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Unit information: Practical Physics 303 in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Practical Physics 303
Unit code PHYS39030
Credit points 30
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Furqaan Yusaf
Open unit status Not open

120cp at Level I/5 in single or joint honours Physics programmes.



School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science


This unit compromises three non-lecture-based 10cp units: PHYS39010 Practical Physics 301; PHYS38012 Computational Physics 301 and PHYS38013 Group Work 301; all of which are mandatory for MSci in Physics and in Physics with Astrophysics.

The Practical Physics 301 unit requires the student to complete one research-based experiment under the guidance of a supervisor for that experiment, thereby developing additional experience of modern instrumental techniques, learning to solve advanced experimental problems, developing fault-finding and correction skills and as preparation for the level M research project.

The Computational Physics 301 unit builds on computational physics from levels C/4 and I/5. Here existing skills are developed, concentrating specifically on manipulating and presenting scientific data, and programming, particularly to manipulate data and also simulate experimental data. The unit is self-paced against a work-sheet of problems, with hands-on guidance from demonstrators.

In the Group Work 301 unit each group of around eight students produces a written report and a twenty minute presentation on a topical area of pure or applied physics. The report comprises a technical paper in the style of a review article, and a popular account in the style of a magazine article, with a combined total length of no more than 8000 words. The emphasis of the unit is on collective work and study, and the assessment criteria reflect this.


Practical Physics 301

To develop additional experimental skills in the context of experimental modules closely linked to current research activities in the department.

To develop improved confidence in handling advanced equipment and improve fault-finding and correction skills.

Computational Physics 301

To develop additional computational skills specifically aimed at programming in Visual Basic to manipulate scientific data and presenting the results in a scientifically correct, clear and attractive way.

To learn some techniques for simulating experimental data.

Group Work 301

To develop an understanding and appreciation of the collective nature of scientific research.

To develop a capacity for independent work as part of a larger group.

To develop interpersonal skills, particularly the presentation and defence of a group effort.

To develop skills in independently locating and interpreting scientific and technical literature.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit students will be able to:

Practical Physics 301 - Have greater awareness of the research in certain groups in the department. Have greater confidence and improved experimental skills in handling advanced research-based equipment.

Computational Physics 301 - Use Visual Basic to write programs to manipulate scientific data and present the results clearly, accurately and concisely. Able to simulate experimental data and evaluate theoretical problems.

Group Work 301 - By the end of this unit students will have gained experience of:

  • Working within a peer group to produce output against a deadline
  • The benefits and difficulties of coordinating a group of independent researchers
  • Independently following a scientific literature trail to research around a topic
  • The process of producing an extended piece of formal scientific writing
  • The preparation and delivery of an extended formal scientific presentation

Teaching details

Practical Physics 301 - Each experiment is supervised by an academic who introduces, oversees and advises on the experiment. Experiments are usually taken in pairs.

Computational Physics 301 - The students self-pace through the problems, with set computer laboratory hours available where the laboratory is manned by demonstrators. Problems must be completed to a time-table.

Group Work 301 - Each group is expected to appoint an editor, who takes overall responsibility for the coordination of the work, and who may have one or more deputies with specific responsibilities (e.g. the preparation of the popular account or presentation). The group are assisted in their work by an academic, who proposes the topic, and gives guidance in identifying resources and producing a well-written report and clear presentation. The role of the supervisor is to facilitate the group’s work and provide scientific and stylistic input; they are not involved in proof-reading or review of the assessed materials, or in assigning work within the group. The group define their own frequency and means of meeting, but are expected to meet weekly, collectively or via a representative, with their academic supervisor.

Assessment Details

Practical Physics 301 - Assessment is done by the supervisor, who marks the day-to-day work, the work-book and holds a final interview, and an assessor, who marks the experimental report. A moderator reads all the reports and moderates these marks, if necessary. The mark for the work is the sum of that from the supervisor and the moderated assessment of the report.

Computational Physics 301 - Assessment is based on marking of the 3 problems (40%) done against a time-table during the booked sessions, together with a mark for a miniproject (60%) completed by the end of 3 weeks after the end of the booked sessions.

Group Work 301 - Written reports are assessed by the group academic supervisor. Presentations are peer-assessed by the entire class. Moderation is performed in both cases by the module coordinator, and / or a deputy module coordinator. The weighting of marks is 50% for the technical report, 25% for the popular account, and 25% for the presentation. All group members receive the same mark. Each student is also required to provide evidence of their individual contribution in the form of a personal dossier, documenting the resources used in preparing the assessed work, and offering a brief commentary on

Reading and References

Practical Physics 301 - Material appropriate to the specific experiment will be provided.

Computational Physics 301 - Material appropriate to the unit is available from the web-pages for this unit

Group Work 301 - Selected key resources will be provided by the academic supervisor. Identification of other materials is a goal of the unit.