter and dark energy). The students are also taught about astroparticle physics, which concerns another important class of “cosmic messengers” which open windows on many unanswered questions.
The topics covered by the program are at the frontier of current scientific research. For particle physics, the most recent highly visible breakthrough has been the discovery of the Higgs boson (2013 Nobel Prize) at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. In cosmology and astroparticles, the 2011 Nobel Prize has recognized measurements of the expansion of the Universe which provide evidence for dark energy. The field of nuclear physics is also very active with the starting up of SPIRAL2, an accelerator that should, amongst other issues, provide some understanding of the origin of the elements and their abundance on Earth.
The NPAC program thus trains the researchers of tomorrow in these fields. One of the program’s main assets is its strong link with research. All the lecturers are leading researchers in the area they teach. The students have the opportunity to work in laboratories, both during their internships and also when studying a selected researchers’ work, particularly in instrumentation. Indeed, these fields of research require increasingly powerful and sophisticated instruments, of which the performance is determining for the advances of the discipline. The program thus includes in particular lectures in the physics of both detector and accelerators.
The students have numerous opportunities during the year to have hands-on experience of research:
In the first semester they work in pairs on a one-month project, in which follow conduct a small experiment from the design phase through to the analysis. This project allows them to acquire knowledge in instrumentation, data analysis, and detection techniques. The “Detector Physics” course also involves an immersion in a research team: during 4 half-days, the students (in pairs) are hosted in laboratories by researchers and engineers working on an experiment under construction. Bibliographical work, a written report and an oral defence are required at the end of these meetings.
The last three months of the program are an internship in a laboratory, which naturally leads the students to their PhD for the following year.
The NPAC program is recognized for its academic quality in particular by the laboratories of the CNRS particle and nuclear physics division (IN2P3) in the Paris region and all over France, and also by theoretical and astrophysics laboratories all over France.
After the NPAC 1-year training, about 90% of the students obtain a full fellowship to pursue a PhD thesis. The hosting laboratories are mostly in the Paris area, but there are also some elsewhere in France or abroad.
The year is divided into 2 semesters.
- During the first semester, September is fully dedicated to an experimental project of laboratory work. Then, from October to January, the students follow 3 main courses (60 hours each), one detector course and an optional course (chosen between general relativity and accelerator physics).
- During the second semester, the students take a 2 weeks advanced level lecture course on the physics field related to its future PhD. During these 2 weeks, they also follow a computing course and project. Between March and June, the students have a laboratory internship, within the team of their future PhD.
Requirements for application:
Candidates must have completed successfully a Master 1 level degree in fundamental physics, or have an engineering diploma with a large physics component. In either case, candidates should have a strong background in modern physics subjects such as quantum mechanics and statistical physics. It is strongly recommended to have also studied at least one of NPAC’s main fields.
The selection is based on the application form and an interview with the directors of the program.
There are about 30 students per year enrolled in NPAC, coming from both French and foreign universities and also engineering schools. The foreign students represent between 25% and 30% of the total.