Teaching is by lectures and laboratories, backed up by tutorials and examples classes. (Learning is by listening, reading, working, discussing and thinking). Lectures are normally given by members of the Academic Staff, who also run the laboratories. Research Fellows and Research Students, whose primary function is to carry out research in the Department under the general direction of the Staff, also help in the laboratories and take many of the examples classes. Lectures start at 5 minutes past the hour and last 50 minutes.
Towards the end of each lecture module you will be asked to fill in a questionnaire on that module. We use your responses to these questionnaires to help us identify areas where improvements in our modules can be made. It is inevitable from the timing of these questionnaires that the responses can usually only be used to change things in future years. If you feel that there are serious problems that should be addressed immediately you should discuss the matter with the person giving the module, with your Personal Tutor, with the Director of Studies Dr d'Ambrumenil, or raise it with one of your Staff Student Liaison Committee representatives.
Your Personal Tutor will be your Academic Tutor during your first year. They will monitor your academic progress and will see you weekly for tutorials. These will be used to extend your interest in your subject and to develop your ability to communicate information and ideas. Tutors also use tutorials to help students to prepare for the various examinations. Problems with lectured modules should be dealt with in the first instance in the examples classes (see below) or by going to see the lecturer, but Tutors will also help with general points causing difficulty.
The worksheets cover mathematical material, which it is important to understand, as it will often be assumed by other modules. The first of the worksheets is on Complex Numbers and is due in by the end of the first week. You should hand in your answers to your tutor. The second, on Curve Sketching, will be handed out at the beginning of week 2 and the answers are due by the beginning of week 4. The third is on Maths for Waves and will be handed out around the end of week 5. The fourth is on Integration over Lines and Surfaces and will be handed out early in term 2. The fifth, Fourier Methods, will be handed out in the second half of term 2.
Examples Classes and Physics Problems
Each physics lecturer issues a set of problems on their module, and there is also a weekly examples sheet for the "Maths for Physicists" lectures. It is expected that you will make a serious attempt to solve all the problems on these sheets, as problem solving forms a vital part of the learning process. Formal assessment however may at times be based only on a sub-set of these problems (it will be made clear on the problems sheet). In addition to these written assessments we also use computer based assignments. These will be explained to you at the appropriate time.
Written answers to the questions for 'week n' must be submitted via your tutor's pigeonhole in the P520 workroom by 12:00 of the Monday of 'week n+1' and will be considered in an examples class later that week. Note that work submitted late will receive zero.
In the examples class the tutor will go over the questions for week n. The first examples classes of the academic year will therefore be in the second week of the autumn term. Marked scripts will be handed back to students in the examples class. The Department considers it to be important that students do attempt the questions that are set, and for this reason approximately 25% of the credit for each solution will be awarded to all serious attempts, irrespective of the correctness of the answer.
The credit awarded for the Physics Problems counts towards the mark you will receive for PX146 Key Skills for Physics, whereas the marks you receive for the Maths for Physicists problems count towards the assessed component of this course, which is 15% of the overall mark.
Mathematics Diagnostic Test
As you should already be aware there will be a diagnostic test of your mathematical skills in the first week of term (you will be notified of the time and place). This test will be used to identify any weaknesses and to inform the support classes that will be run in the first few weeks of term. Students failing a section of the test at their first attempt will have further opportunities to take it once they have brushed up their skills. We expect all students to pass this test eventually.
The Laboratory Programme
Information regarding laboratory attendance will appear on the concourse noticeboard. The laboratory programme has two elements: physics laboratory and electronics workshop. The physics laboratory starts in week 2. Laboratory work is regarded as an essential part of the course and progress is monitored carefully. The First Year Board of Examiners in Science at its meeting in June requires any student who has not satisfactorily completed the laboratory programme (this means obtaining an overall mark of at least 40% in PX110) to withdraw from the University, regardless of their overall performance.
You will see from the course regulations that your degree course consists of a "core" of lectures and laboratory work, all of which you have to take, together with further modules, selected (according to the rules prescribed) from an option list. Enough modules should be taken to bring your total possible credit up to the normal load for your course, and your Tutor can give guidance on your choice. More modules can be taken than the minimum required.
Employers view graduates as people with the potential to organise and manage the work of others. This expectation is based partly on graduates' intelligence, but also on the fact that, in order to obtain a good degree, a student has to organise and manage their own time and skills effectively. If you can organise yourself, there is a good chance you will be able to manage others. Anyone admitted to this Department has the intellectual capacity to complete the course successfully. Those who fail to do so either do not use their time effectively or else "give up" (and one of the reasons for "giving up" is having fallen too far behind to catch up, due to inefficient management of the time available).
Every student will find it beneficial from time to time to review critically how well they are coping, and to identify approaches which are working successfully and areas where there are problems, with a view to converting the latter into the former. We suggest that you should aim to devote at least 45 hours per week to study (including contact hours).
The MPhys Degree Programme
When you first joined the department you were registered for either the 3-year BSc degree or the 4-year BScMPhys degree. This registration will not affect the actual modules you take this year as the BSc and MPhys programmes are identical. You should however consider your registration carefully now.
The 4 year BScMPhys degree emerged a number of years ago in response to modifications which had been introduced into the traditional BSc degree in Physics offered by most British universities, which entailed a significant reduction in their content - to the extent that the BSc degree could no longer be considered a completely satisfactory training for a professional physicist. Accordingly, if you wish to pursue a career as a practising physicist - either in industry or in research leading to higher degrees - you are recommended to follow the 4 year BScMPhys. degree course.
To effect such a transfer you should contact the Director of Studies. The Academic Office will then inform your Local Authority and Student Loan Company accordingly.
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