CME Physics Exchange

Junior Year Abroad at Cambridge University

The physics department is participating in the Cambridge-MIT Exchange (CME) program which sponsors an exchange program for students in their junior year. This is a great opportunity for physics majors who would like to broaden their undergraduate experience.

What is it?

CME students spell out MIT at Stonehenge.
CME students spell out MIT at Stonehenge.

This is a junior year abroad program, but a very special one for the following reasons.

  • It is at Cambridge University, one of the best universities in England.
  • Cambridge has a long history and a great program in physics.
  • You do not need to speak a foreign language.
  • You will have a chance to experience firsthand a different educational system.
  • You will have the opportunity to travel in Europe.
  • MIT and Cambridge are very anxious to have this program work so you will get more attention and support than you would in other exchange programs.

Will I fall behind if I participate in the program?

You will not fall behind if you choose your Cambridge subjects carefully. We will give you a lot of help in doing that. The material covered in the third year there is not identical to that covered here, but it is pretty close. If there is some specific topic that they do not cover and we do, then you should be able to pick it up on your own by reading the relevant chapter in a book. And, there will be material you learn there that you would not have been exposed to here. The physics department thinks this is a great opportunity for our majors and is willing to be quite flexible in giving MIT subject credit for similar (but not necessarily identical) work done there. In particular, Cambridge offers an experimental experience for which we will give Junior Lab (8.13 and 8.14) credit.

What is different about the third-year program for physics majors in Cambridge?

There are two major differences. Cambridge third year students would be studying only physics and math. Although in theory it is possible for you to take subjects outside of these areas, it is not easy to do so.

The exams come only at the end of the year. There are no graded homework assignments and during-the-term quizzes that we have here to keep you focused on your studies. You will need self-discipline to keep from getting behind.

You can get detailed information about the physics program at Cambridge by visiting their website.

What specifically will I be taking in Cambridge?

To a rough first approximation, you would take the curriculum described in their material as "Part II Experimental and Theoretical Physics, Option B". Depending on the subjects you have already taken at MIT you may be able to substitute more advanced Cambridge subjects from their 4th year program: "Part III Experimental and Theoretical Physics". They are prepared to be flexible and so are we.

What about credit and grades?

In most cases, we can map your work there onto existing MIT subjects and give you MIT credit for those subjects. When this is not possible we will give you an appropriate number of units of unspecified credit in physics. We will not attempt to map their grades onto ours. Your MIT transcript will show an S (indicating transfer credit) for the subjects we add to your transcript due to your studies at Cambridge. You will have a separate grade report from Cambridge that you can include with any graduate school applications or CV. A typical assignment of credit to an MIT student simply taking the standard Part II (third year) program at Cambridge would be:

  • Part II Paper 1: Thermal & Statistical Physics, Relativity, Electrodynamics & Light --> 8.07 and 8.08
  • Part II Paper 2: Advanced Quantum Physics --> 8.05 and 8.06
  • Part II Paper 3: Astrophysics, Particle & Nuclear Physics --> 8.276
  • Part II Paper 4: Quantum Condensed Matter, Soft Condensed Matter & Biophysics --> 8.231
  • Part II Experiments: (E1 and E2) --> 8.13 and 8.14

Can I participate in research at Cambridge?

Yes, if you wish. The most convenient way of arranging this is to have it count as Part III (that is, fourth year) project work. You may even begin a collaborative effort between a group there and one at MIT that leads to a senior thesis.

Will it cost more than a normal year at MIT?

No, it should not. You pay the normal MIT tuition. Room and board are paid to Cambridge, but cost about the same as here. This year the students received a supplemental grant to cover the costs of travel and other additional expenses. We expect that the supplements will continue to be available.

How do I apply?

Admission to the program is by application. Students apply to their departments. The departments will then select the students they wish to recommend to the Institute for acceptance. Applications are generally available in the fall with a due date in the middle of February. Specific due dates can be obtained at the MIT CME website. Physics students can obtain a copy of the application form from Academic Programs, Room 4-315.

The physics department will be looking for students who:

  • are up to date or, better still, a bit ahead on their degree requirements,
  • have good grades,
  • are interesting, well rounded individuals, and
  • can argue that the Cambridge experience would fit in well with their educational and career objectives.

How can I get more information about the program?

The physics department will hold an information session on the CME exchange program during the first week of classes in February. In the interim, you may want to explore the following website at Cambridge.

For further information, begin at the MIT CME website.After that, general questions about the CME program at MIT should be addressed to the CME Office. Questions relating to the physics department's participation in the program should be addressed to Prof. Tom Greytak.

Last updated on June 6, 2017 4:00 PM