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Unit information: Foundations of Physics in 2019/20

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing and student choice.

Unit name Foundations of Physics
Unit code PHYS00001
Credit points 40
Level of study
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Vasiljevic
Open unit status Not open

IELTS minimum 5.5 overall with a minimum of 5 in writing and 4.5 in all other components or equivalent

Students should have the appropriate qualifications in Science and Mathematics at the equivalent of QCA level 2



School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science


The unit is intended to provide students with a broad understanding of the fundamental principles of physics and experience of practical techniques, as a pre-requisite for entry or progression onto undergraduate degree programmes in science and engineering.

Concepts covered will include

  • mechanics
  • geometrical optics, including fundamental optical phenomena and analysis of simple optical systems
  • fundamentals of wave motion
  • basics of electromagnetism with applications to simple circuits
  • basic laws of thermodynamics and ideal gas behaviour
  • fundamental properties of matter on macroscopic level
  • atomic and nuclear systems
  • basic laboratory skills.

Intended learning outcomes

Subject-specific Intended Learning Outcomes

  • be able to describe Newton’s law of motion and demonstrate their use in simple calculations of particles motion in one dimension; be able to perform simple calculations using vectors of forces, velocity, and linear momentum
  • be able to describe laws of conservation of energy and the linear momentum; be able to perform simple calculations with work, potential and kinetic energy able to demonstrate image formation by lenses and mirrors and be able to perform simple calculations with lenses and mirrors
  • be able to demonstrate image formation by lenses and mirrors and be able to perform simple calculations with lenses and mirrors
  • be able to describe the properties of waves and oscillations using appropriate terminology and state the properties of the wave in the electromagnetic spectrum
  • be able to describe and perform simple calculations on the phenomena of interference, diffraction, reflection and refraction
  • ability to perform calculations to determine the properties of simple electrical circuits consisting of resistors and capacitors; sketch the electric field and forces acting in simple systems of charged particles and perform simple calculations of the electric potential; sketch the magnetic field associated with simple configurations of magnets or current carrying conductors; apply basic knowledge of electricity and magnetism to understand the concepts behind practical instruments
  • background knowledge of atomic models, explain the effects the four forces of nature have on the atom; recognise different types of atomic bonding and phase changes of matter
  • understand concepts of temperature and heat flow and transfer; apply the ideal gas laws as well as understand the implications of fundamental laws of thermodynamics
  • be able to describe the kinetic theory of gases and molecules; perform simple calculations on transitions in atomic systems
  • be able to describe dual nature of photons and other quantum particles; understand black body radiation, photoelectric effect and recognize different types of nuclear decays and reaction
  • be able to perform experimental work by taking measurements and analysing the results including the errors inherent in the apparatus, and write a formal report.

Generic Intended Learning Outcomes

  • ability to apply mathematics (without calculus) and basic physical principles to solve simple problems in physics
  • confidence and competence in practical laboratory work
  • ability to analyse and present experimental data.

Teaching details


  • 96 x 1-hour lectures
  • 24 x 1-hour tutorials
  • 12 x 3 hour laboratory sessions

Assessment Details

Assessment for learning/Formation Assessment

  • Weekly worksheets with feedback provided in small-group tutorials

Assessment of learning/Summative Assessment

  • Continuously assessed laboratory practicals, including, as appropriate, pre-laboratory, in-laboratory and post-laboratory work; engaging with, and passing, the laboratory element is a condition for the award of credit for this unit (20% final mark)
  • 2-hour January progress examination to assess only material covered in the first teaching block- Mechanics, Waves and Optics (10% final mark)
  • End-of-unit examinations to assess all of the material covered throughout the year:

Part I: 2-hour exam consisting of 50% Mechanics, 25% Waves and 25% Optics (35% final mark)

Part II: 2-hour exam consisting of 50% Electromagnetism, 25% Thermal physics and 25% Atomic and Nuclear physics (35% final mark).

Reading and References

Recommended Reading

  • Advanced Physics, Steve Adams and Jonathan Allday Oxford Press, 2nd edition
  • Advanced Physics for You, Keith Johnson, Simmone Hewett, Sue Holt, and John Miller, Nelson Thornes