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Information for 2nd Year Physics Students

This document provides information for second year students taking either the BSc or MPhys courses, which are identical in content for the first 2 years.

We hope that you will find this document useful, and that it will help you to successfully complete your second year at University. If you consider that there is information which could usefully be added, or if you discover an error, please inform either the Director of Education or the Senior Tutor.


The second year continues with the study of the principles introduced in the first year including those of quantum theory and electromagnetism. It also introduces a number of topics, where these principles are used to explain phenomena in areas such as astrophysics and fluids. A significant feature of the second year course is that you need to choose more than 25% of your modules from option lists. You may also follow a language course or an introductory course in business studies.

The mathematics component of the 2nd year is of particular importance.

This year's course has been designed with the following aims and objectives.


  • To continue to study the principles of physics introduced in year 1;
  • To introduce new topics - some of which will be developed in subsequent years;
  • To prepare for future project work by means of the Physics Skills module. This provides experience of retrieving information from the scientific literature and of writing formal reports. It also provides an opportunity to study topics which might not be covered in formal lectures;
  • To develop and refine students' expertise in both experimentation and computation.


At the end of the second year you should

  1. Have acquired a working fluency with mathematics - including vector calculus, the solution of differential equations (both ordinary and partial) and Fourier methods;
  2. Have acquired a good knowledge of Electromagnetic Theory and Optics, Thermal Physics and Quantum Mechanics;
  3. Be able to prepare a comprehensive report on a scientific topic, and to present an oral presentation of it to an audience constituted of your peers and tutors;
  4. Be able to carry out experimental investigations using standard and more novel pieces of equipment, and to assess the significance of the results (including consideration of any associated uncertainties).

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