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Unit information: Exploratory Training Assignments in 2015/16

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Unit name Exploratory Training Assignments
Unit code PHYSM3402
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. McMaster
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

The Exploratory Training Assignment (ETA) is a compulsory 30 cp unit and an integral part of a 180 cp MRes programme in Functional Nanomaterials. The ETA is an innovative approach to the practical training in Functional Nanomaterials. It provides a real opportunity to put into practice both the taught material in the Functional Nanomaterials Lecture Courses unit, and the more technique-oriented courses in the Advanced Tools for Nanoscience unit. This unit is composed of two 15 cp ETA modules, one taken in weeks 1-10, and the second in weeks 11-20.


The aim of the ETA unit is to provide thorough practical training in a manner that will stimulate true outside of the box thinking, innovative approaches to problem-solving, and emphasize mutual learning aspects of the student cohort. Of central importance is that the students experience interdisciplinarity in action.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Exposure of students to a specific short-term project with an interdisciplinary perspective will allow them to experience not only aspects of the basic science of nanomaterials, but how these might be implemented into new technologies. The students will develop an integrated and contextualised approach to research, seeing in practice how the core disciplines are expressed and developed. Students will also start to develop independent research skills beyond those they are likely to have acquired as undergraduates and gain experience that will inform their subsequent choices of both extended and PhD projects.

Teaching Information

This task-oriented and problem-solving module will take place in research labs alongside PDRAs and students already engaged in PhD research. The students will undertake the ETA in pairs, with the pairs chosen that the students have complementary backgrounds and can thus learn from each other.

Assessment Information

Assessment of each ETA will be by two related methods that will also contribute to the transferable skills training component. In the ETA partnership, each student will write a formal Lab Report of the work in one ETA (2500 words, 50% of the assessment), and prepare a 30 minute presentation on the second ETA (50 % of the assessment); their partner will complete the same tasks but in reverse order. The presentations and reports will be marked by the Personal Tutors and at least one of the academics involved in the ETAs.

Reading and References

Detailed references and reading will be provided by the academic members responsible for each ETA.