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Unit information: Mathematical Physics 202 in 2021/22

Unit name Mathematical Physics 202
Unit code PHYS23020
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Rademacker
Open unit status Not open

PHYS11400 and MATH11004, or extended mathematics units MATH11005, MATH11006, MATH11007, MATH12001.



School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

Physics is underpinned by a facility in mathematics. The unit introduces some core mathematical skills, building on the foundation from level C/4. The concepts of probability theory and basic statistics are introduced, relating them to situation encountered in physics. Vector methods and field theory are discussed in some depth, leading to partial differential equations and their solution by a number of methods including separation of the variable. Solutions of ordinary differential equations are covered and the concept of orthonormal basis function introduced and used. Fourier series and integrals are also emphasized.


To introduce a number of key mathematical methods and their application to physical problems, including probability theory and statistical methods, vector field theory and solutions of partial and ordinary differential equations commonly encountered in a number of physics problems.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Understand elementary ideas of probability and able to apply these to discrete problems.
  • Understand the concept of probability distributions and apply these to simple problems in quantum and statistical physics.
  • Familiar with the operations of grad, div and curl and their use in vector calculus particularly in its applications to EM and fluid mechanics
  • Understand the use of the Dirac delta function to model impulses and able to apply it in simple cases.
  • Apply the method of separation of the variable to two- and three-dimensional problems in physics and understand the significance of boundary conditions in determining the solution.
  • Able to calculate Fourier coefficients for simple periodic functions.
  • Understand the relation between the width of a function and its Fourier transform, the convolution of functions and the use of Fourier transforms in problems of infinite extent and in diffraction theory.

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials, including narrated presentations and worked examples
  • synchronous group problems classes, workshops, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous directed individual formative exercises and other exercises
  • guided, structured reading

Assessment Information

Written timed, open-note examination (80%) Coursework (20%)


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. PHYS23020).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.